Elon University

Understanding Search Fields in the Early ’90s Predictions Database

Name of Predictor
This database uses the most formal regularly utilized form of the predictors’ names (i.e. Vinton Cerf, rather than Vint Cerf). Some of the database predictions were made by a group of two, three or four researchers; in these cases, a lead name and some or all of the additional names are listed – database fields included names of a second and/or third predictor. Some predictions were made by an anonymous person or a group representing a foundation or organization in a position paper, book, etc. that does not identify an author. For these, the predictor may be listed simply as “expert” or as a group title such as “Benton Foundation.” In some cases, the predictor may have been writing under a pseudonym; we include the “real” names with those whose pseudonyms we were able to trace. Please note that we have meticulously recorded predictions in the way they were reported; understand that predictors can be misquoted or taken out of context in a report. In other words, most of these predictions have been mediated by writers, reporters and/or editors. When you study what a predictor is reported to have said, remember the layers of mediation involved in getting that message out to the world. Some of the predictions in this database were not mediated in any way – for instance, they may be taken directly from videotaped discussions or postings made by these individuals on the Internet with no mediation involved.

The predictions are categorized by topic and subtopic. The eight topic categories are:

  • Communication
  • Community/Culture
  • Controversial Issues
  • Economic Structures
  • General, Overarching Remarks
  • Getting Information
  • Global Relationships/Politics
  • Information Infrastructure

In the sorting process completed in the preparation of this database, predictions were often found to fit appropriately in multiple categories. In these cases, they were filed in the area of the database that seemed most appropriate.

This database has been catalogued by dividing content into eight different topic fields. Seven of these fields are also divided into seven or more subtopic fields. The initial categories and groupings used during the search for items to place in the database were derived from internet-based Q sorts for an earlier study by Elon University professors Byung Lee and Janna Quitney Anderson and from the research study “Forecasting the Internet: A Retrospective Technology Assessment,” completed by Elon University’s Constance Book under a grant from the Pew Internet & American Life Project in 2002. They were modified after the predictions were logged in order to better categorize the eventual findings of this predictions study. The predictions in the “General, Overarching Remarks” category stand as one large group, with no subcategories. The other seven topics are broken into subtopic areas based on their content. Some of the more generalized predictions could easily have fit in more than one of the subtopic areas; in these cases, they were filed in the area of the database that seemed most appropriate. Following are the subtopic categories:

  • Communication- E-mail; Internet Telephony; Security/Encryption; Video Conferencing; Viruses/Worms; Wireless Technologies; General.
  • Community/Culture- Cyberpunks/Hackers; Ethics/Values; Human-Machine Interaction; Information Overload; MOOs/MUDs/Bulletin Boards/Newsgroups; Relationships; Social Withdrawal/Addiction; Virtual Communities; General.
  • Controversial Issues- Anonymity/Personal Identity; Censorship/Free Speech; Copyright/Intellectual Property/Plagiarism; Crime/Fraud/Terrorism; Defamation/Libel; Digital Divide; Jurisdiction/Control; Privacy/Surveillance; Pornography; General.
  • Economic Structures- E-cash; E-commerce; Employment; Gambling; Microtransactions; Shopping; Telecommuting; Tax Issues; General.
  • Getting Information- Advertising/Public Relations; Crisis Management; Databases/Libraries; E-learning; Gaming; Intelligent Agents/Artificial Intelligence; Journalism/Media; Medical/Professional; Music; Newspapers; Publishing; TV/Films/Video; Virtual Reality; General.
  • Global Relationships/Politics- Campaigns/Voting; Creating a Smaller World; Democracy; Government; Peacekeeping/Warfare; Third-World Nations; General.
  • Information Infrastructure- Bandwidth; Cost/Pricing; Internet Appliances; Internet Service Providers; Language/Interface/Software; Number of Users; Open Access; Pipeline/Switching/Hardware; Protocols; Role of Govt./Industry; Universal Service; Wireless Technologies; General.

