What the Internet does with us
This 2004 paper is about you. Are you, as a customer, as an entrepreneur, as an individual, ready for the Internet and e-business? Do you see the possibilities and do you actually use these? Do you have an idea of where it will end? Did you ever list how the Internet changes your life as an entrepreneur? And, do you make the next move or do you let it all happen to you? About the fact that the Internet is much more than e-mail, shopping, chatting and searching. About how the Internet as a driver of e-business changes the set-up of your company or educational institution and maybe your very business in a very positive and still “e-secure” way: marketing & sales, operations, purchasing, recruitment & selection, e-HRM.
New opportunities for market communication. Presence management: how do you want to be reached by your customers and what do your customers themselves want? Phone, mail, chat, sms? How do you make sure you are seen? As an entrepreneur, do you choose your own broadband TV, pop-ups, contextual advertising, blogging? Voice-over IP and mobile broadband internet with flat fee price structures for a few Euros per month are on their way and ensure that your customer even physically compares prices and offers with you in the shop. Are you going to help him by, as a service, putting a WiFi hotspot at his disposal so that he comes off cheaper with you? By the way, how do you provide the best supply and made-to-measure work without additional work? Formal process descriptions (ISO) will be complemented, maybe eplaced, by (external) links, communities, portals and other forms of distributed team working. Especially knowledge workers will organize themselves through communities and peer-to-peer systems and focused on “the next practise” and will bring their offer to the market through a clever mix of online and onsite service. Reality pull instead of schedule push will become the standard.
It will cost your customers only a few seconds through the Internet to determine whether or not you have the best offer for them. Now, they still do that at home. Soon mobile, with you in your shop. Both the business customer and the consumer more and more determine their shortlist through the Internet. Therefore you also should search through the Internet for the best offer for yourself, just like all those others. If not, you will pay too much.
In this way, e-business forces you very clearly to define your offer. Literally work of seconds. Much more than five years ago, the company has to compare itself with out there (Hungary, Poland, China), reduce costs and restrict itself to whatever it makes it the top. Insight into the own “A+’s” and the ability to drop activities in which the company does not form the top, becomes a strategic competence and requires great leadership. Offshoring, partnering and outsourcing are the visible results. Companies hardly get the time to get their messages across in the
Seven seconds for your homepage for instance. Thus, attention is the new scarcity. This put high demands on your market message. Branding, focus on own strength and winner’s image with which customers and business partners also want to associate, are absolute keys in that.
More competition hopefully will lead to a “compassionate capitalism” and not to a “piranha-economy”. A tremendous political challenge!
“Get in or get lost!”.
Therefore, have youdetermined your position? That is what we want to discuss in this paper. Not only abstractly about e-business and what the papers say about it. That is nice and safe. But about you and e-business. About how the Internet brings you, as a breadwinner in the “real-time networked economy”, into the position of a market vendor who has to make three decisions: where do I put my stall, what do I put in it at which price and how do I make sure that people know where I am. About how the Internet is the cause that you, as a customer, no longer want to be confined in the complexity and regulations of big companies. How you are going to search, without respect of persons, for the best offer for you. And, finally, how the Internet enables you to become a member of a multitude of communities of like-minded people somewhere in the world with the same target. That is to say, if you have something on offer for such a club.
We come across the Internet from the various identities that we have. At home, as a friend with friends, as a consumer, as a tourist, in our jobs. That is here to stay. The question is how we, in all these capacities, can make proper use of the web. This book describes how we come across the Internet in a number of roles.
In this paper we outline, on the basis of examples, the individual, the business and the social perspective of the internet. We show how far the Internet has already permeated our private and public lives. By now, in almost all social roles you play, you come across the Internet. That is exciting. Then, a new evolutionary process comes into being in which he who has most adapted to the Internet will maximally benefit. That goes for individuals, organizations and perhaps also whole countries. What we want to discuss with you is to what exactly we will have to adapt. What does the Internet with us, with our identities, with our companies, with our families, our jobs, with the Netherlands? In which does the Internet have a role and in which absolutely not?
