Semantic Culturomics [is] a paradigm that uses semantic knowledge bases in order to give meaning to textual corpora such as news and social media. This idea is not without challenges, because it requires the link between textual corpora and semantic knowledge, as well as the ability to mine a hybrid data model for trends and logical rules. […] Semantics turns the texts into rich and deep sources of knowledge, exposing nuances that today’s analyses are still blind to. This would be of great use not just for historians and linguists, but also for journalists, sociologists, public opinion analysts, and political scientists.
(…) Paparazzi, the selfie drone, is one of the two concepts that emerged from frog the workshop. It’s a far cry from the Predator. The craft “lets you virtually stream your entire life to all of your social networks without pulling out your phone or even lifting a finger,” as the designers put it. A spherical, stabilised camera shoots pics and video from the perfect vantage point, buzzing into position to account for lighting conditions and making sure it captures you from a flattering angle every time. It’s the logical conclusion of our self-shot obsessed culture. It’s a little bit ridiculous, but only a little bit.
In this newly self-conscious mood, Nesta funded research that tries to get under the surface of different ways of talking about the future. This paper leans on that research, defending some forms of futurology.
The paper uses the image of a torch beam that shines forward in time to distinguish different ways of talking about the future. Imagine a hiker moving through unfamiliar territory using a torch equipped with a focusing lens. The narrower and more focused the beam, the brighter the light, and the more detail can be perceived about the probable path. However, an unexpected obstacle or event may force the hiker to take an alternative route and encounter dangers which were not lit up by the thin, bright torch beam. With an unfocused wider beam, the hiker can see less detail about any particular area, but is able to see some of the dangers and advantages of a wider range of plausible paths and potentially choose the preferable way forward.