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I was so looking forward to having the distinct honor of moderating a panel about Technology Trends for Libraries at the Library of Congress as part of the <a href=”http://dplafest2016.sched.org/”>DPLAfest</a>. However, I came down with the plague (or maybe just the flu, who can tell these days) so I am back home in Denver while this panel takes place in DC. I know today’s event will be fabulous regardless and I look forward to hearing about it in the days to come.

To accompany that session we decided to put together a little more info on the speakers, the process behind looking at trends (especially since I won’t be there to discuss this element), and further information you may be interested in that aligns with the topics discussed in the panel.

Feel free to share your own ideas, input, and thoughts in the comments below.

The Panelists

Alison Macrina

Alison Macrina is a librarian, privacy activist, and the founder and director of the Library Freedom Project, an initiative which aims to make real the promise of intellectual freedom in libraries by teaching librarians and their local communities about surveillance threats, privacy rights and law, and privacy-protecting technology tools to help safeguard digital freedoms. Alison is passionate about connecting surveillance issues to larger global struggles for justice, demystifying privacy and security technologies for ordinary users, and resisting an internet controlled by a handful of intelligence agencies and giant multinational corporations. When she’s not doing any of that, she’s reading.

Carson Block

Carson Block has lead & loved library technology efforts for more than 20 years. He’s been called a “Geek who speaks English” and is occasionally compared to Ferris Bueller and Calvin (and Hobbes). Carson is dead serious about the essential and positive community impacts of libraries, and evangelizes libraries to SXSW Interactive and other tech communities.

John Resig

John Resig is a staff engineer at Khan Academy and the creator of the jQuery JavaScript library. He’s also the author of the books Pro JavaScript Techniques and Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja.

John has developed a comprehensive Japanese woodblock print database and image search engine: Ukiyo-e.org. He’s a board member of the Japanese Art Society of America and is a Visiting Researcher at Ritsumeikan University working on the study of Ukiyo-e.

John is located in Brooklyn, NY.

Environmental Scanning

When thinking about technology trends, it is helpful to not look at it in a silo. Real change, in the end, is always driven by other aspects of the environment interacting with technology. Examples include sociological or political trends impacting technology. Because of this, many of us that do strategic foresight or future studies work often look to environmental scanning to give us a fuller picture. In other words we scan, analyze and interpret the happenings in the larger context of an industry, a market, or a community (or society).

This means that we scan news, events, inventions, trends, etc. across many different sectors to help us frame up the environment as a whole. STEEP is one of the tools that we use to ensure we get a complete picture. STEEP is an acronym for Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, and Political categories and gives you a great starter framework by which to better understand impending change.

One example of this is to look into the sharing economy and the rise of companies like Uber and Airbnb. Many consider these companies to be tech companies, but their success depends on the other parts of the environments in which they operate. For example, the perceived social move toward sharing stuff rather than owning stuff set them up well. However, the political category is a place where there are some issues for these companies as the political system is the main determining factor behind whether they even can operate in certain locations. Add to that the complex issues of the economic impact of these sharing situations (people can bring in additional income with things they already own vs. the wealthy buying up resources as money makers, pushing out actual community members) and you can see that the future of these organizations is wrapped up in much more than just the tech.

Whether you are looking at the validity of an idea at a startup or deciding which technologies you should be tracking and potentially betting on at a library, which technological trends will take hold is always based on much more than just the tech. Additionally, even early indicators of success can lead you astray as a fad does not indicate true change. The relationship that a technology has to the environment it is in (human need, political situation, etc.) will give you much more insight into whether something is a fad or a trend that you should keep an eye on.

Further Reading (or listening)

Fiction:

The Circle, Dave Eggers
Any of the books by Daniel Suarez
Any of the books by William Hertling

Podcasts:

Review the Future

Sites:

Future In Focus
Garry Golden, Futurist
Shaping Tomorrow