Digital Life CyberTrends

Professor John M. McCann

Fuqua School of Business
Duke University

This document contains a list of trends I have identified based upon quotes from managers, professionals, consultants, journalists, futurists, and educators who study the ways we will live in the digital age. Click on a topic to jump to the corresponding section of the document.

Life in Cyberspace

  • "Life in cyberspace seems to be shaping up exactly like Thomas Jefferson would have wanted: founded on the primacy of individual liberty and a commitment to pluralism, diversity, and community."
    Source: John Naisbitt, Global Paradox, 1994.

Rise of the Global Village

  • "The Internet has transformed the physical citizens of a modern society into the disembodied netizens of a postmodern cybercommunity, as some hackers like to say. The jargon may be a bit extravagant, but the changes are almost tangible. In the new electronic Agora of the global village, publicity has assumed an international scale, while privacy means electronic privacy in our e-mail conversations. ... Even the way we think may in the long run be affected, for relational and associative reasoning is nowadays becoming as important as linear and inferential analysis, while visual thinking is once again considered to be at least as indispensable as symbolic processing. And as the skill of remembering vast amounts of facts is gradually replaced by the capacity for retrieving information and discerning logical patterns in masses of data, the Renaissance conception of erudition and mnemotechny is merging with the modern methods of information management. In the electronic village implemented by the global network, entire sectors of activities like communicating, writing, publishing and editing, advertising, selling, shopping and banking, or counseling, teaching and learning are all being deeply affected. Such transformations are of the greatest importance, as they will determine our lifestyle in the coming decades."
    Source: Luciano Floridi, "The Internet: Which Future for Organized Knowledge, Frankenstein or Pygmalion? (Version 5.1), Spectrum: The WDVL Journal, Volume II, Issue 1, 1996

Rise of the Home

  • "Before the industrial revolution, the family was large, and life revolved around the home. Home was where work took place, where the sick were tended and where the children were educated. It was the center of family entertainment. It was the place where the elderly were cared for. In First Wave societies, the large, extended family was the center of the social universe. The decline of the ... began when the industrial revolution stripped most of these functions out of the family. Work shifted to the factory or office. The sick went off to hospitals, kids to schools, couples to movie theaters. The elderly went into nursing homes. What remained when all these tasks were exteriorized was the Ônuclear family.' ... The Third Wave re-empowers the family and the home. It restores many of the lost functions that once made the home so central to society. ... the real change will come when computers-cum-television hit the household and are incorporated into the educational process. As to the sick? More and more medical functions, from pregnancy testing to checking blood pressure -- tasks once done in hospitals or doctor's offices -- are migrating back to the home."
    Source: Alvin and Heidi Toffler, Creating A New Civilization, Atlanta, Turner Publishing Inc., 1995, p. 86

Rise of the Lone Eagle

  • "Lone Eagles are a special breed of knowledge workers. They live and work away from the markets they serve. Some live in urban America. Many move to small towns and to rural America. Most work at home. Lone Eagles are the pioneers of the SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) movement, trailblazers on the Electronic Frontier. We call these pioneering knowledge workers Lone Eagles after the original Lone Eagle, Charles A. Lindbergh, who made the first solo flight across the Atlantic in May 1927. The fiercely independent Lindbergh was a versatile man of many achievements. Today's Lone Eagles have many of Lindbergh's qualities: audacity, versatility, dauntlessness, independence, courage, inventiveness, determination, a quest for privacy and safety, a desire to be their own bosses and an appreciation of natural and cultural amenities. Many have been hit with a mid-life jolt: the loss of a high-paying job in a large corporation, a mugging in a big city, choking air pollution or a numbing experience with an urban public school system. Lone Eagles are dedicated to the places they choose to settle. They sink roots. They care about the community. They are people who serve on town councils and school boards. Lone Eagles bring revenues into the community, and they don't require tax abatements or subsidies."
    Source: Philip M. Burgess and Colleen Boggs Murphy, "Lone Eagles," Center for the New West

Rise of Networked Home

  • "It's likely that homes will come equipped with LANs that link most appliances so power companies can adjust electrical peak demand and that enable remote diagnostics to run on computer-controlled devices. Internet services will be readily accessible and interworkable with video services. Computer software will help set up teleconference calls from home, support telecommuting -- which will be mandated in more states where pollution from commuting has become a major problem -- enabling multiparty games. ... Teachers and parents will be able to confer by E-mail, and Johnny won't be able to claim that there is no homework because you'll see see it on the Web pages for his school and classes."
    Source: Vinton Cerf, quoted in "The Internet: Where's It All Going," Information Week, July 17, 1995, p. 31.

