Rhetoric of Predictions in History of Computing Technologies

Hi, folks. Haven’t updated for a while as we had a snow day over here at Virginia Tech, and I spent last week in Tampa for the Association for Teachers of Technical Writing Conference and the Conference on College Composition and Communication. Had a great time. Someone else I know pointed out how different it is to go to these conferences as faculty as opposed to as a graduate student, and I find that to be the case for me.

Anyway, for the New Media Seminar this week, we’re reading and discussing Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg’s “Personal Dynamic Media,” and I am to share a “nugget” and/or app that fulfilled Kay and Goldberg’s predictions.

“What will happen if everyone had a DynaBook?”

But before that, I’ll say in general, one idea I’ve been noticing in readings since the start of the seminar  is the idea of opening up access to computing technologies, whether in terms of use or in terms of production, to “ordinary” users, which I think is pretty cool. I’m also curious about the tendency I’m seeing to highlight the idea of “predicting” or “foretelling” the future of computing technologies. Where does this tendency come from? What are the implications of this rhetorical act? And, what do we gain from seeing how people imagine the future in these sorts of ways, especially from a perspective that takes place much later, sometimes when those predictions have largely come to fruition? Right now it seems like the main reason we even consider several of these essays notable today is for that predictive and future oriented quality.

A preliminary thought is to link the attraction to future predictions to the kind of willingness to imagine a utopic vision of a possible future, whether in terms of computing technologies or something else, that is necessary for creative and effective innovation.

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