2011 will be the year when technology takes a back seat to human experience.  In 2010, people grappled with the deluge of social technologies and focused on how to manage, monitor, measure, and adapt information and tools.   2011 will bring a move toward simplification.  People will not abandon technology, nor loose their enthusiasm.  Technology is not going away.  The simplification will come from lifting our sights above the tools, features, and click-throughs and focusing on the psychology underlying our interaction with media.  Technology doesn't happen independent of human behavior; it happens because of it.

Here are 15 trends we'll see in 2011.

1.     Change as Normal.  In 2011, new technology will go from being "totally unbelievable" to "that's so cool."  We have seen staggering innovation in the last decade, but we are beginning to acclimate to the pace of change and move past the 'shiny penny' stage where we are distracted and dumbfounded by each new advance.  We have had enough breakthroughs in communications and media technology that we now expect technology to continually change, upgrade and redefine what we can do.  We will still 'ooh' and 'aah' over the bells and whistles, but we won't be surprised by them showing up. 

2.     Goals Before Tools.  2011 is the year that we will move from "what can it do" to "what do I want to do with it."  The ways we can communicate have become abundant and widely accessible in just about every way you can define it.  We have so many kinds of technologies, platforms, and applications and the premium will be on choice and judgment, not availability.  Success will come from focusing on what we want to do first, and then choose the best way to do it.  In 1827, if you wanted to experience the speed and efficiency of a steam engine, you had to travel between Baltimore and the Ohio River Valley.  Today, you choose where you want to go and then decide which train, plane, bus or car would best meet your travel destination and experience goals.  It will be the same with media technologies.

3.     Technology Unchained.  2011 will see technology use become more fluid and organic.  Media boundaries and media uses will continue to blur and converge.  Media technologies will become increasingly mobile and flexible.  We won't even call things "mobile" anymore because mobile will be the new normal.  Mobile design will demand more attention to the cognitive and perceptual affordances of the small screen and the behavioral patterns and goals of a mobile user.

 The Year of Experience

4.     Meaning will come from experience not from the technology.  Innovations will come from working the gaps and creating narrative experiences that travel across and between media technologies.  Meaning will come from experience not from the technology.  We will lose interest in technology that stands between reality and us.  The technology will recede to place the focus on experience.  Technology isn't sticky.  Experience is.  (See A Think Lab colleague Bonnie Buckner's post comparing Augmented Reality and Transmedia Storytelling).

5.     Entertainment Begins in the BrainDesigning powerful messaging and immersive experience will begin with perception and meaning, not gizmos and gadgets.  Trends like transmedia storytelling will highlight the real starting point of story and meaning: the brain.

6.     Shifting Psychology = Shifting Power.  2011 will bring a psychological shift in individuals and groups.   Social media, social networks, and mobile technologies have caused a fundamental change in the core assumptions about how the world works.  People are more publicly expressive and vocal.  The hurdles for producing and publishing are almost nonexistent, defining new norms of participation, content production, and message facilitation.  Expectations of having voice don't exist in a vacuum.  If you speak, you want to be heard.  This will redefine relationships at all levels of society: between business and consumers, governments and people, teachers and students, and social and cultural groups.

7.     Ethics Matter.  Think of it as Digital Noblesse-Oblige.  With voice comes power.  With power comes responsibility.  The power shift from wide access to networks and digital publishing and new participatory norms demands a new approach to digital citizenship and ethical education society-wide.  It will be come increasingly imperative that media literacy focus much less on the tools and more on the act of using the tools: behavior, empathy, and personal and civic responsibility. 

8.     Respecting Agency.  Media engagement means multiple points of audience interaction and participation.  Respecting the audience will mean respecting their curiosity, abilities, agency, and ability to triangulate information.  Gone are the days of the audience as couch potatoes with microwave popcorn and Barcaloungers. They may not act predictably or as you would like, but they will take action.

9.     Individual differences.  As technologies move toward understanding that they are delivering meaning and experience, we will see a renewed interest in the psychology of meaning creation and cognitive mapping.

10.  Psychological Content Ownership.  Ownership isn't just physical property rights.  Psychologically, ownership comes from a different type of investment: emotional.  Interaction comes from motivation and emotion manifested as behavior.   The act of engaging creates ownership.  Whether it's forwarding a joke, making a mashup, or creating a mixed media novel for mobile devices, each step of participation puts skin in the game.  Each act of participation is an act of individual agency and creates empowerment.

11.  Creative Problem-Solving.  Low technological hurdles, collective information pools, global access and real-time information inspire creative solutions to problems.  Empowerment, agency, and technological competence and the belief that individuals can make a difference will fuel a massive flood of Do-It-Yourself solutions to everything from job creation to philanthropy.  This will increase the demand for cultivating and supporting creativity and innovation in education and design. 

12.  Aesthetics Matter.  2011 will place new premiums on aesthetics in physical and technological environments.  Usability won't just be about function.  It will become more broadly defined to include the qualitative sensory foundation of user-experience.  Aesthetics and design will finally make the leap from luxuries to necessities, driving improvements in productivity, innovation, and general well being.

13.  Learning to See.  Imagination and images will be keys to sparking creativity and innovation.  Western culture has a distinct linear predilection, but converging technologies, real time information and the power of visual communication will reinforce the importance of being able to "see" solutions in business, social issues, and education. 

14.  Stories As A Starting Point.   As experience rises in importance relative to the technology, focus will shift to the story that drives the meaning, message, and purpose.  Stories are the fundamental building blocks of human meaning.  Mixed media will demand strong narratives with consistency to create authentic experience.

15.   Jobs Shift as Culture Shifts.  Shifting priorities will create new demand for people who can synthesize information, approach problems multi-dimensionally, manage multiple information flows, withstand the discomfort of uncertainty and, consistent with #7 above, act with empathy.  The really successful people won't be popular at a cocktail party where the answer to "what do you do" needs to fit in one sentence.

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