The Internet directly affects our personal lives, if only because of e-mail, electronic banking, information supply, online shopping, chatting, the way in which we learn. An example: How do you feel if the organization where you work, as a part of perfect recall, starts to investigate who is calling whom and who is e-mailing whom. In itself, that is a reasonably simple exercise. Then, however, it will show in which networks you really are. And whether you are really “partaking”. Do you feel up to that? Could this be the reason that very many people, especially managers, keep reading and replying their e-mails during their holidays?
Would the Internet definitively put you on a par with the social relations you have? With a Google-premium on popularity like in the search algorithms of search engines? Existing is co-existing. Or is that too cynical?
Of course, we were a little pulped by the Internet after the hype. We are not really impressed by it if we look at the budget and the resilience of, for instance, the Dutch Innovation Platform, but it does happen and fast and at the same time a little bit under the skin. The Internet converts our world at high speed. There is hardly any aspect of society in the Netherlands and abroad that is not profoundly affected by the Internet and the digital world. The Internet increasingly gives shape to our personal life, to objective and set-up of profit and non-profit organizations, business-to-business communication, society, the way in which decisions “arise” and to “politics”. The Internet has consequences for you, hether or not you are online.
To an increasing extent, social information supply, internal business communication, but also the organization of family parties run through the Internet. The Internet is considered as a social and relatively cheap information medium and in the communication between you and companies, government, relatives and acquaintances it is impossible to imagine life without it.
You have the possibility, but that goes for companies too, to be real time virtually present everywhere and always: everyone can, if desired, start a broadband “TV channel” without considerable costs, with live, worldwide broadcasts. If required with billing features and combined with instant messaging, voice over IP and photo sharing. Do you opt for your own broadband TV broadcast[ii]? A technological possibility, by the way, requiring a short-term recalibration of all governmental supervision of communication.
Many new words, such as “safety leak”, “identity fraud” or “spam”, which ten years ago were still unknown, both the word and its meaning, have by now been generally adopted and become a mental category: these form part of your Sitz im Leben and certainly of that of the kids. The words blog and scam are already much used. Just a bit longer and countries, companies and individuals must realize: “Get in or get lost!”.
Much is possible. At the same time, this kind of things only happen if it has a concrete value for the parties involved. Not everything possible also happens. We still read the paper version of the newspaper and we do not sit behind our computers at home to do that. As it is, we sit passively in front of the TV but interactively behind the computer. A subtle, still existing difference in mental position, to be seen in our use of language and choice of words. But not only online activity is growing. We also do more and more funshopping. Complicated.
A few examples: The use of all electronic means of communication is growing: at the same time, the English fellow man, for instance, listens more to the radio, phones more, is present on the Internet longer and longer and watches more (digital) TV[iii].
In Japan, for example, nine out of ten households have access to the Internet. Phoning with the Internet is very strongly increasing under the leadership of Yahoo! 90% of the cell phones has Internet facilities[iv]. Some practical matters as examples that go beyond an done-up website. You can establish your office anywhere on the face of the world and have the telephone answered there and the mail sent without taking one step outdoors, for example via the site www.e-office.net. Presence management or “swarming”, for who you do or do not want to be accessible with which part of your identity, what you do or do not want to tell whom, and following naturally from this, “personal opinion management”, stand out as an individual core competence of the future and is on the brink of outgrowing the status of leisure activities[v].
Consequently, Microsoft and Google (Blogger.com) see weblogging or blogging, keeping personal diaries via the Internet and make these accessible for a selected public, as big business[vi]. A bit of reversed hide-and-seek: if you are not seen, you are off. By now, 65% of the Dutch people sometimes visits a weblog[vii]. Will weblogs, for instance, take over the function of the local newspaper through “civil journalism”? With Google, you will not only have an unlimited personal archive at your disposal through their mail, soon you will also be able, through Google Talk, to phone free of charge. Google is going to include weblogs in the register, currently there are 17,1 million of these worldwide!
What do you do already with James Burkes’ KnowledgeWeb project: “an interactive educational tool, the Knowledge Web not only informs about the scientists, artists, innovators, and explorers of history, but also reveals the connections between them”[viii].
One more to finish: developments in the sphere of context-bound knowledge management, with which you can educate your own software, for instance with www.irion.nl, or contextual advertising à la Google reward those who show a focused, consistent searching behaviour and bviously know what they are looking for and what they want. Then does not only the number of hits and links to your site will make you popular. Do you realize how much power the Googles actually have, for that matter? Search engines increasingly determine what you find on the Internet.
