The Horizon Report is produced using a carefully constructed process that is informed by both primary and secondary research. Nearly a hundred technologies, as well as dozens of meaningful trends and challenges are examined for possible inclusion in the report each year; an internationally renowned Advisory Board examines each topic in progressively more detail, reducing the set until the final listing of technologies, trends, and challenges is selected. The entire process takes place online and all the work and byproducts involved in the creation of the 2009 Horizon Report: Multimedia and Entertainment Industry Edition will be fully documented at

Horizon Reports

The process of selection, a modified Delphi process now refined over several years of producing Horizon Reports, begins each summer as the Advisory Board is selected. About half of the members are newly chosen each year, and the board as a whole is intended to represent a wide range of backgrounds, nationalities, and interests. To date, more than 250 internationally recognized practitioners and experts have participated in previous Horizon Projects.

Once the Advisory Board is constituted, their work begins with a systematic review of the literature—press clippings, reports, essays, and other materials—that pertain to emerging technology. Advisory Board members are provided with an extensive set of background materials when the project begins, and then are asked to comment on them, identify those which seem especially worthwhile, and also add to the set. A carefully selected set of RSS feeds from a dozen leading publications ensures that these resources stay current as the project progresses, and they are used to inform the thinking of the participants through the process.

Following the review of the literature, the Advisory Board engages in the process of addressing the five research questions that are at the core of the Horizon Project. These questions are generally the same each year, with adjustments made for the particular sector or region, and are designed to elicit a comprehensive listing of interesting technologies, challenges, and trends from the Advisory Board. The questions for the Horizon.MEI Project are:
  1. What would you list among the established technologies that growth-focused small to medium businesses in California should all be using broadly today to support or enhance business practices in marketing, collaboration, customer service, and productivity?
  2. What technologies that have a solid user base in other industries should small to medium businesses in California be actively looking for ways to apply?
  3. What are the key emerging technologies you see developing to the point that small to medium businesses in California should begin to take notice during the next 3 to 5 years? What organizations or companies are the leaders in these technologies?
  4. What do you see as the key challenges related to innovation and development that small to medium businesses in California will face during the next 5 years?
  5. What trends do you expect to have a significant impact on the ways in which small to medium businesses in California approach their core practices in marketing, collaboration, customer service, and productivity?

One of the Advisory Board’s most important tasks is to answer these five questions as systematically and broadly as possible, so as to generate a large number of potential topics to consider. As the last step in this process, past Horizon Reports are revisited and the Advisory Board is asked to comment on the current state of technologies, challenges, and trends identified in previous years, and to look for metatrends that that may be evident only across the results of multiple years.

To create the 2009 Horizon.MEI Report, the members of this year’s Advisory Board will engage in a comprehensive review and analysis of research, articles, papers, blogs, and interviews; discussed existing applications; and brainstormed new ones. A key criterion will be the potential relevance of the topics to business practices in marketing, collaboration, customer service, and productivity.

Once this foundational work is completed, the Advisory Board will move to a unique consensus-building process based on an iterative Delphi-based methodology. In the first step, the responses to the research questions will be systematically ranked and placed into adoption horizons by each Advisory Board member in a multi-vote system that allowed members to weight their selections. These rankings will be compiled into a collective set of responses. From the set of technologies originally considered—often over 100—the twelve that emerge at the top of the initial ranking process—four per adoption horizon—will be further researched. Once this "short list" is identified, the potential applications of these important technologies will be further explored by higher education practitioners who are either knowledgeable about them, or interested in thinking about how they might be used. A significant amount of time will be spent researching applications or potential applications for each of the areas that would be of interest to practitioners.

Each of these twelve will be written up in the format of the Horizon Report. With the benefit of the full picture of how the topic would look in the report, the “short list” will then be ranked yet again, this time with a reverse ranking approach. The six technologies that emerge at the top of the rankings—two per adoption horizon—are the final results of this process.

An ongoing component of the project involves a special set of links that have been established to help extend the findings of the project and allow new information to be shared within the community. These delicious tags are listed under the “Further Reading” section of each of the topic areas, and readers are invited to view not only the resources that were listed in the report, but many others that were used in our research as well. Readers are further encouraged to add their own examples and readings to these dynamic lists by tagging them for inclusion in each category.