The Industrial age was largely defined by the ability to mass produce items that eased the chores of daily life and expanded our view of the world through multiple forms of transportation. The the internal combustable engine provided the opportunity for the automobile to grow to represent the iconic product of the analog (atoms) age during the 20th century. The car has shaped our lives in enumerable ways, and continues to morph into new forms and into new communities without a hint of fading away.
Likewise, the 21st century, the digital (equations) age has been made possible through the power of the transitor paving the way for a new icon, the computer. Though still in its wide-eyed infancy, is fully poised to mature and frame this age of information technology (IT). Computing technologies are driving global changes and will surely shape lives more profoundly than the automobile. As with personal transportation, IT will impact the way we live by its ability to connect and separate us at the same time. The distinction being one does it physically and the other accomplishes the same ends virtually.
In 1995 Nicholas Negropointe penned a definitive book, "Being Digtal", in which he discussed the changes we could anticipate as Information Technology expanded its reach into society. His book was full of great insight about this new way of being - ditigal. He also pointed to a post-information age in which mass media would get bigger and smaller at the same time thanks to the internet. And so it seems at this moment the ever-present "cell phone" has captured the imaginations of consumers and has become the newest icon for mobility and information sharing.
The questions in the immediate future are around sorting out opportuinities in a media-rich environment where the likes of YouTube and MySpace are satisfying a demand for personal networking. And as we, designers, consider the constant layering of technological innovations and the resulting complexities in developing success products there is a tremendous opportunity for the synthesizing talent of the design professional.
Information technology will continue grow exponentially according to Ray Kurweil, a futurist among other things. So the near future will continue to be on integrating digital products into ever more areas of our lives. But, what comes after is an ability to improve workings of the human body through three-dimensional self organizing molecular structures.
Being Digtal Online
Wired Article Being Digital (1995)
Being Digital Summary
Video: $100 Laptop
Wired Article on Ray Kurweil
Video: Ray Kurweil