16 September, 2017

Digitization - What is really going on? A sober view of a fascinatingphenomenon

Digitization is on everyone's lips. We are fascinated by all new possibilities and in joyful expectation about what the future may bring. However, and in relation to the data (big data), which we generate and leave behind from all our activities in Cyberspace, there is - and quite rightly - an ambivalent relationship.
In times of such fundamental changes, it is sometimes helpful to leave the drunken astonishment of what is feasible behind and try to understand the events with a sober mind.

Let me try.

We live today in two worlds, one physical-stationary and one virtual in Cyberspace. While our physical presence in the real (stationary) world allows us to be assigned a certain position in space and time, the virtualized space is delimited by completely virtualized social, factual, spatial and temporal perceptions. If the world is truly global, it is global in the Cyberspace.

In a purely stationary world, we were initially only able to communicate with people in vocal calling distance, but ultimately with more or less all our senses. Later in time, expanded means of communication such as by messengers allowed humankind to communicate spatially more distant. Only the advent of the post office and later the telegraphy enabled a systematic time-asynchronous and/or disembodied visual (= written) interaction across space. Time synchronicity was later reached with the introduction of the telephone but limited to audible content (listen and speak). The use of any of those space- and time-bridging media was therefore accompanied by a restriction of the use of our senses.

With the infrastructure of the Internet and the accompanying browser applications, the most important prerequisite for the virtual but still computer-bound space and time synchronicity of all individuals of this planet was created. However, mobile networks, end devices, and applications have been creating the prerequisites for the new at any time local and temporal visual and/or audible ubiquity for theoretically all inhabitants of this earth. We have scaled up our originally local and stationary, all-use interaction potential within a short time to a virtual global level.

In the foreseeable future, the sensory limitations will be further relaxed by Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (3-D visual and 3-D audible worlds). For us, virtual spaces will no longer be viewed two-dimensionally from the outside, but we will be able to experience them three-dimensionally from the inside.

Services and tourism have been among the sectors at the forefront to use these opportunities. There are various reasons for this: guests can reduce their purchase risks by means of information available at any time. In many cases, information has not only a functional but also a hedonic character and thus bears not only an indirect but also immediate benefits. Ongoing and future technological developments bring us a significant step closer to Holiday Prototyping, which has been discussed since the beginnings of the Internet.

The Internet of Things also stipulates the virtual synchronicity in space and time of all (networked) things of this planet. This development will lead to further new opportunities (e.g., productivity gains through the division of labor). We can expect even further benefits, once tourism and service providers are able to also localize people, i.e., guests, not only virtually by and through their clicks, but also locally and temporally, i.e., stationary.

But are people ready and willing to be localizable? And what do the tourist providers do with these data? The path from data to information and knowledge to actions is vast and rocky. The learning curve remains steep.

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