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Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

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Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

E-mail Kevin.

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Friday, June 5th, 2009

How right/wrong are my futures matrices?

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

The proof of the pudding is in the matrices, as they don’t say. I spent this afternoon gazing at my enormous mindmap in an attempt to try and see beyond the surface themes. What are the underlying issues? How do they fit together? What pretty 2 X 2 matrices can I create to help illustrate those relationships?

Well, here’s my first stab. Please do feel free to critique them thoroughly in the comments or in notes on the Flickr image if you want.


I always say that social media is 20% tech and 80% people, and for me the important issues are human issues, not tech. Yes, there might be problems about resources such as energy and raw materials, but those can end up in arbitrage (buy where it’s cheap and sell where it’s expensive) and the market takes care of them. And for resources that can’t be controlled by the market, we’ll find ways to be more efficient, to do more with less, and to recycle.

So I ended up thinking about resources as not as important as they might seem, apart from one: human attention. We are in an attention economy (as the news, music and film industries seem not to have noticed yet), and that’s something that cannot be arbitraged, you cannot buy yourself more attention. Another theme that came out strongly was the human need to create and maintain relationships, and how that is changing as technology - particularly social technology - enables us to keep in touch with more people for longer.

The first matrix therefore juxtaposes the number of relationships a person has against the amount of attention they have to give. This will affect the way that civil society associations can benefit by affecting how hard it is for them to form relationship with new people, and how much attention they can expect to get from each person. I see a general trend from giving more attention to fewer organisations/people towards giving less attention to more organisations/people. Obviously it’s not as simple as that, because if you plot attention vs person you’d find a long-tail, with a minority of your relationships getting a majority of the attention, but averaged out over all relationships I think this is a valid trend.

The second matrix juxtaposes two other common undercurrents: Control and self-organisation. Many of the items on my mindmap, such as ‘regulation’, ‘marginalisation of dissent’ and ‘return to conservatism’ are really about controlling either people or the technology that they use. That seems to fit together with self-organisation, a theme expressed through items like ‘open source software’, ‘mass adoption’, and ’skills move towards adaptive’, which all enable self-organisation.

The third matrix looks at privacy and trust, and how they combine to create different types and amounts of participation. Privacy was illustrated by items such as ‘face recognition’, ‘tracking’ and ‘mutually assured embarrassment’. Trust was a main theme that came out in my mind map’s first level branches.

The final matrix pits pervasiveness of technology and the web against the utility of the tools, and sees a movement from scarcity and a lack of utility, i.e. tech/the web as a minority sport, towards mass adoption and increased utility creating vibrant online cultures.

There are quite a few other issues that I am not sure where they fit, such as the diminishing media, inclusion/exclusion, changing demographics, and some of the other macro effects.

Some comments have already been left on the Flickr image of this diagram, so please do feel free to leave your thoughts there or in the comments below. What’s missing? What’s wrong? What’s right? What’s irrelevant? Please let me know!

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4 Responses to “How right/wrong are my futures matrices?”

  1. Jonathan Lister Says:

    I am interested in relationships-attention box. It’s a fascinating question how the array of social tools we now have change the way we interact with people.

    Some recent research (covered in the Economist - shows that even though tools like Facebook give us the ability to interact with hundreds and possibly thousands of people, most of us will stick to well established patterns - a light connection to around 150 people and strong connections to a handful.

    This natural tendency to socialise as if we were still pack animals suggests questions, such as how best to organise yourself if you want to care about maintaining a large network of contacts, or whether massively social applications or devices could be optimized around this tendency.


  2. Social networking: beyond the silo | Ben Werdmuller Says:

    [...] the future of social networking on the web is hard. However, I believe that as general open social technologies develop and become more commonplace, [...]

  3. Suw Charman-Anderson Says:

    Thanks for the link, Jonathan - that’s unsurprising, but good to see evidence!

  4. FutureGov » Useful links » links for 2009-06-09 Says:

    [...] Strange Attractor » Blog Archive » How right/wrong are my futures matrices? Future of social media? (tags: social media blog future) [...]