This is a woman who has previously registered skepticism about my claims to legitimacy as a critic of both advertising and media. Her eyebrows arched, archly. "Oh, I see," she said. "So now you're a futurist."
OK, touche. Point taken. But it was a cheap shot.
This enterprise isn't about technology. It isn't about flying cars or personal space travel or any other sort of futuristic blue-skying. It's about now.
The revolution in progress is much like what went on after the discovery of fire. First primitive man used it to cook meat. Then, over time, he discovered many other applications, from forging metal to weaponry to insurance fraud. In the same way, Listenomics isn't a vision of the future; it is unfolding already. It's about what happens not when society refines digital technology. It's about what happens when society gets accustomed to existing technologies and finds more ways to use them.
Some of these developments will be themselves revolutionary, but my guess is that this will be mainly an incremental affair, including the ingenious, the unexpected and the dumbfoundingly obvious. For instance, Rolling Stone today ran a piece on "The First YouTube Election" -- about George Allen's GOP presidential bid being undercut by video of him being the idiot he is. The piece imagines every gaffe of every politican on the stump being recorded, excerpted and downloaded for the edifcation of the voting public.
This could be both good and bad (consider how the mainstream media sank Howard dean's foundering candidacy with endless airings, edited out of context, of his unhinged-sounding Iowa hooting), but it undeniably will have an instantaneous and indelible effect on American campaigning. Politicians have always been cautious, especially around reporters. But they also largely (the Dean scream being a major exception) have been able to trust reporters to consider context, circumstance and proportion. The blogosphere never will. For politicans, it will be like knowing your opponent is taping your every move -- and won't have to waste a moment or spend a dime to put your worst moments in full public view.