Rise of the Home Shopping Center

  • "The home cacoon will be the site of the future shopping center. All members of the family will be able to shop from lone location. Instead of going to the store, the store will come to use, no matter how unusual the product or how frequently needed. On our screens, we'll be able to hear about the latest new products or styles, or order up our old favorites."
    Source: Faith Popcorn, The Popcorn Report, Harper Business, 1992, p. 164

Rise of Home Delivery

  • "The means of distribution will be the next consumer-oriented revolution. Direct shopping from the producer to you -- bypassing the retailer altogether, no middlemen, no stops along the way. Home delivery will become, not an extra service, but a way of life. One truck delivering to a hundred customers will be a much more efficient use of resources than a hundred customers driving to stores. There will be holding tanks in your house for milk, soda, mineral water (all refrigerated), and bins for laundry soap and dog kibble, for example, all delivered like home heating oil."
    Source: Faith Popcorn, The Popcorn Report, Harper Business, 1992, p. 165

Rise of Consumer in Control

  • "The second wave was the recent industrial revolution, which relied on the availability of inexpensive energy. The consumer was separated from the producer and the producer was in control The chief assets were capital and labor. People consumed the products and services that were produced by firms of ever-increasing size. They tended to accept the notion that the producer was in some way Ôresponsible' for meeting their needs. The electric utilities were responsible for providing electricity and could make all the necessary decisions. IBM was responsible for providing computers. The American Medical Association was responsible for health care. The schools were responsible for education. In the United States, the consumer's view of success was obtained from other people and institutions, perhaps in part from Norman Rockwell and the Saturday Evening Post. This era was at its height during the Eisenhower years -- around 1955. In the Third Wave, the consumer is in control. Information technology plays the role that energy played during the industrial revolution. We will see the demassification of production -- short-run, perhaps even customized production -- based on computers and numerical control. Certain mass-marketing concepts are being replaced by market segmentation, direct marketing, specialty stores, and individual teleshopping via home computers tied into electron sales networks. During the second wave, national economies and markets replaced highly localized communities. During the third wave, a reversal will occur. New technologies are making it possible to produce goods and services localized for regions smaller than a nation. As we move toward demassification and the economy becomes differentiated, more information must be exchanged and used to manage systems and processes. ... The consumer are taking responsibility for his or her health care through nutrition programs, exercise programs, and by taking the initiative in situations such as getting a second opinion on a medical diagnosis. People will no longer allow responsibility for their lives and well-being to rest with other people or corporations."
    Source: John M. McCann, The Marketing Workbench, Dow Jones-Irwin, 1986, p. 225

Rise of People in Despair

  • " Whether burdened by an overwhelming flurry of daily commitments or stifled by a sense of social isolation (or, oddly, both); whether mired for hours in a sense of life's pointlessness or beset for days by unresolved anxiety; whether deprived by long workweeks from quality time with offspring or drowning in quantity time with them--whatever the source of stress, we at times get the feeling that modern life isn't what we were designed for. And it isn't. The human mind--our emotions, our wants, our needs--evolved in an environment lacking, for example, cellular phones. And, for that matter, regular phones, telegraphs and even hieroglyphs--and cars, railroads and chariots. This much is fairly obvious and, indeed, is a theme going back at least to Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents. But the analysis rarely gets past the obvious; when it does, it sometimes veers toward the dubious."
    Source: Robert Wright, "The Evolution of Despair," Time Magazine, April 28, 1996

