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>> Education/Outreach: Plausibility | Details | Overview
>> Articles/Presentations: Strengths and Weaknesses | Scanning | Scenario Analysis | Good for You | Essential Visioning |
>> A/P continued: Words, Dreams, and Action | Unpacking Our Cultural Baggage | Visions R Us | Sidling (Creativity/Critique)

Environmental Scanning:
assignment | scanlinks | special topic(s): art links

What follows is a short beginner's guide to environmental scanning -- an essay which grew out of thoughts expressed via email to colleagues, and which was subsequently published in the WFSF Newsletter. The "Holistic Scanning " essay, which addresses environmental scanning and use of systems analysis, is currently being transcribed and updated from Powerpoint format. Until it is available on-line in narrative form, you may access the ideas by viewing the Powerpoint presentation online: HolisticScanning.

assignment | scanlinks | special topic(s): art links
On the common, or garden variety, environmental scan.

Wendy L. Schultz
September 2001
Houston, Texas

A few thoughts on scanning, written last September when I was recovering from navel-reconstruction, due to laparoscopic surgery for an emergency gall bladder removal (an interesting 46th birthday present, don't you think?), and updated in June 2002. This was prompted by an online discussion which asked: What are good starting places for web-based scanning? Does web-based scanning make library scanning obsolete? Is scanning an art or a science?

For the past several years in our Intro to Studies of the Future grad seminar at the University of Houston - Clear Lake, we have handed out a "beginner's list" of URLs useful for web-based environmental scanning. Thanks to folks in a number of futures listserves, I was able to validate that list: they brainstormed suggestions, most of which were already on it. Those that were additions -- thank you, Sandy Burchsted, for all those URLs! -- I edited in; the suggestions people made for journals/sources sans URLs, I added at the bottom. That list, updated in June 2002, is included below. Note, however, that this list was compiled for grad students in the USA, and what readers in foreign countries may choose to do is review the various list items, and look for their local equivalents.

Art or science? hmmm. I'd say scanning is learned pattern identification, at which people are not very successful until they have done it for awhile. We all need to get past the news items merely "new to me" and to the point of "new even to practitioners of arcane fields." That simply takes a lot of reading, observing, and digesting. Also, the more trained your eye is to links, relationships, and systems dynamics in general, the easier it is to spot changes bubbling up against the "ground" of current conditions, and to extrapolate their potential impacts.

In our Futures Methods I grad seminar, Peter Bishop helps students apply the criteria of "novelty, importance, and accuracy" to judge the quality and sophistication of their scanning. We usually begin by asking students to share what *they* think the emerging issues are, then sharing our "expert" (mileage on that varies, of course) views on what emerging issues are. Next we point them to various issues of the Futurist, and Petersen's Road to 2015, as an initial base of understanding: build a foundational awareness of what's emerging by looking at what published futurists say has been emerging over the last decade. Which, by the by, is the problem with using the Futurist or FRQ or Futures or Foresight as a scanning resource -- by the time one of our colleagues has collected scan data, summarized it, analyzed it, and published it, it is secondary data, not primary. I suggest students use those resources to confirm hits they find, or to add corollary emerging issues to a pattern they are building of several converging issues, or to add depth of field to a single data point.

Vis-a-vis the Molitor curve and the web affecting our scanning ability, I'll repeat what I tell the Intro class: The Molitor curve has been blown out of the water for certain categories of emerging issue -- depending on the sector or issue, the curve can expand, tracing a long, lazy, gentle arc, or can foreshorten into a steep, abrupt media explosion over a short timeline. For some innovations, it isn't a curve at all -- it's a nearly vertical line. As far as I can tell, -- *WARNING*EGREGIOUS HYPOTHESIZING AHEAD* -- the more likely it is that the innovation/change/value shift is economically exploitable, the more steep/vertical the Molitor S-curve for that issue will be.

