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FOTE14 Abstract – Miles Metcalfe

Co-creating the future

Term has only just started, but you’re already working late. The autumn nights are drawing in, and it’s dark in your office. You’d like to switch on the lights. Since the new smart lighting system was installed, though, you need to fill out an RFC and wait for the change board to convene before someone will replace a light bulb.

A licensing dispute means that half your undergraduate textbooks are currently offline. You need to email the publishers’ lawyers. But the email isn’t working. The Exchange server is “experiencing issues”. Your IT department may be ITIL compliant, but the email still doesn’t work and speaking to the “customer service agent” leaves you feeling like an idiot.

You ought to talk to your boss about the textbook situation, but the “find my colleague” feature of the new unified communications system says she’s in the Azores. She’s either very lucky, or the bloody system’s not working. Again. You call her extension and the phone crashes after the first ring. Waiting for protocol discovery the LCD display reads helpfully.

You give up – the technology’s telling you it’s time to go home. If the systems are working tomorrow, you can try to skip the mandatory training on preventing radicalisation and use the time to sort out the textbooks.

When you get to the exit gates of the admin block, your pass doesn’t work…

With IT offering so many solutions, what went wrong with the future?

Gilles Paquet observed that “solutionism interprets issues as puzzles to which there is a solution, rather than problems to which there may be a response.” Moreover, the technology industry frames as puzzles that which it can easily solve – and sell. There is no puzzle, let alone problem, to which the answer is “unified communications solution.” A cargo-cult ITIL implementation won’t improve IT service management, let alone have email magically working by Monday.

The key to getting the future we want is to understand we are co-creators of the future. “Because the internet” is in no way inevitable. Government, business, institutions and individuals all have a stake in the future. Their interests and agendas may not always converge, but the human race has past form harnessing diversity to build tomorrow.

We must learn to gaze into the future without becoming dazzled by the shiny.

posted by Nuwa Enobakhare on September 19, 2014

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