New Communications Media Can we account for the human dimension? 'Condensed from a paper of the same title by Robert Johansen given at the World Future Society Second General Assembly. For a free copy, write Institute for the Future, 2740 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025. The new communications media, especially that of computer conferencing, has produced new and systematic ways of understanding its human implications. ln researching group communications, experts have found that they can pinpoint three overall patterns of influence in the new media. For simplicity's sake they call them the Great Thinker, the Social Accountant, and the Technology-Firster. The Great Thinker has the ability to look at overall patterns - to mentally grasp a totality and express it in a way that others can also see. But it is usually a very general vision; it is often highly debatable; it is sometimes naive. Great Thinker approaches usually lack detailed information or experience; however, they play the very important role of assumptions-questioners and visionaries. Their effect on new media is felt only on a general level, but it is an important effect. lt would have taken a Great Thinker point of view in 1945, for instance, to view the computer as anything but a number cruncher. Computers are now communications media as well, though most people still view them as primarily number crunchers. We need ways of broadening our own vision about current examples of infant media - perhaps still including the computer. The Social Accountant seeks to evaluate a new medium of communication before it is released to the general public in order to precisely measure its social effects in a controlled environment. The problems with his outlook arise in trying to generalize from the laboratory to the "real world". The tools of social accounting, however, are often invaluable and may be the only systematic processes available. The Technology-Firster argues that one can never estimate the social effects of a new communications medium until it is actually being used on a large scale. The failure of the Picturephone is an example of the Technology-Firster gone wrong. However, there is a basic truth in the position of the Technology-Firsters: new media of communications cannot be fully understood until they are in real use over a period of time. Technology-Firsters are usually very good planners; they just aren't social planners. Taken alone, all three approaches to technology lack the vitality or comprehensiveness necessary to plan for human communications such as those likely to occur in the near future. A hybrid among them however, is not only possible, but may be the only serious hope for adequate accounting of human factors related to the new communications media. The resulting approach would operate in the following ways: 1. Maintain a sense of larger social implications as practiced by Great Thinkers, but make sure it is linked to processes for developing and applying new media. 2. Develop the measurement and evaluation sophistication of Social Accountants, but don't be afraid to leave the laboratory. 3. Keep closely tied to the operational know-how of Technology-Firsters but try to keep human issues on an equal footing with technology. Computer Art continued- way as the telescope or miscroscope extends their vision. They had entered into a productive partnership with the computer. They had put the computer on. The computer is by all odds the most extraordinary of all the technological clothing ever devised by man, since it is an extension of our central nervous system. Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore. And they learned EXPLOR, a means to control the machine and have it do their bidding. Many have gone on to use EXPLOR to experiment with graphic design for the production of silkscreens and needlepoint. Others have gone on to courses in FORTRAN (the language in which EXPLOR is embedded) to enable them to have still more control over their end-products, And all will view computer art, particularly graphics, from a new perspective, now having a deeper understanding of what went into it. There are many portals to the world of computers. Some people will choose one doorway, some another. For many, as the Festival demonstrated, computer art is a most inviting, comprehensible, even compelling entry point. More output using EXPLOR.