What will shape our world in 2020?

14 January 2020
In 2020, unrest in Hong Kong, political turbulence in Australia, and spats over social media will continue to dominate the news. Meanwhile, the gaming industry, significantly larger than the film and music industries, might experience travails and triumphs.

Hong Kong’s democratic angst

Bing Ling, Professor of Chinese Law at Sydney Law School, opines on how fresh elections in Hong Kong this year could affect the special administrative region's already turbulent political environment:

"2019 has just witnessed the most tumultuous year in Hong Kong in recent memory. The protesters' demands for official accountability, an independent investigation into police behaviour, and democratic reforms have remained unmet, sowing the seeds for further turbulence in 2020.

"The most significant political event in 2020 is the election of the Legislative Council in September. The pro-democracy camp is likely to repeat their landslide victory in the District Council election last November. Such a result would have far-reaching consequences in reshaping the politics in Hong Kong and the prospect of it should put pressure on the Hong Kong Government to respond more positively to the popular demands.

"Meanwhile, the protest movement also has difficult choices to make, as the continuation of vicious violence on the streets undercuts public and international support for its cause, not to mention hardening Beijing's resolve to take more heavy-handed measures, which may include the adoption of national security legislation in Hong Kong. All this has profound impact on Hong Kong's economy and business environment which has already deteriorated thanks to the unrest. 2020 will be a most trying and momentous year for Hong Kong indeed."

At home, ScoMo struggles

The bushfires have rocked Prime Minister Scott Morrison's relatively stable reputation, says Dr Stewart Jackson, an Australian politics expert in the Department of Government and International Relations. He predicts that this year won't bring Mr Morrison much respite:

"The coming year will be a difficult one for the federal government. The bushfire season has delivered a real test for both state and federal governments, but it is the perceived lack of leadership being displayed by the Prime Minister that has caught the public’s attention.

"Warned of the potential dangers the combination of warming temperatures and drought presented, Morrison instead sought to downplay the dangers, referred concerns to the states to deal with, and left for a short overseas holiday. This angered many communities fighting flames and smoke hazards, resulting in Morrison’s popularity to plummet.

"Prime Minister Morrison, while acknowledging mistakes have been made in initially dealing with the demand for national coordination, will need to use all his political acumen to rebuild his political leadership going forward.

"The bushfires have also exposed the government’s lack of action on climate change, and challenge assumptions about underlying economic soundness within the Australian economy. While disasters often provide short-term ‘rebuilding’ boosts, the long-term damage to Australia’s image, both as an investment opportunity and tourism destination, may depress an already stuttering economy.

"Luckily for the government, the next election is over two years away, leaving it plenty of time to begin manoeuvring to rebuild its reputation."

A battle for news media

Dr Fiona Martin researches the uses, politics and regulation of online media from within the Department of Media and Communications. She thinks 2020 will incite further conflict between technology companies, politicians and the public as bots, trolls and efforts to tighten regulations resurface:

"For the news media, 2020 will be a year of battling disinformation, as QUT’s Timothy Graham’s research indicated locally when he revealed that bot accounts had been used to peddle false claims about arson being the central cause of Australia’s bushfire catastrophe. In Taiwan, social media platforms worked with political parties to spot and report false information ahead of last weekend’s election, while in the US, there are widespread fears that Russian and domestic trolls will try and sway the 2020 elections.

"Internationally, we can also expect 2020 to be a year for greater regulation of major internet platforms, following France’s introduction of a three percent digital services tax on the revenues of major tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. India is considering following suit, and has also introduced a Personal Data Protection bill modelled on the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. Meanwhile, the UK has threatened tighter content controls on social media platforms, following the release of its Online Harms White Paper - although these may be postponed due to its political woes."

Gaming - so big you can't ignore it

Though it can be seen as niche, the global gaming market is worth an estimated $150 billion - around three times the value of the film industry - and is forecast to continue to grow in 2020 and beyond. With this in mind, Lecturer in Digital Cultures Dr Mark Johnson offers his gaming projections for the year:

"As we enter the eighth decade of video games - a medium with a longer history than most think - the games industry is in many ways more polarised, and more contested, than ever before. Game ownership is becoming ever more precarious:

  • Many developers and platform holders are shifting to the idea of 'games as a service'
  • The increasing 'gamblification' of the monetisation of both blockbuster and mobile games has led to extensive controversy among players, companies and even governments
  • Post-GamerGate harassment campaigns continue unabated as part of a wider culture war over 'gaming' and the nature (if any) of 'gamers'
  • The platforms with almost complete monopolies on the live broadcast of gaming, and the play of PC games, are both being significantly challenged for the first time
  • The games industry might well be unionising for the first time after decades of increasing corporate control and ever stricter working conditions.

"There are a few other trends I think we should be looking out for in 2020:

  • With talk of a possible 'esports bubble' that might be about to burst (again), this is going to be an important year for the competitive gaming sector
  • Google's new entrance into the gaming market with their Stadia cloud gaming service has yet to make any significant impact on the market, but there is certainly no lack of resources behind it
  • Virtual reality (VR) and alternate reality (AR) games seem to continue hovering on the cusp of mainstream success, and perhaps this will be their breakthrough year
  • The extent to which Mixer and the Epic Store challenge the monopolistic incumbents in their respective areas will be dependent on the strategies they employ
  • This year might well mark the beginnings of a number of very desirable shifts towards equity, inclusion and ethics within the games sector, although might also very well be the opposite

"Across all these different phenomena, the games industry brings in more profits than the film and music industries, and remains at the heart of leisure time activities for over a billion players around the world. This is to say, there is a lot at stake in the future of digital games - they cannot be ignored by anyone looking to understand the technology and culture of contemporary digital existence."

Loren Smith

Assistant Media Adviser (Humanities)

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