This is the eighth of Havas PR’s “11 Trends for 2016.”
In the early days of full-strength connectivity—big-pipes broadband and mobile wireless—it seemed as if the Internet would make time and place irrelevant. Reality has evolved into not only something like what people imagined, but also something more complex and multilayered. Who knows the location of the servers where millions of us meet up at any time with people far and near on social media? No matter—we are always physically with our screens, and those feel like the locations where we are meeting. The same applies to companies (including Havas) that are coordinating inputs from teams of people working either down the corridor, in their home kitchen, in a café, on public transportation or just about anywhere else.
Who needs to schlep through commuting hell, let alone endure the tedium of long-distance travel, when we can collaborate through the cloud? We can raise funds for cool new ideas or great causes, we can share ideas to make our new products smarter and slicker. We can sing in a virtual choir or play in a virtual orchestra that exist only in the cloud. We can band together to create a crowd in the cloud to tackle problems. We can study together with thousands of others in the virtual classrooms of MOOCs. And for nittier-grittier needs, there are any number of offerings out there. So far, so virtual.
For 2013, we spotted the “Less Is More” trend that said, in part, “[L]ots of modern architects and developers are harking back to a minimalist philosophy—erecting tiny spaces to suit all sorts of purposes. And housing shortages in big cities worldwide are feeding the trend for micro spaces.” That trend of everything becoming miniaturized has not only thrived but also become prestigious. And it’s part of life in the cloud, which allows people to physically carry and store less.
And yet … not everything is cloudable. Observing how people are using the infinite flexibility of the cloud and mobile technology for different purposes will also help us to better understand which activities absolutely need a physical presence. Millions can tune in to live broadcasts of concerts and sports events, or catch up with them in the cloud, for instance, but thousands will continue paying serious money to be part of the event in person. Virtual audiences are great for the bottom line, but it takes live audiences to make an event.
As more activities move into the cloud and more needs can be served from the cloud, individuals, communities and organizations will face the same question time and again: What value is there in people being in the same physical space for this activity, whatever it might be? Increasingly, people will find no functional, operational value for many activities, so they won’t bother.