Dr. Jo Grobel's Opening Keynote at Ifra's Beyond the Printed Word Conference


I am at the first day of Ifra‘s 15th annual Beyond the Printed Word online publishing conference, being held today and tomorrow in Dublin. Four hundred twenty-seven people from 43 countries are attending. Ifra’s staff and some official volunteers are blogging the event in two ways (staff blog and group blog), but I am, too.

Professor Dr. Jo Groebel, (pictured above with conference co-chairman Elan Lohmann) director of the Deutsches Digital Institut (German Digital Institute), has given a keynote speech about how we are changing “from a world of consumers to a world of ‘prosumers'”.

He tried to comfort and caution the audience that things are changing at a remarkably quick pace, but one that this isn’t unusual: The number of printed books in Europe within a few years of Gutenberg’s invention of the moveable-type printing press was actually higher than the number of people who used the Internet within a few years of its public release during the 1990s.

The consumer is going from ‘unimedia to polymedia, Dr. Groebel said.’

He listed six characteristics he thinks 21st Century media will have:

  • Integrated (Convergence is real in 2007)
  • Immediate (people expect direct results)
  • International (it will be global)
  • Independet of time & space (on-demand, anywhere)
  • In Motion (new trend: everything is mobile)
  • Inner Circle & Bottom Up

Dr. Groebel pointed to what he calls the ”Big Three’ Trends

  • Capacity: broadband & digital platforms
  • Mobility: mobile communications
  • Community: User-generated content

He said that surveys of users in Germany show these are the purposesfor whcih people use the Internet are:

  • to get an the emotional kick of finding what they want.
  • to get information.
  • to communicate with each other.
  • to make transactions.
  • to be part of a community.
  • to exercise democracy in some form.

Dr. Groebel mentioned a study of 18 year-olds in the U.S. durng 1980 and during 2000 that indicated verbal intelligence significantly declined and visual intelligence had significantly increased. Will visual replace text, he rhetorically asked? No, each is used for specific functions, he said.

He mentioned several signals that consumers are becoming ‘prosumers.’ These were their development of online communities, development of group dynamic online, development of wikis (what he called the ‘enlightenment paradox’), and their development of group filtering to replace professional communications.

Dr. Groebel said the last development was particularly important. Surveys show that consumers’ trust in professional communications (journalism, political statements, public relations, marketing, etc.) has been lost. These surveys indicate that most people, regardless of their country’s political system, now distrust what journalists and other professional communications say. People are more likely to trust what other people say.

I think that Dr. Groebel, a psychologist by training, provided a overview of the superficial trends that form this year’s Beyond the Printed Word conference’s theme — the thing to do in a opening keynote, but I hope that the speakers who follow him will explain what underlies these trends.

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