Let's get a running start on Cyberworld 2020 by looking back 20 years, to 1980. There were only about 60,000 PCs extant globally - puny devices (though physically cumbersome) with little horsepower and less memory. The Internet was limited to university and scientific applications. Interactivity for shopping, business-to-business transactions, and information gathering was not on the public radar. Looking forward, we can expect at least equivalent surprises as the rate of cyber-change increases.
Take as given that by 2020, Internet 2 (already at least partly operational in many universities) and its commercial successors are pervasive, allowing essentially anything to be instantly retrieved, tracked, customized, and experienced. Convergence has taken place, seamlessly linking TVs, PCs (perhaps as "smart clothing" rather than actual machines), and smart appliances using voice activation more than keyboards. Machines that think and communicate are in just about every home in the country. Remote forms of education, medical care, and monitoring,shopping, and visiting are routine.
Starting from these basic interactive changes, a reperceived vision of interactivity circa 2020 might include these possibilities:
World of work: Work-at-home (or in satellite offices) is commonplace; subcontracting job by job is the norm; fluid work groups join in cyberspace around specific tasks and evaporate as quickly. New categories for consumption emerge, like "daytime for working adults," when they use their work computers to access the Web for personal activities.
Experiencing: Next-generation Internet capabilities provide rich, sustained, and often profound online experiences so that functional benefits diminish in favor of self-expression and self-growth. Being a hero in one's own story is more enticing than mere information-gathering. This is a world where fantasies and arcane desires can be "realized."
Branding and channel control: Arrogance about successfully migrating a "leading brand" to an online setting proves shortsighted as brokers and distributors gain consumer confidence in a world of almost perfect transparency (where users and producers share the same information). Customer power increases as online consumers co-create the products and services they desire. Brands don't disappear, but are redefined as enablers of this customer power.
New models of online consumption: Brick-and-mortar ways of satisfying customers and making money do not work well in cyberspace. Modeling and predicting consumer behavior by segments is replaced by a complexity theory platform that sees this behavior as "emergent," as a swirl of coalescing and fragmenting patterns that can only be tracked as they move through unpredictable phases. Segments either narrow to the segment of one or exist momentarily.
The salience of demographic segments shifts as the aging and handicapped create new interactive personas and as cyberskills more than compensate for physical limitations. Online "tribes" emerge as people create virtual communities, sharing new rituals, myths, and beliefs. Governments struggle with the implications of interactivity for taxation, control, public opinion, and relevance.