As an anecdote in support of this hypothesis (and the first point at which I noticed this phenomenon), I offer the following: traditionally, scientists with breakthrough ideas or experimental results send them, post-haste, to a journal like Scientific American or Science or **fill in the blank with journal appropriate to the field** so that respected colleagues can jury the submission AND TIME DATE IT TO ESTABLISH PRECEDENCE OF DISCOVERY. However, since the Reagan era and the uncertainties of support even for some "big science" projects, coupled with the expanding, accelerating global economy, we have seen the commodification of science. Thus it was interesting to watch the race, about a decade ago, for room temperature superconductivity among various materials science teams around the world. As each team developed new materials that were superconductive at increasingly higher temperatures, they by-passed the whole juried journal shtick and simply held press conferences -- and reports of their discoveries were hitting New Scientist, the Financial Times, and Newsweek all in the same week. As I said, some things simply blow the Molitor curve out of the water.

At a library conference I attended last year, one fascinating panel discussed the institutionalization of that very revolution, in the creation of a "physics archive" portal allowing scientists to post rough draft, half-baked ideas and get immediate feedback without suffering through publication delay to read responses from their colleagues.

As for the Web replacing print-based scanning, I think it depends upon how comfortable you are with pixellated media -- and how fast your internet connection is. I can pick up a hard copy of a journal or a newspaper, and flip through it much more quickly than I can scan through an entire website. For me, it's still just faster. It also is more likely to expose me to things I've never heard of before. After all, if something is truly an emerging issue -- completely new to me and even to others in the area from which it is emerging -- then I won't be able to do a keyword search for it, will I? Excluding the sites which are simply cornucopia of variety -- but again, the more variety, the more time to "flip through" the site.

As many others have mentioned, the various listserves -- hawaii, clear lake, wfsf -- are themselves useful sources for initial notification. Actually, one of the best listserve sources of emerging issues possibilities I had at one time was not of futurists at all; it was an "interest group" listserve, in this case a collection of teachers, artists, scientists, programmers, and students who had been following the television show "Babylon 5" since its inception on the SF Writers Roundtable. I think that counts as keeping an ear to the ground of the literate lunatic fringe. Another strategy is identifying the websites of the literate lunatic fringe -- or genius fringe -- and monitoring their blogs (weblogs).

My usual scanning strategy is to hear something first on a listserve, or directly from an expert, or on a science or tech or arts cable channel, or read it in hard copy. I then go to the web or print sources to look for more or related hits. Next I map the hit -- and subsequent related items -- out in terms of STEEP systems to which it might relate, then keep an eye out for hits to bubble up to fill up the empty spaces in my systems map, or pattern.

Moderation in all things, privileging no source above another, I guess. Even Newsweek and Time are useful, because they give you a sense of what the person on the street IS hearing about...

You will note my compiled list of Web scanning sources includes a special section for the arts. I'd welcome any other web-scannable sources for changes in the arts -- it helps actually to be involved in the arts community where you live, or know someone who is. I got turned on to One by its premiere issue, in January 2001. That issue included a really excellent update on the commercialization of the ideas emerging from the MIT Media Lab fashion show for wearable computing. It also contained information on an issue being discussed on the hawaii listserve last year: Charmed Technology [an MIT Media Lab spin-off company based in LA] offers two new signature products, one of which, "the Charmed Badge, ...automatically transmits its wearer's electronic business card to other users via infrared." (from the article "Body Tech," by David Pescovitz). Unfortunately, One, though excellent, has come and gone in hardcopy, and its website is off-line as well.

A market researcher once drew parallels with what she did and what we do by saying that her rule of thumb is to investigate three key arenas of change: monitor shifts in focus among artists, visionaries, and lunatics; "go where the bad kids go" -- i.e., keep track of the revolts and protests of the young; and finally, in order to capture changes occurring among the rest of us, keep a close eye on grocery stores. As mentioned previously, I'm hunting for good monitor points for the arts, and I think I've got the grocery store angle covered. So, all those of you with kids have my respect and envy. I gotta borrow my kid resources from my sister.

Comments and additions to wendy@infinitefutures.com.

assignment | scanlinks | special topic(s): art links
Scanning Assignment.

