Ramana Rao of Inxight Software provides an overview of the past few decades in ACM Queue. His four predictions for the future:
RICHER USER MODEL OF INFORMATION SPACE: A large mainstream audience will share a rich conceptual model of the information universe. This model is already common among many who actively use networked information. A central aspect of this model is the essential hierarchical organization of information into universe, libraries, collections, documents, document parts, sentences, concepts, and objects. Crossing-cutting this essentially hierarchical layering is a variety of relationships that will be commonly understood, including references, attribution, and versioning. One key aspect is the understanding of the role of meta-information at each level, which is as important to the use of the information as the information content itself.
RICHER FUNCTIONS FOR INFORMATION USE: the information workspace model. Interaction in the information workspace will be based on three new constructs.
Maps. As is the case with physical maps, conceptual and perceptual maps of the universe, collections, and documents will become resources for both understanding overall structures and navigating to specific areas of interest.
Digests. Well-designed digests will provide “a little bit, but not too much” information about any objects at all levels of the information hierarchy.
Extractors. Operators for analyzing content will allow users to explore text and discover relationships and patterns, as well as unusual or unique occurrences.
RICH INFORMATION WORKSPACES BASED ON OPEN INFRASTRUCTURE: Our information workspaces will finally achieve the richness, flexibility, and naturalness of our physical workspaces, while integrating digital reach and augmentation. These workspaces will support both individual and collaborative information activities, smoothly integrating information access with information processing, synthesis, and analysis. The workspace will be open, allowing for the easy assembly of standard, common, specialized, and customized elementsmaps, digests, and extractorsand will have access to wide varieties of sources along with standard models of those sources.
GRANULAR USE OF LINGUISTIC STATEMENTS: With the rise of text mining, I foresee an intersection of two long distinct histories of computational use, one supporting organizations and the other supporting individuals. Enterprise data computingembodied by mainframes, relational databases, ERP (enterprise resource planning), and other enterprise applicationshas been the main driver of big IT technology, while personal computingembodied by desktop environments and applications, communications technologies, entertainment, and other consumer technologieshas supported the individual and collaborative work of humans. I believe that by 2020 the processing of language-based information will surpass the processing of operational data originally captured in structured databases.