The observation attributed to William Gibson that “the future has already arrived – it’s just not evenly distributed” rang particularly true over the last week or so.
I spent a couple of days at what may turn out to be the last conference organised by the government-funded Office of Learning and Teaching. This is the office that has funded and organised national Teaching Awards and Grants for the last few years, and Macquarie has had some solid engagement with both the Awards and the Grants. But this quick post isn’t about the politics of funding support for University Learning and Teaching but about the conference just past. It’s theme was Learning and Teaching 2030. Which is both absurd (it’s so far away) and eminently sensible (it’s not that far away). In a range of presentations to a large number of delegates, the topics covered the usual challenges. Massification, technology, different student expectations.
The other event I attended was the Brian Johns Lecture run by Macquarie’s Centre for Media History. Professor Julianne Schulz presented engagingly on the future of culture industries in the age of FANG (Facebook, Apple/Amazon, Netflix and Google) and the topic focussed on how to preserve Australia’s Cultural identity in the face of twenty first century challenges – summarised in this piece in the Herald.
At both events, there was a certain anxiousness about the future, and more than a little worry about how to preserve the ways of the past. But both events were also overwhelming attended by a particular demographic – and mindset. Let’s just say that (with a couple of notable exceptions) I didn’t see too many folk who represented my teenage kids or their peers. The way they engage with information – whether as education, or what we nostalgically still call the culture industries – has almost nothing to do with the habits of most of the audience members at those two events. For example, my kids see no appeal in television; for a generation that has grown up being able to access any video content anywhere, anytime, the constraints of terrestrial broadcasting seem particularly quaint. Similarly, for schoolwork, they are just as adept (perhaps more?) at creating a video, blogging, building a 3-D printed prototype or presenting multimedia to their class as they are a writing an essay.
So it’s not a matter of dealing with what might happen. For many, it already has. For the rest of us still wringing our hands, it’s too late. The future has already arrived….