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Hawai’i’s Shared Futures By Vision Foresight Strategy

Crossing Wednesday and the economic stimulus

Good morning, everyone. Today we’re looking at a split schedule, which works very well some days, and unfortunately not so well others. I myself will be working on my paper this morning, further drafting elements of my political design framework, incorporating lines of thought from classic political science, public administration, and futures studies. Hopefully, the resulting building blocks will be properly futures-oriented and practical enough that future designers will have a good springboard from which to launch.

This afternoon we’ll be working more on the website project more, and while getting this relatively straightforward site up and running quickly can be a challenge, the long-term potential for the site as a core of a larger system of sites and applications designed to support greater civic engagement is actually very exciting (especially for a political scientist like me). Again, if anyone knows of any good ‘civic media’ sites, sites (and applications) designed to support civic participation and engagement, please let us know.

And here’s an interesting article, a preview from the NYT Magazine about the economic stimulus and a variety of takes on economic growth, recovery, and issues related to our economic performance.

Think about tomorrow.

Filed under: Civic Media, Economics, Governance, Hawai'i

Sunday morning work (yeah, that’s right)

Good morning folks.  It’s Sunday morning and like any publicly self-respecting Gen-X business owner I’m looking over the things that need to be addressed before the Monday morning work session.  Basically, the day looks like:  a morning review of the posts and feeds, followed by a nice breakfast (it is Sunday afterall), then it might be time to draft some initial strategy mapping for a local nonprofit.  They are a small organization, but they were totally engaged in the planning session and had a very good conversation about who and what they are and how they think they can achieve their vision of the future.  It was very refreshing.  After that, I may have some time to get to a new project concept we started looking at yesterday: garage video.  Stay tuned for this one; it’s cool!

The afternoon will be devoted to more political design work, now looking at how making decisions and implementing change have to be aligned in the design process.  Oddly, a poorly developed subject, world wide.

And since we’re now looking at the 2009 Summit in October, it’s possible that we’ll be interweaving a vision component.  So, check out the short clip below, which looks at some radical and interesting visions for South Korea’s urban future.  This is something that we in Honolulu truly need to take a long, hard look at, and something that actually should make the construction industry salivate over the possibilities, but we seem to need more attention to our urban future.

Think about tomorrow.

Filed under: Built Environment, futures, Governance, Hawai'i, Summit

Democracy in Moderation

An article posted today took a brief look at how Encyclopedia Britannica, that old quick-reference guide to world knowledge that we all relied on back in the day, is slowly modernizing itself.  And this means: how is it coming to grips with Wikipedia and the big trend in ‘collaborative’ sites and services (think blogs, wikis, and commentaries for everything) where the people at large contribute, edit, and argue.  Britannica is moving to some wiki platforms, but they have decided to maintain the key role of the expert in the production of their branded information.

This kicked off two things for us: 1) how this fits into the trends in information production and publishing; and 2) how this relates to the contemporary seizure with all things bottom-up

Publishing: A recent NY Magazine article looked at the changes in the massive book publishing industry, from the gradual change in publishers from small and artfully-run to the massive corporate media empires that are hit-driven just like Hollywood.  It mentioned Amazon.com and the Kindle, it’s e-reader, and the fears that physical publishers have about Amazon’s future ability to be the Microsoft of book publishing.  At the same time that e-readers continue to try to make inroads into our reading habits, web-based self-publishing and print-on-demand services have been expanding for everyday folks.  And then the blogs…

Certainly it’s clear that the technology is changing so that everyday folks have access to publishing their own thoughts, news, and stories.  Everyone can yammer away into the void with their own blogs, and they can pay to have their work printed (just like the old vanity press), but what’s the real impact to the idea of information, about what’s news-worthy and thus read-worthy?  What is the role of the expert in selecting ‘quality’ material?  And especially important as everyone begins to panic about the economy: what writing should we pay for?  When do we care about vetted material enough to pay for it, and when does instant gratification drive us to be satisfied with writing that might lack for quality or accuracy?

We also have to wonder about the potential for the Long Tail-type theories of business opportunities.  While Hawaii likes to argue over massive state programs to promote targeted economic growth in major industry clusters (one can hear the visitor industry growling in the background), there is probably a lot more that could be done at a much lower level of cost to promote the types of niche micro-businesses that the Long Tail suggests, which for Hawaii could very well include the evolution of new writing and publishing models.  Like most side-businesses, all it takes is to link up people’s passions with a little extra income to make a difference in their economic lives.

Bottom-Up: And then there’s the bottom-up issue.  It’s all the rage today to disparage the expert, the official, and anything that smacks of top-down.  Collaborative software like wikis and blogs and social network technologies allow us to connect to each other and share and contribute without any of the types of social, economic, or political structures we’ve lived under throughout recorded history.  Everywhere people conflate this with democracy and hail a new age in which the ‘community’ (a word which no longer means the neighborhood but a collective of people), the grass-roots, the crowd trump any other process or authority.

But down through history thinkers and philosophers have made a distinction between the People (arranged in a deliberative process) and the Mob (simply a mass of individuals).  What’s important is the question: when is ‘the community’ the right process, and when are experts required to lead and produce?  Even the Athenians, those symbols of democracy, understood that sometimes the individual was needed to make a decision instead of the multitude.

And when we come back to the issues of publishing, writing, and sharing, the collaborative tools and the social networking technologies force us to contemplate changes in what we define as ‘news’ and as valid information.  When ‘the people’ are able to connect with one another, and if they are left to their own devices (as opposed to the interests of mass media that has traditionally defined and pumped the news to people), what do they define as news, and what are they actually interested in learning about and reading about?

As any review of services like Twitter indicate, what’s important news to people is often stuff that mass media can’t replicate: what’s going on with my friends, family, and colleagues?  When taken from the perspective of the individual, important news and information is nuanced into much more personal spheres than the nightly news or newspapers can address.  So, what new balance might emerge from the tension between the expert and the community in defining, producing, and ultimately selling news and information?

Filed under: Business, Culture, Democracy, Economics, Governance, Hawai'i

Hawai’i: the Reboot

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The Hawai'i Futures Summit 2009 October 16 and 17, 2009


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