Janna Quitney Anderson, director of Internet projects for the School
of Communications, works with students on her research, she encourages
them to expand their thinking beyond today's technology. The digital
tools of the moment are certain to become obsolete, so Anderson
wants students to take a long-term view, learning about the past
to understand what the future holds.
partnership with Lee Rainie, a member of the School of Communications
Advisory Board and director of the Pew Internet and American Life
Project, Anderson has created "Imagining the Internet,"
a complex research project that has positioned the School of Communications
as a leading authority on the history and future of networked communications.
early Internet pioneers
In the spring
semester of 2003, more than 60 students dug into the history of
the Internet, documenting what technology pioneers envisioned in
the early 1990s. Their findings, along with thousands of predictions
documented by Anderson, were posted on a public Web site. This unique
database provided the foundation for looking into the future.
early Internet pioneers had a remarkably clear vision of the power
of their creation," Anderson says. "They understood that
they were at the dawn of a communications revolution."
researchers gained a deeper understanding of today's technology
by taking a retrospective look at the past decade.
of people believed that no one in their right mind would ever buy
things on the Internet," says senior Travis Lusk. "That
stuck with me because I buy things online all the time. Plus, I
pay all my bills online, too."
conceived the research project and provided funding through his
organization, was impressed with the quality of research produced
by the students. He is a member of the School of Communications
Advisory Board and an enthusiastic ambassador for Elon.
important research is leading the way to an understanding of how
the Internet is fundamentally changing the institutions of society,"
Rainie says. "I'm sure it is helping those who make policy
about how the technology evolves. I'm very proud of the partnership
between the Pew Internet Project and Elon."
database is winning rave reviews from Internet-savvy people around
the world. CNN technology columnist Christine Boese said the project
"forms an amazing time capsule to look back on as Internet
cybercultures evolve into the future."
blogger Gardner Campbell told readers of his online journal that
Elon's work is a "cabinet of wonders, a beautifully arranged
database that É can't help being inspiring and provocative."
envision the future
Once the early
1990s predictions database was in place, the stage was set for the
next phase of the project. Rainie and Anderson created a survey
to find out what technology experts predict will happen in the next
decade. The findings, released in January, made headlines around
the world and drew tens of thousands of visitors to Elon's "Imagining
the Internet" Web site.
The 1,300 engineers,
business executives, educators, government officials and others
who responded to the survey predict that the workplace, family life,
education and many other foundations of society will undergo fundamental
changes in the next 10 years. Many experts warn that a devastating
attack on Internet infrastructure is inevitable, while a majority
predict increased electronic surveillance by government and business.
There were also predictions of changes in family dynamics and a
blurring of the boundaries between work and leisure. Some envision
a new age of creativity in which people use the Internet to share
music, art and literature. While some experts look for the development
of a more thoughtful Internet, others are pessimistic, calling the
increasing online data "drivel" that is diluting the quality
of information that is available.
led by a feature story in The New York Times, spread the survey
findings around the globe, including stories in hundreds of print
and Web outlets in the United States, Europe, Africa, South America
and the Far East.
the predictions are valuable because they allow society to be better
prepared for the future.
to deal with the conflict between our desire for privacy and security
and our desire for convenient access to information customized to
our needs," she says. "We're also conflicted by our demand
for more and more information while we try to simplify our lives."
Rainie plan to continue the research with an annual Internet predictions
Find out more
about "Imagining the Internet" and add your predictions for
the Internet's future at www.elon.edu/predictions.