Education Out of the Box

I was given an opportunity to provide a presentation at VU’s Metro West for Learning Agenda, an ambitious start up create by Professor Siew Fang Law, which aims to shake up the way in which learning happens. It is a super exciting initiative which I’m very keen to be part of as it grows.

It gave me the chance to reflect on the various emerging issues, trends and developments that are potentiating change in the domain of learning / teaching / education.

At first I considered doing “Futures of Education” as a topic, but then realized this was a bit too broad for me, and what I was proposing was a particular metaphor of how education could be different, what I titled “Education out of the box”.

In the talk I discuss how six issues have implications for the futures of education:

1.     The global knowledge commons

2.     Localized peer to peer platforms

3.     Problem solving sustainability challenges

4.     Shifts in values orientations

5.     Cyber currencies and local credit systems

6.     Online maps and augmented reality

In it, I do not prescribe or even predict a particular future for education – I argue that these elements provide a space of potential for creating alternative futures of learning, which can be taken in multiple directions.

I also draw on Prof. Sohail Inayatullah’s idea of the Used Future, a powerful idea via Critical Futures Studies and his Six Pillars methodology that allows us to unpack the existing legacy of images of the future that may be holding us back, to create space for the new.

As an aside, while the talk was scripted, I experimented with presenting visual slides, and this being an audio-only artifact, there is some context missing  for those who were not there, and my apologies for this.

Acknowledgements belong to many, Dr. Siew Fang Law, Gareth Priday and Dr. Tim Mansfield as research collaborators at the Smart Services CRC, Ari Panagiotou at the EarthWatch Institute, the work of Dr. Inayatullah and M. Bauwens and co at the P2P Foundation, and others.



I was recently given an opportunity to give a presentation at the Local Lives – Global Matters Conference in Castlemaine, Vic, where I pitched the idea of “Cosmo-localization”. I’ve been wanting to talk about this idea for a while, and the conference gave me a good excuse to pull something together, especially with its commitment to sustainability, resilience and relocalization.

Cosmo-localization describes the dynamic potentials of the globally distributed knowledge commons in conjunction with emerging capacity for localized production of value. The imperative to create economically and ecologically resilient communities is driving initiatives for ‘re-localization’. Yet, such efforts for re-localization need to be put in the context of new technologies, national policy, transnational knowledge regimes and the wider global knowledge commons.

I argue there are six trends that potentiate cosmo-localization:

  1. emerging global knowledge commons
  2. new technology
  3. the maker movement
  4. urbanization and rise of mega-city regions
  5. distributed energy production and storage
  6. resource scarcity, eco integrity and precarity

And there are three identifiable obstacles as well:

  1. platform oligopoly / netarchical capital
  2. adjudication of national policy
  3. global knowledge regimes

In this I need to acknowledge my colleagues through the Footscray Maker Co-op who have taught me quite a bit about the maker movement, as well as Michel Bauwens and P2P Foundation friends, who have pioneered analysis and innovation in this area (P2P + netarchical capital + the FLOK project). Finally I ended up using, somewhat intuitively, the futures triangle developed by Sohail Inayatullah (drivers + weight of history + images of the future). So there you go, Footscray Maker Co-op + Bauwen’s P2P + Inayatullah … all in one talk!

Actually, I don’t think I’m describing anything new here … we are seeing this via MakerBot, Tesla, Global Village Construction Set, FLOK and a variety of other projects. But it does need to be named and analysed, and I hope this adds to the collective vision, analysis, understanding and action – as it evolves.




Kate McCallum: the Center for Conscious Creativity, Transmedia Storytelling and the 21 Century Camerata

I was very lucky to meet up with Kate McCallum, at her offices at LA Center Studios, in June 2012. I had been hoping to catch up with her for a while, she is one of the global pioneers in bringing together alternative futures thinking with media and storytelling. I had heard many good things about her and was really impressed by her work with the Millennium Project node  on the future of art, media and entertainment, where she brought together dozens of  professionals from a variety of backgrounds, science, art and spirituality, in a collaborative exploration of emerging transdisciplinary patterns for the future of creativity.

