The Flying Car Speach
First, a rant:
I am a geek in many ways. I own (and have read and as of yesterday have cataloged) the last 20 years of X-Men comics. I’ve been a gamer since my Uncle spent time working on advertisements for Activision games on the Atari 2600. But first and foremost I am a second generation, con-going, fan. And if there’s one thing fandom has taught me it’s that the future is constantly changing.
In the 40’s the future was full of art deco buildings, jet packs and flying cars. In the 80’s it was cyberpunk visions of A.I. creatures and mega corporations. Currently we seem to be leaning towards a post-human, post-singularity Earth.
Now what does this have to do with libraries? We as a profession tend to be entirely focused on present trends and have never quite come to terms with how quickly those trends can shift. By following the professional chatter at the moment you’d get the impression that video games were a recent development and that the biggest fad involving them currently was DDR. Using that as an example we’re either 20 years late or far kinder 5. At that rate I fully expect us to be learning all about Rock Band just in time for the convergence Sandy Duncan is predicting to occur and kill the consoles for good. And we still haven’t even begun to truly discuss games beyond the fact that it puts bodies in chairs.
This lack of foresight covers all aspects of the field. Catalogers are still debating controlled vocabularies while patrons have tagged all our materials in far more meaningful ways than we could ever manage on our own, and in far less time to boot. We’re still devising closed databases while musicians are finding feasible models for releasing their goods for free. And personally I still don’t see what Second Life has to contribute at the moment, although I can foresee its descendants becoming a little more interesting.
Which brings me back to my main point. We as a profession need to improve our ability to predict the future, and right now I mostly see us struggling to understand the present. And that’s understandable, it’s a strange world after all, but it will only get stranger and we have to be prepared for it. Otherwise we’re going to arrive in a totally alien future still wondering what happened to our flying cars.