With this, we are brought back to the contents. Combinations of CRM and data mining either or not in combination with in-store marketing in which this type of techniques is implemented, make nice offers especially for you possible, moreover in your language and wording. Partly because of the enormous performance improvement of technology[ix]. Besides, with in-store marketing, companies get the possibility within other companies to recommend their goods. Producers of A-brands within supermarkets, for instance. You will soon experience this type of developments personally as a customer of your supermarket.
We have only a limited idea of where this all is going to lead any company and where society will lead us to in the longer term. What, for instance, does the development of software mean that aims at steering individual social action. Software deriving information from your individual wording, sentence structure, the power, speed and amount of corrections with which you type on your keyboard, key logging, your voice intonation and your contact list[x]. With which “Big Brother” also files all your digital and digitalisable correspondence in a lifetime archive[xi].
What does this mean for the idea of privacy with which we grew up? What will it mean if maybe in due time the DNA profile of every baby is recorded in view of issues such as social safety, personal responsibility for one’s own health and determination of individual learning capacity. The first concrete initiatives, which it is true do not have the ambition now but do have the potency to make this possible in principle and to get to a national reference file, are already in progress[xii]14.
What is the Internet going to mean for our identity formation as human beings, for the meaning of role models in our education? What will happen if our Internet identity and “real world identity” get more and more mixed up and experimenting behaviour through the chat will actually lead to group rape as it recently, 2003, did in Rotterdam?
What does it mean if we no longer learn to wait and therefore almost everything needs to be interactive in the real-time society, and we no longer know or appreciate the pleasure of postponed consumption?[xiii] What will be its substitute?
Will there be a little pill for everything? If you know, just say so. It is exciting, though.
McLuhan was convinced that the very rectangular shape of the book page influenced the way in which we stored and understood the relevant information[xiv]. The medieval messenger or troubadour did different things with your brain than the book did afterwards. In this respect, too, the Internet as a dominant source of information substantially affects the way in which we are informed and what we consider important and not important. Multimedial communication with sound and vision will no doubt become the standard, with which in expressing ourselves, as a person or a company, we will have to realize more and more strongly that we have disappeared with one click. You must have what it takes to tempt others to wait for you.
To quote Jos de Mul – in 2004 in the Dutch newspaper NRC – “Would the world really turn into one big database with the Internet as central library in which historical notion has no additional value, goes astray in data files and therefore disappears evolutionarily”? And in which anything and anyone you come across is a scratch card for you: have a quick glance to see if you are a winner and most of the time discard it? Einstein did not accept that creation and development of the universe was a chance process no matter how much logic pointed into that direction. Would the Internet turn our lives into a series of scratch cards?
More about that later.
[i] This chapter is an 2005 translated version of the speech Frans van der Reep as his contribution made, when accepting the position of professor e-business, INHOLLAND University of Applied Sciences on October 27th, 2004.
On 21 September 2005, The Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende presented an ambitious implementation plan to take government communication in hand with digital means through an own chat, umts and digital channel. The government commissions the design of an “internet-architecture” and starts to experiment with new digital channels such as MSN, UMTS, i-mode and SMS-attention-drawing.
Source: Ofcom, The communications Market 2004 Overview, www.ofcom.org.uk
See for example www.eyebees.com
[vi]A recent example of this is www.feedburner.com
[vii]Source: marketing online 05-09-2005.
www.k-web.org/. This web was created to stimulate the innovate use of education technology.
[ix]The introduction of the 20 Gigahertz “superchip”, making computers twice as fast, is scheduled for early
2007. WIMAX promises 70 megabit wireless connectivity over a range of 30 miles. See Gartner, (2004).
“Prepare for a world that links people, places and objects”, 9 April; P.M. Magazine (2003) March.
[x]See for instance: www.blinkx.com
[xi]Google offers you free e-mail with a free and unlimited archive
[xii]See for instance the Alter Ego project of the Telematica Instituut, Twente Technical University. A second initiative, interesting in this
connection, is E-Trax, stemming from the Next Generation Infrastructure Group, www.nginfra.nl.
[xiii] Increase of speed in informal communication
McLuhan, M. (1967), “the Medium is the Message: an Inventory of Effects”, Hammondsworth