Since that time much has happened. Due to Kate’s commitment to tracking future trends in the arts and media, her company Bridge Arts Media, LLC, was contracted by to help design and chair a new media conference they named TransVergence Summit.  An entertainment educational summit addressing Tech+Story, innovative narrative, transmedia and cross platform storytelling, emerging technologies and branded content.  Concurrent to launching and programming the summit, she also launched and has been serving as the Managing Editor of which has entailed curating contributors and content, the companion editorial platform for the TVS. Createasphere then contracted her to curate, program and produce a Digital Asset Management (DAM) conference in NYC and also a Post Production Master Class in both NY and LA.  She’s also co-created a DAM 101 Workshop and Certification program launched at the DAM conference. Currently, she’s working with Createasphere to design and launch a new conference called StoryWorld Quest for Canadian clients NAIT and AMPIA.

She was recently nominated and voted on to the PGA National Board and also serves on the New Media Council Board as a Delegate. Her university WMU in Michigan honored her with an Alumni Achievement Award last year as well. Toward the end of 2014 she produced an event for the c3: Center for Conscious Creativity STATE OF THE ARTS 2013:  The Future of Fulldome co-hosted with and provided a panel, talks and screenings of fulldome content and immersive storytelling.

Recently Kate was invited to Singapore to teach a Masterclass in Transmedia Storytelling at the Singapore Media Academy and will also be lecturing and teaching a Transmedia Storytelling Workshop at the Hong Kong Design Institute in July.

Since our initial meeting, Kate has been working with her partner, Ed Lantz, President of Vortex Immersion Media to build out an experimental AIR: Artist In Residence program in The Vortex Dome theater that they operate and maintain. Together they have supported R&D in the fulldome immersive space and have produced several unique dome projects with a growing collective of talented artists and creatives.

Upon her return from Hong Kong, Kate will be getting back into creative development with Vortex to hopefully launch in their fulldome theater one of her passion projects — VISIONS FROM THE EDGE — a series focusing on the innovation and the future.

In my interview with her she talked about her roots in television and film, the Los Angeles media culture and working her way through the ranks the old-fashioned way. She also talks about her love of art and music, and her music and singing background. Creating the C3 Center for Conscious Creativity has been a profound journey for her and she talks about what it means to bring arts to bear on social change, the evolution of humanity and the future. Her introduction to foresight and futures through both the WFSF and  Millennium Project inspired her to begin to make new connections between thinking about the future and creative media, and importance developments in the futures of media. In an important digression, she talked about the Florentine Camerata, a very important analogy to the monumental transitions happening today in media and creativity. The role of storytelling being fundamental, she explained the importance of exploring and developing new stories for the future of humanity and our world. Alongside this is the importance of hope in developing a new story, new narratives for empowering futures even as we face the harsh challenges. We ended the interview with a discussion on the emerging area of Transmedia Storytelling, and the way in which participation can transform the story space through a new mode of public story hacking. She is definitely one of the most amazing people I have talked to and it was an absolute pleasure. Thank you Kate and I hope others enjoy our conversation.


Tessa Finlev – Catalyst of Change

I met Tessa Finlev in my capacity as consulting editor of JFS. She wrote an amazing article called “Future Peace: Breaking Cycles of Violence through Futures Thinking”, in which she argued that violence induced trauma in post-conflict situations can seriously impede suffers’ ability to imagine peaceful futures and enact new pathways. In what I would consider ‘integrative’ research in foresight, she brings together new knowledge from neuro-physiology, with cased based research / experiences with post-conflict communities, and links this with futures / foresight methodologies and “the role futures thinking might play in helping people break out of cycles of violence.” She writes:

Why is it so hard to break out of cycles of violence? This paper focuses on the challenges associated with breaking out of cycles of violence and why futures thinking may provide a potential solution. Research suggests that people living in violence lack the ability to think about a peaceful future, or any future for that matter. Addressing this inability may hold a critical key to breaking out of cycles of violence. While there is mounting theory to support this idea, evidence based research is still lacking.

I was able to catch up with her last year (2012) on a visit to San Francisco. I stopped by the Institute for the Future (IFTF) and met with colleague Jake Dunagan, and later got to meet up with Tessa in the city.

She is a research manager for the Ten-Year Forecast program at IFTF. She has degrees in anthropology and international political economy / development, and experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya. I learned that she was ‘game master’ for IFTF’s foresight engine “Catalysts for Change: Paths out of Poverty”, a Rockefeller Foundation sponsored project that brought thousands of gamers together to explore new ideas and strategies to tackle poverty globally. As game master, she coordinated a team of game facilitators from around the world that served as games nodes developers. Thematically and logistically the whole thing is fascinating, and an example I believe of things to come. Coincidentally I got to meet some of the coordinators she worked with while teaching at NUS, Taufik RamadhanIndrakesuma and Johannes Loh who run the Asian Trends Monitoring research program there. So a small world indeed of foresight for development!

