A recent video interview with Nova Spivack, co-founder of LiveMatrix, discusses the notion of how the real-time web is facilitating a redefinition of what the ‘now’ is. While the immense increase in availability of data and information brought on by the evolution of the internet has the power to make us smarter, it also bears the possibility of overwhelming us as we struggle to keep up with the constant flow of new information into our lives.
In his discussion of the evolving nature of what ‘now’ means to us, Spivack observes that, prior to the 20th century, society generally was preoccupied with the past, studying history and reflecting on that past. In the 20th century we became obsessed with the future, as reflected in the furious pace of inventions and cultural fascination with science fiction. However, the 21st century thus far feels to be very much about the present. The real-time web and its sometimes overwhelming availability of new data, content and information is changing the nature of what we think of as the present, or ‘the now’. The present is getting shorter and denser, with a narrower horizon. The ‘now’ may be timed in seconds, vs. a day or even an hour.
Spivack suggests that, in the attention economy, the opportunity for services and companies is to help consumers focus their time and attention around an increasing amount of information. He argues that the use of metadata and respective tagging – and semantic search – to filter information and make sense of all this data will be key to succeeding in helping real-time web participants process this information. It may also be key to ensuring that any of this information and brand messages have a chance at actually being absorbed by consumers.