The world has changed significantly in the last 12 months. 2011 was the year the media really woke up to the power of social and mobile networks.
The ‘Arab Spring’, the global ‘Occupy’ movement, and the UK riots all demonstrated how technology could be used to connect and coordinate disparate groups of people in ways that made it almost impossible for security forces and governments to keep up.
This phenomenon was by no means new, but it was unexpected. As more and more people became digitally connected, and mobile technology became almost ubiquitous, Clay Shirky’s adage that communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring, proved to be right on the money.
While MySpace continued its steady decline, other social networks such as Tumblr, Instagram, and Google+ grew rapidly, each vying for our attention. But as RIM (makers of BlackBerry) discovered this year, attention isn’t always such a good thing.
The hackers behind Anonymous and LulzSec figured this out too. Niche social networks such as Path have emerged to enable sharing of information among small groups of people. Other platforms like Silk Road are designed to be invisible to those not in the know.
Unsurprisingly, the techies involved in the Occupy movement are trying to build these types of private networks. This trend has led some to speculate that there will never be another network the size of Facebook. I’m not so sure.
What is beyond question is that mass disruption has been a recurring theme across the globe these past 12 months. We’re also seeing an increase in a consumer trend that has been dubbed “SoMoLo” – Social, Mobile, Local.
Observe the modern shopping experience and you’ll see this being played out. Customers in stores are using their smart phones to check prices, compare products, identify other local shops and consult with friends before purchasing. Soon they’ll be paying for items with their phones too.
This year has also seen the rise of the Urban Mashup. Oglivy Culture launched in the US and Steve Stoute chronicled ‘The Tanning of America’ – highlighting the growing influence of urban culture on the mainstream.
In June, Canadian photographer Richard Lam took one of the most striking images of the year during riots that erupted in Vancouver.
The image of a couple kissing in the midst of the chaos and riot police became an internet viral sensation. Many saw it as a 21st Century reimaging of the famous photo of ‘The Kiss’ that took place in Times Square on V-J day in 1945.
For all the momentous changes that took place in 2011, I can’t help but feel that we ain’t seen nothing yet.
Here’s to 2012…