In addition to her work at IFTF, she has a strong Africa focus, and supports foresight activity and networks there. A very inspired and inspiring person, I feel fortunate to have me her and had a chance to ask a few questions.

It was hard to find a suitable place to conduct the interview, as we wandered through trendy and noisy San Francisco streets. We finally settled on a corner café that was ½ hour off closing. With lots of cafe ambient noise, we talked a bit about her background, how she came to foresight / futures work, her experience as game master for the Catalysts of Change project, and her work exploring how futures practices can help break people from cycles of violence, among many other interesting topics.

I hope it is audible enough! Enjoy.


Zhan Li: science fiction, design futures and foresight communication

I went to LA in June 2012, a lively trip where I did research on foresight communication, the sharing economy and gamification. I was told, in this context, by friend and colleague Stuart Candy that I had to talk to Zhan Li. So I caught up with him at his home in leafy South Pasadena.

He is a truly synthetic and integrative thinker, complex and sophisticated, and this is what I loved about talking with him. He pushed and challenged the boundaries of my understanding and comprehension.

He is writing a PhD dissertation through the Annenberg School of Communication and  Journalism at the University of Southern California, where he is exploring the cross roads of futures studies and communications, in particular trans-media story telling and narrative in foresight. I consider this one of THE most important lines of R&D in the futures field, so I’m greatly looking forward to reading his work as it emerges.

The interview spans across science fiction, design futures, foresight communication, narrative frameworks, organizational narratives and many other areas! It was one of those “wow cool” interviews where those new synaptic connections are made and my brain felt a little different after.

I hope you enjoy it. The nuance, sophisticated and complex mode of his discourse may be challenging for some, but it is worth every bit of the effort.

Emerging Futures Emerging Futurists Symposium 2012

In late November (Nov 30 2012) I had the incredible pleasure of spending good time with the folks at the Manoa School of Futures Studies, who brought an eclectic and dynamic group of emerging practitioners together from around the world.  I feel very grateful to the Manoa gang for their invitation to speak, and I learned a lot from everyone there. Many people made this happen but my understanding is that Aubrey Yee and John Sweeney drove the process.

The EFEFsymposium2012 brought together about 20 people experimenting on the edges of futures (Warning: not all the people on the attached schedule actually spoke, I believe this was a preliminary schedule). We got to learn from each other in a semi-formal/informal environment and I got this bad ass T-shirt! (Which I believe according to John Sweeney is Jim Dator’s fists with the tattoo “manoa school” written across:)

I was asked to speak about new directions for futures and futurists. I decided to run an exercise in Maoist self criticism, dredging up as many personal acts of “reflection”, along with some general ones, (and the random ‘dob in your neighbor’:) to use as fuel for the fire. I identified “five stupidities” as well as some emerging issues. The talk was by no means a definitive, exhaustive, universal or everlasting statement on futures studies. But it was really fun to think about and explore the issues and play the role of the provocateur. Here is my 40 min talk. Comments welcome…


What Lies Beyond Economic Globalization… Cosmo-Localization?

In late october I gave a public talk at the school I just finished teaching with, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. I wanted to bend some of my dissertation work toward a policy, or at least strategy, orientation. Often times, the policy implications for futures oriented knowledge, scenarios, emerging issues, and global responses, is not so apparent. Thus I’m in the process of ‘translating’ some of the more technical / academic aspects of the work for a policy audience. The talk discussed the following:

While economic globalization has been the most notable global process over the past few decades, this has been accompanied by dramatic trans-border ecological issues, wealth / income stratification, security issues over criminal and terrorist networks, and a litany of other global challenges. Far from reaching the ‘End of History’, recent issues such as the global financial crisis and the effects of climate change portend a quickening of the debate over what globalization should be and where ‘it’ should go.

