Digital futures

Chris Batt, OBE, PhD

“It is becoming increasingly apparent that the challenges we face now and in the coming decades cannot be adequately addressed by simply doing more of what we have been doing up to now. We have largely based our actions and our interventions to date on a traditional enlightenment image of the way the world works – and the results of our well-intentioned actions leave a lot to be desired.”

International Futures Forum

THE BEST WAY TO PREDICT THE FUTURE IS TO INVENT IT...*

What future for museums, libraries and archives in the digital space?

Ever wondered what the future will be like? What the roller coaster of socio-technical determinism will do to us all over the next 40 years? What will be the role of cherished institutions such as museums, libraries and archives? Will we still have schools and universities as we know them today?

More important, is there anything to do other than wait around to see what happens? Are there ways to increase our understanding of possible scenarios for the future that might help us today to influence how the future might unfold?

These are the kinds of questions that I have been thinking about for over a decade and, for the past five years, through the platform of my PhD research have had the chance to examine with a view to finding some answers. It is my contention that successful societies in the future will depend on much wider and easier access to the kinds of knowledge resources that libraries, museums and archives current curate and disclose to their users; supporting the knowledge creation, learning and skills that are the roles of universities, colleges and schools; and the informal learning and informational needs of individuals and communities to improve their lives.

Collecting Institutions in the Network Society examines the future relevance of current institutions service models for the effective delivery of digitally-based services, with the intention to develop tools that will help practitioners and professionals to take a more strategic view of the challenges and opportunities that they will surely face. The thesis is available for download on this site or, if you prefer obtain it from the UCL thesis repository http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/view/theses/UCL=5FThesis/2015.html.

* Pew Research Centre. The Web at 25 in the US: Digital Life in 2025, 2014.