EduLib - Education, Libraries, Publishing & Technology

This is a very occasional blog on education, libraries, publishing and the technologies that support these activities.

The rules that I try to follow when writing this blog are:
1. Try not to waste the time of the reader (hence the long Subject headings).
2. Be informative.
3. If not informative, be provocative & controversial.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Futurologists Speak Out At ALA

I'm back and blogging live from ALA ! (Well, I'm excited, even if you aren’t)

I attended the OCLC Symposium at ALA today (24 June 2006) with really interesting and invigorating presentations by futurists Derek Woodgate, and Wendy Schultz.

(I should at this point declare an interest, as I now work for OCLC PICA.)

Woodgate talked about his very structured and business-like process for working on envisioning the future (it reminded me of my days at Accenture), but illustrated it with wild-side and leading-edge stuff from Nietzsche, DJ Spooky, Stanza and all manner of other sources. He also mentioned an eBooks/Copyright article in the New York Times by Kevin Kelly that I had just read on the flight over, and had found absolutely revelatory.

His multi-stage process, by the way, includes: framing, pulsing, mapping, scaping, tuning, and fabbing.

Schultz gave more attention to the idea of moving toward 'preferable' futures (rather than a passive prediction); her steps are: identify change, critique implications, imagine difference, envision preferences.

She gave what seemed to me to be a rather breathless account of how cool teenagers are these days and how chip-implanted we will all be in the future, but I think I was getting a bit 'futured-out' and cynical by that stage. (Although I liked her convergence of implanted mobile phones and telepathy.)

I found myself thinking (again) about how 'actually everything is the same, really'. If you take the long/historical view (which I am very unqualified to do) it seems to me that maybe key guides to predicting the future are enduring fundamentals evidenced in our past. Two controversial and ill-thought-out examples (as I write it is 1am in New Orleans and 7am in London): Hitler could have predicted his 'future' in Russia by consulting Napoleon, and we could make good predictions about Muslim fundamentalism by examining the Inquisition. We need to read more Peter Jones.

Surprisingly, neither speaker mentioned the much-hyped James Martin Institute for Science and Civilization being set up at Oxford University (although Schultz lives in Oxford and Woodgate is a Brit), although I don't really care, because the website of the JMIFSAC is all in Flash, so they are obviously evil.

Here's my prediction (validated late tonight by an eminent but anonymous library technology futurologist outside a New Orleans bar): Maybe libraries will not survive the next 100 years, but librarians will become of increasing importance in resolving, mediating and contextualising the information that is no longer in the library but all around us.

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Mark Carden is a business development executive, consultant and recruiter, who has 30 years of experience in project management, software engineering and technology sales.

In the publishing, education and libraries sector he has held international Vice President positions at Publishing Technology, Ingram Digital, Innovative Interfaces, and Dynix.

Mark's career started in software development, project management and consulting; he has worked for several 'blue-chip' companies including Accenture, NatWest Life and Barclays Bank.

He has a BA in Philosophy & Psychology from Oxford University, and has also attended executive education programmes at the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University and the Saïd Business School at Oxford University.

Mark's special interests include: Publishing software, library automation systems, e-books, campus & enterprise portals, hand-held computing, business strategy, how time factors affect company & management behaviours, and the transition of owner-managed businesses into professionally-managed companies.