The talk  discuss the policy implications of  emerging visions for globalization. I made the point that visions for alternative globalizations can provide policy makers an opportunity to widen the field of options and strategies. Plural and parallel process of globalization can allow a ‘harmonization’ process across new definitions and aspects of global change as an essential accompaniment (or counter-point) to the now dominant economic definition. Yet plural visions need to be accompanied by coherences, and a central argument was thus the need to create spaces and platforms whereby diverse state and non-state actors holding diverse perspectives can cooperate and collaborate to address the world’s great 21st century challenges.

During the talk, I  actually ran out of time to cover all 9 discourses for alternative globalizations in my dissertation. In fact I had only covered about 4 (post-colonial, relocalization, peer to peer and cosmopolitan). So I needed to improvise a bit to tie up the end. Over the past year I’ve been experimenting with a concept I like to call “Cosmo-localization”. I’ve also had some great discussions with Michel Bauwen’s and there are parallels to his vision for a transnational peer to peer economy. So to round off the talk I decided to ‘wing it’ it with Cosmo-localization. I think there is something in this, but of course it will take a bit of time to get the articulation right, after an article or two, but at least this is a start. Comments very much welcome.



Venessa Miemis: Open Foresight and the Future of Facebook

This is the third interview in this series on foresight in the network era. Venessa Miemis is one of the originators of the Open Foresight concept. In some regards it is a re-iteration of an older idea, Anticipatory Democracy, developed by Clement Bezold, Alvin Toffler and others, but the deliberative and generative nature of the anticipation is squarely situated in our current peer to peer revolution. Venessa is an outstanding proponent of developing new anticipatory processes for societal transformation.

In this interview she discusses the origins of the concept, she details the methodological approaches she has used to make foresight a public processes, and she reflects on the deeper principles involved in creating Open Foresight as an inclusive and replicate-able processes.  There is a very strong organic connection between the Open Foresight approach and the drive / listening for societal transformation. As the complexity and challenges of the 21st century deepens, this is one approach that will provide people with ways to make sense of their worlds in empowering and creative ways.

Jake Dunagan: The Institute for the Future and Gamification for Social Foresight

This is the second part in a series on network based approaches to foresight. I was fortunate to catch up with colleague Jake Dunagan, director of research at the Institute for the Future (IFTF). IFTF is doing absolutely remarkable work bringing together social media, gaming, and foresight (among many other things). Significant is IFTF’s social focus, on addressing sustainability, poverty, security, food, and many other important issues. Jake is a brilliant mind and eloquent voice, and gives us a great window into the work at IFTF. In interviews to come, I really hope to follow up with him on his Doctoral dissertation work in neuropolitics, governance design, alternative futures, and the communication of foresight,  and looking forward to learning about other works in progress.

Elina Hiltunen: Finpro and Crowdsourcing Foresight

This is the first in a series of interviews with futurists using state of the art network based approaches to foresight work. Network based approaches can be seen as those which utilize ICT technologies together with collaborative cultural frameworks (e.g. peer to peer) to co-generate futures thinking, strategy and policy. In this first part, I interview Elina Hiltunen, director of What’s Next Consulting.

I consider Elina Hiltunen’s work outstanding in this regard. In her recent article in the Journal of Futures Studies, called Crowdsourcing the Future, Elina Hiltunen discusses the impressive foresight initiative at Finpro. Finpro has run a crowdsourced foresight program for a number of years, which helps inform decision making for Finnish industry. She writes “When an organisational foresight process is linked to the strategy process, foresight becomes a serious asset.” What I find intriguing are new metaphors and language discussing collective intelligence and the wisdom of crowds:

The wisdom of crowds is a concept that has become more popular in public discussion because of a couple of bestselling books: the Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki and Wikinomics – How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. The idea behind the wisdom of crowds is that a crowd of people, without knowing each other’s opinions, make better choices than selected experts. According to Surowiecki (2004: XVII) “[if] you put together a big enough and diverse enough group of people and ask them to ‘make decisions affecting matters of general interest’, that group’s decision will, over time, be ‘intellectually [superior] to the isolated individual’, no matter how smart or well-informed he is.

In this interview she discusses her work, how she helped create Finpro and the crowdsourced foresight model, its strategy, key principles, the rationale that drives the approach, and the ideas, authors, books, theories that  guide her work.

The consistent question that is raised in my mind and that I raise here is, can such approaches be used to enable popular foresight engagements and channeled into action projects which address the world’s great 21st century challenges? What can we learn here toward building super-charged approaches to large scale collaborative inquiry and action that will help us to navigate a turbulent 21st century?