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We Saw the Future, Now What?

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

Guzel duChateau is the CFM Coordinator and AAM’s New Media Specialist. She also leads the association’s Emerging Museum Professionals group. CFM works closely with the EMPs since (after all) they are the museum professionals of the future! Last week, futurist Garry Golden of Oliver Kaizen joined Guzel online to explore the basics of futures studies in the first national EMP webcast.

I’m sure that all of you have been waiting with bated breath to hear how the webcast went on Friday.

I would say, without a doubt, that it was a grand success. We had over 70 unique sites logged in, and as many of these were group viewings, giving more than 130 people watching and participating.

But what exactly did we learn?

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Perhaps most importantly, we learned about “foresight.” This is the ability to anticipate (and lead) change as well as the ability to construct compelling visions of plausible, possible and preferable futures. This idea of foresight is integral to futures forecasting. Futurists don’t simply pluck ideas out of the ether—they are developed from something. Futurists look at what has been going on in the past to project where we might end up tomorrow.

Think about it, as Garry suggested, in terms of how far we’ve come when it relates to digital competency. How did we become more productive and make learning better? In the late 1908s and early 90’s, digital competency was all about using things like Microsoft Word to become more productive. In the mid-90s e-mail and Web browsers started showing up. Browsers like Netscape, introduced many of us to the idea of the Internet and also made companies understand websites as a way to distribute information. Then we hit 2005 and suddenly “Web 2.0” and social networks were a big deal. You were expected to manage yourself within these online communities and the Web was not about getting information pushed out to you, but instead about communities.

So what does all this mean for the future?

Now that we’ve gotten used to this idea of the Web as a social platform it’s also gradually turning into a service platform. Think about cloud computing. We want information out in the “cloud” to be able to get to it easier and faster. Wanting these things can only lead to new tools and needing to learn how to leverage these changes and their growing importance.

So museums need to think about this, especially as the idea of museums as “third places” emerges and develops. We want museums to be more than simply buildings. We want museums to be considered part of a community; a place where you can go not only to learn but also to do things. This is why we’ve started seeing this evolution of applications like Scvngr and FourSquare which are pushing gaming mechanics and interactivity into museums.

This is just a little snippet of what we learned during this presentation. Did you miss the program? Never fear, LearningTimes recorded it and now you can watch it.

Also, did you enjoy this glimpse into what futures forecasting? That’s good to know, because Garry will be leading a day-long workshop at the American Association of Museums 2011 Annual Meeting! The program isn’t out yet, but we’ll keep you updated here.

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