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2012 Technology Horizons Research Agenda

As Marshall McLuhan famously wrote, “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” Our identities, organizations, industries, and societies have slowly but surely been reshaped over the past thirty years of the mass experiment that we call the Internet. We have, like the World Wide Web, re-organized ourselves into new constellations of connected networks and rewired the flow of information, skills, and knowledge. We have built new social relationships on this foundation, which have already profoundly disrupted our economic and political systems.

And we’ve only just begun.

In the next decade we will move into a world of experiences that will transform the very concept of the web: information filter bubbles, friends who are bots, big data for communities, new forms of intelligent organization. New emotional and sensory dependencies on technology will emerge alongside inspiring collaborative solutions to our most pressing social, environmental, and economic issues.

Blueprinting a More Human Internet Experience

In 2012, IFTF’s Technology Horizons program will undertake a yearlong project to blueprint a more human Internet experience for the next decade. We begin by mapping the core technologies that will shape the next ten years of web experience, and finish with a guide to the new values and capacities of an Internet human in 2022. Along the way we will ask: how will we, as individuals, communities, and organizations, be changed or challenged by where the web is taking us? What kind of connective technology do we want for 2022, and what decisions do we need to make in the next few years to get there?

Blueprinting a More Human Internet Experience will provide insight to the emerging concepts and social phenomena that will shape new services, interactions, and living patterns across a wide range of daily-life domains, from work and learning to wellbeing, creativity, and civic engagement.

In 2012 we will also explore an emerging innovation space that we believe will form the basis for a new wave of hardware, software, product, and service development over the next decade. Creative Chaos with Chinese Characteristics will forecast the convergence of two open innovation communities: the “shanzhai”, or “bandit” manufacturing networks in China, and the DIY/Maker networks in the West. How will your organization respond to this new design and manufacturing network?

The year is structured as a series of open expert workshops, client meetings, and research deliverables with a renewed focus on practical sharing across the Technology Horizons member network.

We look forward to meeting with you to share ideas, practices, and connections.

Spring > Building Blocks of Web Experience 2022

In the last ten years we have seen the growth of entirely new web experience categories such as social networks, video-sharing sites, and p2p exchanges, which have rapidly reconstructed our social and business environments. In this project, the Technology Horizons team will identify the exciting, fast-growing capabilities that are likely to significantly morph the building blocks of today’s web experiences—things like emotion sensing, information
trail analysis, gigabit-to-the-home, and new kinds of reality packaging via photography, AR, and 3D. We already see the growth of brand pages and commercial transactions inside Facebook and Google+, what value will a stand-alone website provide in 2022? With mobile, cloud-served supercomputing, what will happen to personal computing? And with softbots helping us manage our communications, how will we define a social network?


  • Expert Workshop in a Fishbowl: Come participate as we invite a select group of developers and visionaries to help us identify the most important technical developments shaping the next decade of Internet experiences.
  • Report: The report will detail the new building blocks of the 2022 web experience.
  • Conference: Join us for an intimate two-day experience to learn about the research and engage in close conversation with technology pioneers from academia, start-ups, private, and public sectors May 16-17, 2012, San Francisco Bay Area, CA.

Summer > Creative Chaos with Chinese Characteristics:
an Emerging Innovation Space

In the last ten years, Chinese manufacturing has solidified its dominance in the global economy, nearly tripling its share of total global manufacturing output from 6.9% in 2000 to 19.8% in 2010. During this same period, offbrand, or shanzhai, manufacturing networks have also exploded, thereby savaging the bottom-end of the global consumer electronic market. Over the next decade, this manufacturing capacity will collide with a new generation of creative entrepreneurs from around the world and within China itself, forming the basis for a new wave of consumer tech products and services.

In 2012, the Technology Horizons team will explore the pioneering community of Western and Chinese makers, designers, and entrepreneurs at the forefront of this new global collaborative creativity. We will analyze key drivers of change, including the changing meanings of shanzhai, the role of open software and hardware, the rapid evolution of Chinese design, and the growing China focus of Western DIY/Maker communities. We will then consider
how these forces will reshape the information technology, design, and manufacturing space for the next decade.


  • White paper: The white paper will introduce key players, concepts, and implications of new creative convergences between Chinese and Western designers and manufacturers.
  • Web conference: Join the research team and invited experts for a walk through the white paper and a discussion of what it means for you and your organization.

Fall > Guide to the Internet Human 2022

In the midst of our economic recession, algorithms, not people, sit at the front of the employment line picking out job candidates in the online job market. In a world of information overload and digital identity management, chatbots are available to help us find information and boost our online profiles. Meanwhile, our children are conducting more of their lives on screens and in virtual worlds, and when they are physically co-located, there is often a device or screen taking part in the interaction. What is happening to human relationships, and what will they look like in 2022, as we rely more and more on software and devices to reach and understand each other?

Working with our Building Blocks of Web Experience 2022 technology report, Guide to the Internet Human 2022 will identify a set of visionary practitioners who are pushing the edges of what is possible with technical and social connectivity. We will conduct ethnographic research with these practitioners to understand what they signal about the future for the rest of us, and we will forecast the disruptions we might see in how we give and get attention, express our emotions and creativity, achieve personal change, and get things done in communities.


  • Map: The map will matrix the technology building blocks for a new web experience with a set of emerging human capacities and values.
  • Conference: Join us for an intimate two-day experience to learn about the research and engage in close conversation with technology pioneers from academia, start-ups, private, and public sectors November 7-8, 2012, San Francisco Bay Area, CA.

More Information

Please contact Sean Ness or Lyn Jeffery for further details. Some of these dates are subject to change, but we will keep you informed of any updates. Keep visiting our website for updated information about our 2012 projects, blogs, and much more!