Project Timeline 2005–2010

Skip to content

Andy Lloyd James text in black.
Ross Gibson comments in red.

RG believes that this is a good general context or ‘belief statement’. Out of this context, several storylines will be generated.

Andy Lloyd James text

In laying out our final draft matrixes for OTB, we will need to find several overarching storylines to drive the scenarios we write. Here’s a general background against which the stories can be delineated. one possibility.

We live on a frontier. It is the frontier between our industrially-organised past and our information-organised future. The frontier is as real as the ancient frontiers which were overwhelmed by the Industrial Revolution, bringing massive changes in agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation and a consequent profound effect on the socioeconomic and cultural conditions first of Britain and subsequently of many other parts of the world.

The digital revolution will have that scale of impact but, unlike the Industrial Revolution, it is being played out simultaneously worldwide.
This new frontier between analogue and digital worlds is akin to the frontiers along which tectonic plates move: giant forces impacting across vast distances, driving fundamental effects from the squeezing up of Everest to the squeezing down of the Mariana Trench. RG thinks it might be much quicker and gaseous than the geographical metaphors imply. Ie ALJ is presenting one story with one set of governing drivers delivered in the form of metaphors.

In this case what is coming is not mechanical but digital. At its fullest it’s what Luciano Floridi (Research Chair in philosophy of information at the University of Hertfordshire) calls the Infosphere.

‘Infosphere’ denotes the whole informational environment constituted by all informational entities (thus including informational agents as well), their properties, interactions, processes and mutual relations. It is an environment comparable to, but different from cyberspace (which is only one of its sub-regions, as it were), since it also includes off-line and analogue spaces of information. We shall see that it is also an environment (and hence a concept) that is rapidly evolving.

– (Luciano Floridi, University of Oxford “A look into the future impact of ICT on our lives”)

In my second major Report, concluding the Proof-of-Concept stage, I raised the enormity of the change facing us, quoting Prof. Anthony Giddens views on digitisation and globalisation (see below**).

So, why is the idea of frontier useful to us?

Frontiers are those places (physical or mental) where potential change (or stasis) is constantly negotiated, where offence and defence are natural characteristics, where porosity is the essential state. Frontiers have doers and done-toers — which are we characterising ourselves as; frontiers are not equal places. Characterised also by resources or land grabs (in this case spectrum and IP grabs), violence and a lack of robust laws. When frontiers move or are overwhelmed there are often both winners and losers on both sides. Utopias and dystopias do not exist for long: each bears the seeds of its own destruction or mutation.

In other words frontiers, mental or physical, are inherently places where dramatic events play out. In human terms what is unusual about any frontier is that no-one owns it. RG disagrees — there are the incumbents and the incursives. It may represent, moment by moment, division or unity, opportunity or threat. Equally important, on both sides of a frontier there is usually a sense of correctness or right. And events on either side are not necessarily each other’s polar opposite.

Many elements lead to the formation of frontiers: resources, technology, population, vision, economy, greed, lack of law etc (remarkably similar to the issues we have chosen to explore!) but there is little doubt that population and economics are what lead to change, assisted often by technology (positively or negatively).

The analogy with tectonic plates holds up well for our work because there are no permanent “winners and losers” as the plates wrangle their progressions. What is overwhelmed may be beneath but it is present and active and continues to influence the overall shape of the world.

For certain, the infosphere plate will overwhelm the industrial-analogue plate and much of this action will be played out in the world of film and television, radio and the internet. It will do so because the business of film and television, radio and the internet is the only business which connects directly with almost every human being on the planet almost every day.

It is truly an epic story that we will have to tell and our two matrixes will hold the keys to telling it. The quadrants of a frontier can characterise defence, offence, skirmishing, swarming, partial settlements, tactical manoeuvres and so on. They can represent the Wild West or the arrival of white Australia; the industrial revolution or the enlightenment; the middle east or multiculturalism. The challenges for Australia are both internal and external which is also why I find the frontier notion attractive as a foundation.

Whatever…we have constantly said to the participants that this exercise is not only about planning the future but also about proactively shaping the future. To do that, we have to entice them with something much more discursive and engaging than the majority of scenarios we have read.

So…I suggest that the “stuff” of our matrixes can be the potential events surrounding the frontier. The driver of all these events is the inexorable growth of the infosphere shaping, crumbling, moving and re-shaping the frontier.

