Future gazing: online trends for campaigning organisations

What are the key external trends which will affect the work of campaigning and advocacy organisations in the next three to five years?

Two workshop sessions at the eCampaigning Forum 2008 looked at the question "What online trends can advocacy groups take advantage of, or will be affected by?" with a view to informing our work. The 'text cloud' below summarises the results of 'brainstorming' what those trends might be, and simple voting (pick your top three) to weight what were thought to be the most important.

Text cloud

A text cloud is a way of visually displaying a weighted list, with more common, or more important, words displayed in larger type. It's often used as a way of navigating web content, particularly on blogs or social networking sites by 'tagging' content with keywords, and displaying the tags/words at different sizes according to how common they are.

In this case, each word was increased in size for every vote cast either in the sessions, or afterwards by email. The trends are arranged into fairly subjective groupings, keeping in mind the discussions.

Future Gazing: Tag Cloud image


Predictions like this are notoriously tough. It's certain

we got some things right, and some things wrong. What's more, a good strategy means a good fit for the organization. even knowing the future wouldn't be enough. You'd still need to fit it with your goals and capabilities to make good choices.


Internet natives: people who've grown up with the internet.

Ageing population:the person who suggested this contended that people over 50 are major social networkers, though not necessarily online.

Everything goes digital: TV via Internet, newspapers via Internet, etc

Internationalisation: in 2nd brainstorm this was equated with developing countries getting wired via mobile devices (not web browsers) so I split the votes for this, added 2 to mobile devices and 3 to internationalisation.

Real life/data overlay: combines the idea of pervasive connectivity and geolocation. eg walking down the street and being able to see on your mobile which houses have people who belong to your social network, or having digital glasses that display a street map with route information and housing market values.

Future Gazing: Binoculars imageDevice convergence: eg. game consoles playing music and accessing internet, one tool doing everything (same as mobile devices in some people's minds?).

Consolidation/ homogenisation from tagging/categorization: tagging something in a certain way means some people will see it, others won't. eg: a song that's tagged "alternative" wont be found by "pop" searchers. This could be self-reinforcing, causing a fragmentation/ splintering of audiences.

Open social - a common platform being developed by Google to allow the creation of features which can be used across multiple social sites which have opted in, such as myspace, orkut etc. In the discussion this may have represented a broader idea of separating your social network from any particular service.

Open source: Software and applications developed collectively and not owned by any particular company. This means the costs of using open source programmes are in the implementation and staff time, rather than in paying for licenses etc. In other sessions at the forum, including one on campaigning with limited resources for smaller organisations, there was wide agreement that open source tools are vital.

Ownership of the infrastructure: dominance of certain big names in search, aggregation, etc. (ie. Google, YouTube)

A fuller version of the notes from these brainstorms is available online at Scribd

Andrew Davies is a web producer for Greenpeace International. andrew.davies@greenpeace.org

by Andrew Davies published Sep 15, 2008,
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