Area of Expertise
Each predictor included in the database is sorted into a category describing his or her background. Some predictors could possibly fit in more than one of these categories; each was listed in what appeared to be the one category that best describes the dominant label for that person in the early 1990s. For instance, from 1990 to 1995 Nicholas Negroponte was a researcher, an administrator, an author, an illuminator, a futurist, a consultant and much, much more. He was sorted into the Pioneer/Originator category due to his digital evangelism, his co-founding of MIT’s Media Lab, and his key support for the lift-off of Wired magazine. It should also be noted that the “expertise” category is a mix. A person who is classified in the researcher/illuminator category may not be a researcher, but an illuminator. A person in the technology developer/administrator category may not develop technology, but that person may be an administrator of a technology group or support group. The categories are built this way to be more adaptable and descriptive. They were determined based on a four-week book- and internet-based content search for the names and descriptions of internet luminaries of the early 1990s. The classifications are subjective decisions made by individual coders and verified by only one other individual. The “expertise” categories are:

  • Advocate/Voice of the People
  • Entrepreneur/Business Leader
  • Futurist/Consultant
  • Author/Editor/Journalist
  • Legislator/Politician/Lawyer
  • Pioneer/Originator
  • Research Scientist/Illuminator
  • Technology Developer/Administrator

Date of Prediction and Date of Publication
The time parameters for the database are Jan. 1, 1990, through Dec. 31, 1995. In 1990, Tim Berners-Lee developed the idea of his “World-Wide Web” and wrote the HTML source code. In 1995, U.S. government “ownership” of the U.S. internet ended, making way for commercial and consumer use to explode. 1995 was also the year in which Netscape Mosaic, the revolutionary internet browser, went public. These years are the database bookends – the statements included in the database had to be spoken or published sometime within that span of time. Statements that were not dated clearly were not included.

Page/URL Location
In the process of gathering information to include in the database, the internet locations of the original documents found online were recorded in all situations in which it was possible to do so. These are included in the database, but the links may change or disappear over time. Thus, eventually, some of them will no longer be effective links to the original documents. Book and other publication page numbers are listed where appropriate.

Medium (in Which Prediction was Made)
Choices here include:

  • Book
  • Business Memo
  • E-mail
  • E-zine
  • Film/Video
  • Foundation Report
  • Government Report
  • Industry Report
  • Internet Site
  • Magazine (consumer)
  • Magazine (professional)
  • Newsletter (print)
  • Newspaper (print)
  • Online Book or E-book
  • Online Chat/Newsgroup Discussion
  • Online Newsletter
  • Online Journal
  • Professional Journal (print)
  • Research Paper/Presentation
  • Speech
  • TV/Radio Broadcast
  • Wire Service (AP, Business Wire, etc.)

Publication (in Which Prediction was Made)
The formal title of each publication is recorded here, thus making it easy to single out and study predictions made in articles from Wired, the New York Times, or in the books “Being Digital,” “The Road Ahead,” etc.

Article/Chapter Title
The precise title, headline or name of each article, speech or conference presentation is included in this database field.

Author of Article/Book
The name of the writer of a source article or book or whatever is included in this Predictions Database field. If the article, book, etc. was written/produced by the predictor, then it carries that name. Much of the material was written/produced by other authors; those names are here. If the author was a group entity – for instance in a report with no one specific author published by the National Science Foundation, the name of the group (National Science Foundation) is entered in this field.

PREDICTION is a foretelling – positive or negative – of things to come; an educated guess at what yet may come to pass. This database includes statements about what is likely to unfold in the future. In the process of including context, the database “prediction” listings also may carry background detail about things that were taking place at the time and things that had already come to pass.

Cataloguer’s I.D. Code
This data is not included in the online version of the database. It is housed with the archived hard copies of predictions database materials. Every researcher on the Predictions Team was assigned a code set consisting of the person’s three personal initials followed by the four-digit number of the prediction the person filed. For instance, Janna Quitney Anderson is JQA. The first prediction she filed is JQA-0001. In addition to being numbered in this way in the URL of the online database, it is numbered on a corresponding hard copy of the original article, kept at Elon University in the Elon/Pew Predictions Database Archive. The original documents that gave birth to this database are housed in the archive.

Using the Database
This database illuminates the internet ideas and issues of the first half of the 1990s. We encourage you to use it as a base of exploration for newly generated articles, speeches and research. We ask that you please credit the Elon/Pew’s Imagining the Internet site if you make use of any of the collected materials.