RG wonders … what other ruling metaphors are there, that could lead us into variant scenarios … eg .. imagine we are in the shocked reverb of an enormous explosion and we haven’t yet come to an understanding that something has happened.

** In sum, if you want to define what globalisation is, there is a simple definition and there is a more demanding sociological definition. In its simplest definition, globalisation just means increasing inter-dependence, we just are more inter-dependent with others across the world than any previous generation has been, and we had better make the most of this, because this will not go away, short of a cataclysm, this will not go away.

More profoundly however, I would suggest as a sociologist you should even think of dropping the term ‘globalisation’ because it has become so vague and general. What we’re talking about sociologically, is a transformation of time and space, we’re talking about a restructuring of all our basic institutions. Globalisation is like a code-word standing for the reconstruction of our social institutions, going all the way through from the family, gender, sexuality (because after all the changing position of women is surely a global phenomenon as much as any other one) through the economy, the restructuring of business organisations, a restructuring of the nation and government, through the restructuring of international organisations. There’s something like a seismic institutional shift going on here, which we’re all struggling quite rightly to come to terms with.

– Professor Anthony Giddens, Director of the London School of Economics

Frontiers reflect the body of the rules that determine the political, juridical, social, economic, cultural and linguistic landscape in a state or between two countries.
Frontiers also exist as linguistic, ethnic and cultural boundaries within national
Borders”.

– Albert Raasch, EUROPE, FRONTIERS AND LANGUAGES

Hugh Pattinson email

Thanks for your very good and insightful comments regarding the matrices so far and the case for an over-arching storyline. I have some more thoughts to add to this vital discussion.

With regard to the Matrices, I think that the main objective right now is that we put as many views and angles in the “quadrants” as possible and not criticise views out for whatever reason. Once we have the full input which hopefully is what we will come to the meeting tomorrow then we can go through a great sifting and reduction.

We have to remember that it is often the wildest most outlier thoughts that are the ones that groups miss through to restrictive “group-think’ or natural inclinations to downgrade or discount views. The climate situation beautifully captures classic group-think that misses the big outliers such that when early indications of the outlier occurs the extra positive feedback loops are in play such that reality right in the realm in the outlier – and not actually analysed and discussed. This is especially true for example, with current predictions indicating that the Arctic icefields around the North Pole will be melted possibly by 2015 – which is way closer than any scenarists and scientists thought before – mainly I think because of very restrictive “group-think”.

Practically though, or progress is much more positive and inclusive than that, but I do want to have a lot more of the key insights from our
previous stories factored into our matrix analysis, so let’s have as a complete set of views for the next input and then debate reduction on that.

With regard to an over-arching story – I am of two minds on that. Normally the overall theme for the matrix is the overarching theme and
that is not developed into a “super” or “meta” story. As long as each of the 1, 2, 3 or 4 or more scenarios align with the themes, that’s OK and then each scenario is written to highlight different states or positions in the Matrix. That also usually means that some key issues are not inserted in each scenario, rather an issue may be highlighted in one scenario.

At the end of the day reducing information to a matrix-based scenario either practically produces diametric (often uptopian/dystopian)
scenarios to highlight difference and real value in the scenario output. or we end up with very similar scenarios that are usually toward the
middle of the matrix, fairly lukewarm and – and really of little value to anyone. The other side of the coin is that an over-arching view does
help to present an initial and effective position for the OTB Project which is useful to present to various audiences, so having an over-arching statement I think is a good thing. We just have to be careful how far we want to completely align the scenarios to that statement.

This part of matrix development is always challenging and almost by definition has to produce dissonance and difference of views – that’s
fantastic. The “Art” then is how we work in or work out those things that make us uncomfortable but we know deep down we cannot ignore – and I am probably more guilty of such sifting than most of us.

I am looking forward to tomorrow.

All the best,
Hugh

Andy Lloyd James email

Hi all,

I’ve been giving some thought to an overarching storyline to bring character to our matrixes and to help shape them in draft. The idea is that it be loose enough to allow a wide range of subsequent scenarios to be developed, but robust enough to give them a home. I’ve also tried to conceive a line which encourage our participants to open their minds to the epic nature of the future media world. The attached paper (2 pages) proposes an approach which should at least stimulate a good debate.

Best,
Andy