Supernova 2005: It’s a Whole New, Connected World
“Connecting worlds through connected platforms” was the theme of the Supernova 2005 conference in San Francisco, organized by Kevin Werbach, a professor of legal studies and business ethics at Wharton. This year’s conference, which was co-sponsored by the school, began with a day-long workshop at Wharton West. In this Special Section, prepared in collaboration with CNET News.com, Knowledge at Wharton examines themes such as the forces that are driving computing from a centralized model to a decentralized one; the power of the so-called “long tail” in media and commerce; the emergence of microformats as the means to make Internet connectivity more meaningful; and the role — and scarcity — of attention in a connected world. This coverage adds to two previous Supernova reports in Knowledge at Wharton, which dealt with technology as a source of sustainable advantage and the way in which blogging and wikis are shaping the new Internet.
Explosive forces of technology are driving computing from a centralized model to a decentralized one, from the center to the edge. These forces, which demand new systems and business models, represent both threat and opportunity, according to participants at the recent Supernova conference in San Francisco.
Marketers often focus on blockbuster products. In doing so, they are guided by the old 80-20 rule, which holds that 80% of sales come from 20% of a company’s product inventory. In the online world, however, the rules are different, according to Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, who spoke about the phenomenon of the “long tail” at the recent Supernova conference in San Francisco. On the Internet, millions of products in as many niche markets can be sold to consumers, dramatically transforming notions of what constitutes success.
Ever since the world wide web exploded in the mid-1990s, attempts have been made to extend its basic presentation format to create a richer, more meaningful network of information. Most efforts, however, have gained little traction. These initiatives have been bogged down by complexity and over-ambitious goals. Now, a grassroots movement has emerged that seeks to attach intelligent data to Web pages by using simple extensions of the standard HTML tags currently used for web formatting. These so-called “microformats” may change the way the web works, according to participants at the recent Supernova conference in San Francisco.
Is technology a blessing or a curse — or both? While technology enables individuals to receive and send more and more information faster, it can also create a continuous barrage of new tasks that can overwhelm users. This paradox results in behavior that a speaker at the recent Supernova conference described as “continuous partial attention” — a phenomenon in which people keep “one major item in focus while scanning our surroundings to see if anything else important needs our attention. It is motivated by a desire not to miss opportunities. We want to ensure our place as a live node on the network.”