In the grand scheme of things, technology news continues to be low priority. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the protests that have gripped the world are far more relevant to society. It is impossible to talk about moving forward without addressing health concerns or systemic inequality.
Beyond those pressing issues, though, the wheels of business continue to turn, and technology continues to be a critical part of the conversation around restarting operations and serving customers. From the big picture to the small details, the tech news this month underscores how much of modern life—including the rebuilding process—has become digital.
Top Story: Social Networks at a Crossroads
For years, social networks have claimed that they are neutral platforms as opposed to publishing organizations. The theory was that the openness of social media would allow many voices to flourish and that the community would provide the necessary guidance for veritable information. That theory has not quite played out in reality, and an executive order from President Trump places the responsibility of social networks in the spotlight.
The text of the order…targets a law known as the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 of the legislation provides broad immunity to websites that curate and moderate their own platforms and has been described by legal experts as "the 26 words that created the internet.” It argues that the protections hinge mainly on tech platforms operating in "good faith," and that social media companies have not.
The executive order is under heavy legal scrutiny, and there is debate around its full intent. Whatever the actual intent may be, the end result is an escalation of the discussion surrounding the definition of social networks. Clearly social networks cannot duplicate the editorial function of traditional news outlets. At the same time, the algorithms driving social feeds are imperfect and susceptible to outside influence.
At the most basic level, the issue at hand is that social networks are a creation without precedent, and previous laws and regulations will inevitably fall short of addressing all the complexities. This scenario has been playing out more and more frequently in the tech space, from questions about ride-sharing to characterizations of monopolies. A healthy collaboration between the tech sector and lawmakers is desperately needed, as CompTIA EVP of Public Advocacy Cinnamon Rogers explained on a recent episode of Volley.
Trend Watch: Tech Industry Takes the Lead in Redefining Work
One common theme during the pandemic has been an acceleration in the changes taking place at work. Whether it is cloud adoption, remote working or general workforce practices, the rapid response to restrictions has driven new thinking about long-term operations. Many tech firms have been out in front when it comes to redefining how work gets done.
- Major companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Google and Microsoft extending remote work policies until the end of the year or indefinitely.
- Tech firms such as Zoom, Uber, Snap and Pinterest joining a coalition aimed at improving conditions for working parents.
- Salesforce launching work.com as a resource to help businesses reopen safely.
Most businesses realize that digital transformation is only partially about the technology. The real key to transformation is changing workflow and culture. Technology tools open up new possibilities, but the full potential is not realized if the processes and behavior stay the same.
No one knows exactly what the workplace will look like when the pandemic finally reaches an end. One thing is certain: there will be more options than ever before. Businesses will have to perform in-depth cost/benefit analysis in many areas, deciding how to best maintain productivity while also giving employees safety and flexibility. Those businesses that do not explore their options may find that workers explore options of their own as the job market opens back up.
Tech in Real Life: Video Games Emerge as a Multi-Media Platform
Even before the pandemic, video games were big business. In 2019, U.S. video game content generated $35.4 billion in revenue, with esports adding another $950 million. During the pandemic, games such as Nintendo’s Animal Crossing have provided a welcome diversion. All this activity is leading to video game platforms evolving into major outlets for socializing and media distribution. Witness Travis Scott’s recent concert in the Fortnite gaming world.
Now [video game platforms are] pushing to become true media hubs, where entire albums may be distributed exclusively, and socializing is just as important as gaming. Even as people begin to emerge from pandemic lockdowns—and can get up from the couch—video games look to bolster their status as the new kings of communication.
Gamification was a hot trend in the early part of the last decade. It never completely caught on as a business practice, but there were valid reasons that it had such high appeal. Gaming has a unique way of rewarding progress, and it also fosters a sense of community. That community component, especially in a world with social distancing, leads to strong platform capabilities.
The possibilities for gaming platforms are interesting. They can be an outlet for content that is currently hampered by restrictions, such as movies or concerts. They are obviously a prime location for advertising. And they could be part of a strategy for virtual events or conferences. Many people may remember early virtual meeting places (such as Second Life) as being somewhat crude, but things have improved, and the current generation of gamers is more comfortable interacting online. Whatever direction society takes after the pandemic, gaming platforms have potential that cannot be ignored.