Demise of Pop Culture

  • "Pop culture is dead. At least pop culture as we had come to know and love/hate it in the recent past, when it dressed, entertained and molded America en masse. When culture popped in the 1960s, the entire country would tune in to 'The Ed Sullivan Show' every Sunday night, forging a vocabulary for the next day's national dialogue around the water cooler. Three decades later, such solidarity is unthinkable in the face of a 500-channel future. 'The most interesting part of the story could be the disappearance of pop culture,' said New York trend analyst Edith Weiner. 'It has to have a history communicated through some generational mechanism. What we have now are flashes coming and going everywhere. That is not culture. Those are fads. . . . We have become a potpourri of cultures, and we have lost much of what was our culture.' ... In trendspeak, this is the era of fragmentation when it comes to pop culture--or pop cultures . Trend watchers call this a nation of subcultures. With technology getting higher and higher, commerce can cater to smaller and smaller audiences. Fragmentation is linking arms with another late-20th-Century phenomenon--a sharply stepped-up rate of change--to create an explosion of culture pops. "
    Source: Irene Lacher, "The Era of Fragments," Los Angeles Times, January 2, 1994

Rise of Communities of Strangers

  • "The future of personal computing is as a tool to connect what Watts and I call Ôcommunities of strangers." these are people linked together based on common ideas and values -- shared identify -- rather than social proximity. This is an absolutely revolutionary change. By using the computer to find people who share your views, you can live in whatever kind of world you want. Reality is no longer a defined constant. It is a choice. There are lots of kids today whose best friends are people they've never met. they spend 20 hours a week in chat rooms with other kids. Over time, as they share their interests and lives, they develop a shared identity -- a real sense of community that has nothing to do with where they live. It's a difficult adjustment for parents. A father sits down with his kid and says, ÔWho's our best friend?' And the kid says, ÔSabbit from Bangladesh.' The father says, ÔBut what about Jake next door?' And the kids says, "I don't have anything in common with him.' The father is mystified: ÔHow can you have something in common with a kid in Bangladesh and nothing in common with the kid next door?' But that's exactly the point. Politically, the world is still organized around geographic entities called countries. Socially, it's reorganizing itself around shared collective interests -- communities of strangers with their own language, rituals, heroes, icons."
    Source: Jim Taylor, Vice President of Global Marketing at Gateway 2000 and author (with Watts Wacker) of The 500-Year Delta: What Comes After What Comes Next, HarperBusiness, 1997, interviewed by William C. Taylor, "What Comes After Success," Fast Company, December-January, 1997, p. 84

Rise of The Virtual Society

  • "The virtual society is not only inevitable; it's real, it's here, it's growing at a phenomenal rate, and it impacts virtually (no pun intended) every facet of our lives. ... a culture once based exclusively on physical contact is being transformed to one where goods and services are accessible without face-to-face contact with other people. Technology enables this transformation toward a virtual society which involves change from the physically oriented structures of the 19th century to the non-physical oriented communication structures (structures without constraints of place and time) of the 21st century."
    Source: Paul Gray and Magid Igbaria, "The Virtual Society," OR/MS Today, December 1996, p. 44.

Rise of a New "We"

  • "America is a consumer culture, and when we change what we buy -- and how we buy it -- we'll change who we are."
    Source: Faith Popcorn, The Popcorn Report, Harper Business, 1992, p. 4

Demise of Cities

  • "Today the majority of people around the world live in cities. ... Thirty years from now, the big cities may be dying very fast. Downtown office buildings have become dysfunctional. As information and ideas have become mobile, the kind of work that doesn't require contact with customers or contact with other professionals - in other words 75 percent of the work in any organization - doesn't have to be done downtown. For 300-odd years we have had a continuing, occasionally interrupted real estate boom. It was slowed down by depression, but not stopped. That boom may be over for good."
    Source: Peter Drucker, quoted in Kevin Keyy, "Wealth Is Overrated," Wired, March 1998, p. 161

click here to return to the Materials and Publications index

Produced and Hosted by the Center for Digital Discourse and Culture     © Center for Digital Discourse and Culture, Virginia Tech. All rights reserved. The physical campus is in Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. For more information, please contact the Center at