Webby Talks Track New Digital Trends
In November, we reported that the folks behind the Webby Awards were embarking on a Webby Talks World Tour in an effort to investigate new trends and to learn from industry leaders. The Tour ended last week, but before it did, David-Michel Davies visited the Smithsonian and we got to listen in.

Webby Talks Track Trends

It’s easy to forget that, among the government buildings and bureaucracy, lies an extraordinary network of museums, galleries and parks. It was within the Ring Auditorium of the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden that Davies, executive director of the Webby Awards, treated us to a presentation.

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Since September, Davies has been meeting with industry leaders to track trends and learn more about how technology influences how they work and what they create. At the Smithsonian, technology may seem to take a behind-the-scenes role, but it’s becoming more prevalent as the museum industry evolves into a digital resource rather than just a physical space.

Technology, Objectified

But that’s not the only thing changing. While organizations like the Smithsonian look for new ways to engage visitors, emerging social technologies, from iPods to smartphones, have helped users recreate old ways of engaging. An iPhone may look like a slim electronic device, but within it is hardly a phone. Depending on your age or interests, devices have different uses and meanings. Is that a mix tape or a love note? A video camera or the source of the next Justin Bieber? A microblogging service or a community management platform? The great thing about technology is that consumers get to define how it will be used. The challenging thing for organizations like the Smithsonian is how to create meaningful experiences across devices and platforms.

Among the many trends that Davies and his team have uncovered amidst their travels, two stand out.

Staying In to Go Out

If you’ve ever followed a hashtag of a live event on Twitter from the convenience of your living room or visited a museum from your laptop, then it shouldn’t surprise you that more of us are "staying in to go out." Whether it’s because of transportation costs or limited access, connecting with others online is becoming popular and easy. Since the dawn of Internet chat rooms, one’s community has been evolving beyond a physical neighborhood to include a global network of fans and followers. But such community building is not just reserved for webinars or the Golden Globe telecasts. The mobile workforce has benefited from our penchant for going places with the click of a mouse or swipe of our finger.

A Cashless Society

It’s not just that we’re able to buy more things online or that more users are consuming from their mobile devices. It’s that there are more services making it easier to complete transactions across networks, whether it be at your local coffee shop or in Kenya. While it’s helpful for businesses to be more accessible to customers, it’s creating a more reliable way to protect payments from fraud or to help charitable donations get where the need is the greatest.

Many of us may have scoffed at the idea that we could be a cashless society, but as the objectification of technology increase, our smartphones evolve into more and more as consumers become more comfortable and as technology becomes more reliable.

As these and other trends become more prevalent in our society and culture, they will surely find a place at the table, perhaps replacing something as a result. The Webby Awards are designed to acknowledge excellence on the internet, which is why it’s essential that they understand the user experience better as technology evolves and cultures shift.