In a consumerist world, such businesses need to change with the times -- and those that didn't do so quickly enough certainly got subsumed by history. I read with great interest Robert Tercek's Vaporized which proposes that once-tangible goods such as music CDs and video DVDs were vaporized, replaced by pixels and bytes of data. Vaporized offers a reminder of the de-materialization of physical objects. So what is it? You'll know what vaporized is as it:
- Happens when tangible physical products are replaced with invisible software that can be downloaded instantly over the air to a digital device.
- Occurs when the neighbourhood store is replaced with a digital storefront that exists in no particular place at all but is available anywhere at anytime, from any mobile phone connected to a data network.
- Happens when the global supply chain for manufacturing, shipping, warehousing, and retailing consumer goods is decomposed and reorganized by software systems and digital networks.
- Replacing real things with digital metaphors that can be replicated, updated, distributed, and deleted in seconds.
But what really caught my interest is Tercek's interest in what he terms loosely MOOC 2.0, with an insightful look into future trends, particularly SPOCs (small private online classes). None of the MOOC platforms (think edX, Udacity, Coursera) have adopted smartphone or tables to enable a truly "anywhere, anytime device" mode for students. With the dominant mode of teaching still the lecture, which dates back to the Medieval era, there's much opportunity for new entrants to take advantage of the current underdeveloped MOOC. Perhaps that's why MOOCs have currently lulled in terms of excitement and buzz in the academic and business communities. Once a silver bullet platform emerges, we just might see the vaporization of the current behemoth that is higher education.