“….it really gets hard when you start believing in your dreams….” — Doug Engelbart

In the hope that anything worth posting once can be re-posted again (different audiences?), I’m offering this reflection / question I wrote for Gardner’s New Media Seminar a couple years ago .  Thoughts, anyone?


I’ve posted before about how central Doug Engelbart is to the Awakening of the Digital Imagination. This time I’m going to let an image — or more precisely, a mural — do the talking.  Created by Eileen Clegg and Valerie Landau for the fortieth anniversary of the Mother of All Demos, this graphic representation of the interaction between cultural change, technological innovation, and what Engelbart called “collective intelligence” suggests how we have co-evolved with our technology since the early twentieth century.  At the end of the mural, a blue wave asks us to think about “the next paradigm-shifting wave of innovation”….which seems to be happening in 2015.  I mean, RIGHT NOW.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So I ask you, looking at the elements of the mural and the interactions and shifts it depicts — can we imagine and work for a future using technology and our collective intelligence to deal with the world’s “increasingly complex problems” in ethically responsible and constructive ways? Put another way, can we afford not to do this?

2 Replies to ““….it really gets hard when you start believing in your dreams….” — Doug Engelbart”

  1. Love the mural and the title/quote! My answer to your question is “I sure hope so”. Seems like we are always looking for a sudden paradigm shift. But I am reminded of the idea that ‘change is a process, not an event’- do paradigms shift imperceptibly?

  2. Good question! (And I’m sorry to be so slow responding to your comment — it was stuck in the spam queue, of all places). Anyway — I think the answer might be “sometimes.” Yes, change is incremental and the process of transformation often proceeds at a moderate pace. But at times the shift is really dramatic — even if you can’t quite see what the future holds, there’s a sense that much is in the balance, that big changes are underway, and that things are moving quickly. I remember having that sense in 1989, which I experienced as a graduate student doing research in Moscow. Every day I emerged from the archive to find the world perceptibly changed, and by fall it was clear that there would be no going back. Things had shifted dramatically and in short order. I do wonder if that’ s what happening now — I’m worried about that in the political sphere, and more intrigued (but also a bit concerned) about the rise of the internet of things.

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