If one feels homesick for the future Japan seems the country of choice. Now you can witness a trend that might be an indicator of how our way of communicating is going to change. As Newsvine reports the PC's role in Japanese homes is diminishing, as its once-awesome monopoly on processing power is encroached by gadgets such as smart phones that act like pocket-size computers, advanced Internet-connected game consoles and digital video recorders with terabytes of memory. Writes Newsvine:
Japan's PC market is already shrinking, leading analysts to wonder whether Japan will become the first major market to see a decline in personal computer use some 25 years after it revolutionized household electronics — and whether this could be the picture of things to come in other countries.
One of the reasons for the decline of the PC market is the increasing popularity of sophisticated mobile devices such as cell phones. According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs more than 50 percent of Japanese send e-mail and browse the Internet from their mobile phones. The increased use of cell phones to access the internet obviously affects the websites itself. From the Newsvine piece:
The fastest growing social networking site here, Mobagay Town, is designed exclusively for cell phones. Other networking sites like mixi, Facebook and MySpace can all be accessed and updated from handsets, as can the video-sharing site YouTube.
If this really is the picture of things to come of course one has to ask how this affects blogging and its use for political campaigns. Content will have to comply to the nature of cell-phones with small screens and users used to short messages due to the lack of a keyboard. Consequently this makes a rise of microblogging likely. Already used by John Edwards and Barack Obama to inform their followers what they are up to at pretty much any given time and post quick event updates it also, as Asbjørn Sørensen Poulsen points out, "does seem to give the debate an edge when you are forced to express yourself in 140 characters".
While microblogging seems certainly seems a good way of keeping one's devotees up to date and very quickly reacting to new developments I think it might be problematic in the way that it adds to a shallowness of the process. It's not really based on exchange. To be forced to express oneself in 140 characters also comprises the danger of reducing politics to even emptier slogans and phrases, simplifying a complicated world.
As a complementary communication tool, microblogging certainly seems like a good idea. Tanding by itself though there are issues and challenges that need to be addressed if we really are following Japan in our communication habits.
(If that's ever going happen. As Parker reminded me by sending me this link to Deep Jive Interests the whole wireless-infrastructure of Japan is way more sophisticated than in North America or Europe and there's no sign – or demand for that matter – that this is going to change anytime soon. At least the "tremendous heritage in other technologies such as console gaming" is gaining foothold with consoles having overtaken PCs as the favorite gaming platforms).