The perfect storm, an economic and cultural tornado

The post-PC era is characterized by the app effect. First, the impact of mobile apps has affected the products and services of the hardware, software, and telecom sectors, and apps have gained wide acceptance among the public and other industries. Communication, marketing and digital business between individuals and organizations have increased globally. Data traffic for every conceivable configuration has intensified and become more personal. This is a trend we were already familiar with from the Internet. We have already experienced the app effect in recent years through the flood of mobile personal display devices.

Apps bring display devices to life

The apps that we select from an online store bring our display devices to life. They are fast and immediate. It is a considerable shift from the elaborate and time-consuming effort needed to install software on a PC. This new enjoyment is experienced primarily through the use of touch controls, display quality and sensors extending our own perception. Apps are integral to display devices just like the web and the PC. First came the desktop and then the laptop. The laptop is along for the ride in the post-PC era, integrating itself with all the new developments. Even the desktops that remain will work with apps and multi-touch. As will the touch tables and walls that are on the verge of introduction. Post-PC is, therefore, PC-plus, just as Microsoft correctly concluded. In fact, there will be a much more diverse gamut of devices and the controls will feel much more natural to use. These will harmonize with our senses and also with our higher faculties such as speech and movement. And, eventually, with our subtle body language and thought processes. As we go to press, experiments are being carried out to use a brain interface for our original “mobile” device, the car. Multi-touch is already a killer app. Research performed by Pixar Animation Studios and U.C. Berkeley show that multi-touch is twice as fast as using the mouse to click on menus and windows.

Exactly the bit that we want

The web effect became dominant in the PC era. We carried out small, practical tasks using the mouse and keyboard within comprehensive software application suites. We were able to share our work via email. Web 2.0 brought us communication and task domains, Salesforce, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google Docs, Microsoft Office 365, and so on. Contact between us became much more immediate. Apps providing practical functionality on mobile display devices intensify our experience and enthusiasm for the app experience. In no time at all, apps and their icons came to symbolize all freedom that we had always wanted with our multimedia toolbox. During the Web 2.0 phase of the PC era, our tools became more accessible, more personal, and increasingly delivered in real time. The web became that platform where all of today’s popular social applications were built. Mobile apps offer us the luxury of sharing a part of our rich digital universe by hitting a button at any time and place we choose. And we are continuously up to date about the state of the world thanks to the newspapers, our Twitter timeline, a SAP dashboard, and so on.


The evolution of the Web 2.0 platform into a combination of platform specific native apps and web apps can be considered a new dimension in All Purpose Programming (what’s in a name?). HTML5 is the standard-bearer of this movement and apps can be regarded as nano-platforms. In addition to HTML5, there are many more new, interlocking standards, such as CSS, SVG and WOFF. And these have led to a proposed name for the emerging platform, NEWT, for New Exciting Web Technologies.

The evolution of gadgets

The key to the social relevance of the app effect is the personal and social immediacy of mobile display devices, including new devices like Amazon’s Kindle Fire, new laptops such as Google’s Chromebook, and so on. A lot could be said about the device side of this evolution. In the PC era, we had a desktop or laptop with a mouse and keyboard. Now, in the post-PC era or PC-plus era, we have sophisticated mobile display devices equipped with touch controls and apps, regardless of whether they have keyboards. Remarkable as it may be, what this is really about is the evolution of gadgets consisting of hardware and software that satisfy human needs. At the core of this evolution are two trends that have always existed and have a huge socio-economic and societal impact on the future and therefore require special attention, regardless of the issues of the day.

Persuasive technologies and culture clashes

Let us begin with persuasive technologies. These persuade and tempt with tools, technology and media, and may consequently prove to be addictive. These go hand in hand with culture clashes. On the one hand, excessive persuasion (marketing, advertisements and peer pressure) will provoke reflection and opposition. On the other hand, persuasive technologies – particularly in the form of Internet gadgets – contribute to personal responsibility and decisiveness, by offering information at your fingertips. We can now directly participate in discussions, stand up for ourselves, and organize. The intensification and personalization traits of modern persuasive technologies also turn culture clashes into a common occurrence. And these certainly do not fall neatly within democratic and organizational boundaries. Persuasive technologies and culture clashes go in partnership and are both the result of multimedia-based, intelligent (or smart) “augmentation” of human behavior. These fast-moving and continuous developments can be seen as a perfect storm.


Toward the Digital Commons model

The “tornado” illustrates how persuasive technologies, characterized by hyper-marketing, and cultural clashes, characterized by hyper-competition, arise from the continuous development of media, gadgets and smart applications, and how these generally support human capabilities and appetites (augmentation). The basis for this continuous development lies in the powerplay between Science, Technology and Innovation.

The real question is: Which institutions, organizations and sectors are going to realize the Digital Commons model via the tornado of tools and technologies currently being nourished by hyper-marketing and hyper-competition? All sorts of entities, at all levels of government, business, groups, private enterprises and so on, will be built up and knocked down in the dynamics of this tornado, all according to their specific convictions concerning our society and economic structures. This is how we will advance, whether we can envision it or not. The status quo will continue to shift regardless.

The following picture illustrates the universal culture clash of our institutionalized Systems with the Countercultures they provoke and the Subcultures that exist. Today, the main ambition is to move the Digital Countercultures and Digital Subcultures from the existing System toward the new and palatable Digital Commons situation. Consider, for example, digital government, the Smart Grid, and eHealth. In the new digital or smart ideal, situations, processes must run like well-oiled wheels, and interests must be managed without any damaging clashes. Chapters 2, 3 and 4 of this book discuss this dynamic from different perspectives.


Post-PC Empowerment 2005 > 2015
From “Smartphones” via Web + Mobile + Apps to Smart Web/App Ecosystems