This material was gathered in the fifth “Future of the Internet” survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center. The surveys are conducted through an online questionnaire sent to selected experts who are encouraged to share the link with informed friends, thus also involving the highly engaged Internet public. The surveys present potential-future scenarios to which respondents react with their expectations based on current knowledge and attitudes. You can view detailed results from the 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010 surveys here: http://www.pewInternet.org/topics/Future-of-the-Internet.aspx and http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/expertsurveys/default.xhtml. Expanded results are also published in the “Future of the Internet” book series published by Cambria Press.
The surveys are conducted to help accurately identify current attitudes about the potential future for networked communications and are not meant to imply any type of futures forecast.
Respondents to the Future of the Internet V survey, fielded from August 28 to Oct. 31, 2011, were asked to consider the future of the Internet-connected world between now and 2020. They were asked to assess eight different “tension pairs” – each pair offering two different 2020 scenarios with the same overall theme and opposite outcomes – and they were asked to select the one most likely choice of two statements. The tension pairs and their alternative outcomes were constructed to reflect previous statements about the likely evolution of the Internet. They were reviewed and edited by the Pew Internet Advisory Board. Results are being released in eight separate reports over the course of 2012.
About the survey and the participants
Please note that this survey is primarily aimed at eliciting focused observations on the likely impact and influence of the Internet – not on the respondents’ choices from the pairs of predictive statements. Many times when respondents “voted” for one scenario over another, they responded in their elaboration that both outcomes are likely to a degree or that an outcome not offered would be their true choice. Survey participants were informed that “it is likely you will struggle with most or all of the choices and some may be impossible to decide; we hope that will inspire you to write responses that will explain your answer and illuminate important issues.”
Experts were located in three ways. First, several thousand were identified in an extensive canvassing of scholarly, government, and business documents from the period 1990-1995 to see who had ventured predictions about the future impact of the Internet. Second, several hundred of them have participated in the first four surveys conducted by Pew Internet and Elon University, and they were recontacted for this survey. Third, expert participants were selected due to their positions as stakeholders in the development of the Internet. The experts were invited to encourage people they know to also participate. Participants were allowed to remain anonymous; 57% shared their name in response to at least one question.
Here are some of the respondents: danah boyd, Clay Shirky, Bob Frankston, Glenn Edens, Charlie Firestone, Amber Case, Paul Jones, Dave Crocker, Susan Crawford, Jonathan Grudin, Danny Sullivan, Amber Case, Patrick Tucker, Rob Atkinson, Raimundo Beca, Hal Varian, Richard Forno, Jeff Jarvis, David Weinberger, Geoff Livingstone, Stowe Boyd, Link Hoewing, Christian Huitema, Steve Jones, Rebecca MacKinnon, Mike Liebhold, Sandra Braman, Ian Peter, Mack Reed, Seth Finkelstein, Jim Warren, Tiffany Shlain, Robert Cannon, and Bill Woodcock.
The respondents’ remarks reflect their personal positions on the issues and are not the positions of their employers’, however their leadership roles in key organizations help identify them as experts. Following is a representative list of some of the institutions at which respondents work or have affiliations or previous work experience: Google, the World Bank, Microsoft. Cisco Systems, Yahoo, Intel, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Ericsson Research, Nokia, O’Reilly Media, Verizon Communications, Institute for the Future, Federal Communications Commission, World Wide Web Consortium, National Geographic Society, Association of Internet Researchers, Internet2, Internet Society, Institute for the Future, Santa Fe Institute, Harvard University, MIT, Yale University, Georgetown University, Oxford Internet Institute, Princeton University, Carnegie-Mellon University, University of Pennsylvania, University of California-Berkeley, Columbia University, University of Southern California, Cornell University, University of North Carolina, Purdue University, Duke University, Syracuse University, New York University, Ohio University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Florida State University, University of Kentucky, University of Texas, University of Maryland, University of Kansas, University of Illinois, Boston College.
While many respondents are at the pinnacle of Internet leadership, some of the survey respondents are “working in the trenches” of building the web. Most of the people in this latter segment of responders came to the survey by invitation because they are on the email list of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, they responded to notices about the survey on social media sites, or they were invited by the expert invitees. They are not necessarily opinion leaders for their industries or well-known futurists, but it is striking how much their views are distributed in ways that parallel those who are celebrated in the technology field.
While a wide range of opinion from experts, organizations, and interested institutions was sought, this survey should not be taken as a representative canvassing of Internet experts. By design, this survey was an “opt in,” self-selecting effort. That process does not yield a random, representative sample. The quantitative results are based on a non-random online sample of 1,021 Internet experts and other Internet users, recruited by email invitation, Twitter, Google+, or Facebook. Since the data are based on a non-random sample, a margin of error cannot be computed, and results are not projectable to any population other than the respondents in this sample.
When asked about their primary workplace, 40% of the survey participants identified themselves as a research scientist or as employed by a college or university; 12% said they were employed by a company whose focus is on information technology; 11% said they work at a non-profit organization; 8% said they work at a consulting business, 10% said they work at a company that uses information technology extensively; 5% noted they work for a government agency; 2% said they work for a publication or media company.
When asked about their “primary area of Internet interest,” 15% identified themselves as research scientists; 11% said they were futurists or consultants; 11% said they were entrepreneurs or business leaders; 11% as authors, editors or journalists; 10% as technology developers or administrators; 6% as advocates or activist users; 5% as legislators, politicians or lawyers; 3% as pioneers or originators; and 28% specified their primary area of interest as “other.”