Change Revisited: The Future is Nearly Behind Us

It’s one thing to write and post an Infoblog article on the subject of change, as I did last week. It’s an entirely different and far more visceral (learning) experience to observe projected changes occurring so rapidly that they are in place before we have time to digest predictions regarding their impending arrival.
One day after writing about Paula Singer’s current full-day Infopeople workshop— “Building Leadership Skills: Leading Change,” which continues statewide through February 25, 2009—I had moved on to a different endeavor: reading the 2009 Horizon Report, posted online on January 20, 2009. Having been introduced to what the annual Horizon reports offer trainer-teacher-learners shortly after the New Media Consortium (NMC) and EDUCAUSE posted the 2008 version, I was looking forward to seeing updated predictions on technological innovations which “are likely to have a significant impact on teaching, learning, or creative expression in higher education” over a five-year period.
The topic was already on my mind because I had heard predictions about Web 3.0 and Web 4.0 while attending a session at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Conference in Denver late last month. One of the speakers at that ALA session had mused about the possibility that our mobile devices would soon be able to provide information including where the nearest Whole Foods market is, and would also notify us if one of our friends was in a Starbucks coffee shop two blocks away from us. Audience members’ reactions to the latter possibility ranged from “wouldn’t that be cool?” to “that’s creepy”—or, as one friend asked, “isn’t that cool and creepy?” Regardless of the reaction, the underlying message was that this was an idea to watch for over the next few years—a period which immediately shrinks when we read the 2009 Horizon Report.
Among the technologies evolving rapidly and which are meant to reach a new level of maturity over the next year, according to the Horizon authors, is mobile technology, and interesting innovations are already in place: “Applications designed for mobiles can…record a photograph of a CD, video, or book, then identify the artist or author and display that along with reviews of the piece and information on where to buy it” (p. 8). (Watch out, Whole Foods; our mobiles know where you live.) Furthermore, “(a)n increasing number of mobile and web-based services can respond to geolocative data in creative and useful ways…Mobile Twitter clients…add the user’s location to tweets (postings via Twitter), indicate nearby friends, and show messages tweeted in the user’s vicinity” (p. 15). (Watch out, Starbucks, we know who is Twittering at your tables and counters.)
So as I read that January 20 report in early February and thought back to predictions I heard at the end of January about what was literally on and in the Horizon, I suddenly understood at an emotional level what Paula Singer had said about “living in an age of permanent white water” and needing “the skills to help ourselves and others deal with change successfully.” And how much all of us can gain from Paula’s workshop and the recognition that the future is nearly behind us at times as change occurs even before we have heard that it is coming.
N.B.: To register for remaining sessions of “Building Leadership Skills: Leading Change” —Arden-Dimick Library in Sacramento (2/20/09); San Francisco Public Library (2/23/09); and Fresno—Woodward Park (2/25/09) —please visit the Infopeople website.