"360 scanning" -- review of any relevant media covering the social, technological, economic, ecological, and political (STEEP) environments --is a foundation skill in futures research, and a survival skill for any forward-looking person. Our class will work together to create a shared environmental scan resource, which we will share within the futures program via our class website. Your assignment:

1. Scan the entire set of periodical shelves in the library, looking at the covers of all periodicals, and browsing those that might have particular interest to you and relevance to the future you expect to pursue. ALSO pay attention to journals from the fields you think of as farthest from your own interests and expertise. That is, if you are an engineer, consider reading Women's Wear Daily or Art in America. If you are a manager, consider Astrophysics or a similar technical journal. Include both general and technical titles. After the class has been introduced to resources available on the WorldWide Web, identify several sites you find of particular interest or potentially useful.

2. Select 7+ 2 periodicals or websites which you will scan several times through the semester, looking for interesting articles that indicate a "change-driving" factor of importance. The Economist must be one of these. You may also note scan items from sources on the radio, on television (e.g., CNN or the Discovery Channel or PBS, etc.), or in conversations. Just cite them to the best of your ability to pin down source and date.

3. What are you looking for? Changes, innovations, value shifts, new ideas, program, policies, businesses, consumer goods -- anything new, or any change of which you were not previously aware. When you first begin scanning, you will discover it easy to find changes or innovations new to you; what will be more difficult is finding changes and innovations that are new to everyone, even to experts in the field from which the change is emerging. Only practice, and a continually widening awareness of change, will allow you to identify the emerging edge of change. So keep at it.

4. Report on what you find in the periodicals or at the websites both verbally (in the informal "scanning" discussions during each class) and in writing, using the following format:

Title/Date Source/Author Substance and Significance STEEP Category /Impacts

"Limits to Growth, revisited"
February, 1992

In Context (magazine)/ (staff). Donella Meadows, et al, have updated their 1972 computer simulation of how the carrying capacity of the earth may be over-reached. Conclusions of the 1972 study still considered valid, and evenmore timely. These conclusions are still
controversial, and are rejected by many"positive extrapolists."
Steep category: primarily environmental.
Impacts: continued green value shift? more
environmental policies/regulations?

assignment | scanlinks | special topic(s): art links
Scanning Sources on the Web.

Society/Individual Lifestyles

American Demographics http://www.demographics.com/
Changes in population, consumer values, lifestyles, etc.

Youth Intelligence http://www.youthintelligence.com/
Demographic and market research info on the next generation(s).

The Onion http://www.theonion.com/onion3901/index.html
Billed as "America's Finest News Source," this website lampoons the news with politically far-from-correct satire.

Arts and Letters Daily http://www.aldaily.com/
Excellent portal site: newspapers, journals and magazines, special interests, news services, book reviews, radio news, columnists, e-zines.
for more on art, see the special topics section, below.

New Scientist http://www.newscientist.com
Science and science policy news.

Scientific American http://www.scientificamerican.com
Scientific discoveries.

Hubble Site: News and Views http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/
News from the beginnings and far reaches of the universe.

Science Magazine Home http://www.sciencemag.org/
More science discoveries.

ClinicalTrials.gov http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/
Links patients with ongoing medical research.

IEEE Spectrum http://www.spectrum.ieee.org
Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers' newsletter.

MIT Technology Review http://www.techreview.com
The forefront of technological innovation from the innovators.

Slashdot.org http://www.slashdot.org
Where programmers/hackers share news and updates.

WIRED Magazine http://www.wirednews.com
The forefront of social and technological change on the Internet: WIRED's news service.
ZDNet Home Page http://www.zdnet.com/
Click on the "news" tab for their technology updates.

EnviroLink http://www.envirolink.org/
Click on "EnviroLink News" for environmental news updates.

Nature Magazine http://www.nature.com
Environmental and scientific articles.

Worldwatch Institute http://www.worldwatch.org
Has been watching over the planet's health for decades.

Viridian Design http://www.viridiandesign.org/
New environmental-business movement ideological webrag; sparked by a speech from Bruce Sterling: http://www.viridiandesign.org/viridiandesign.htm

Financial Times http://news.ft.com/home/rw/
Another great newspaper: the British Wall Street Journal.

Business 2.0 http://www.business2.com
Where Wired meets Fast Company: e-commerce.

Fast Company Magazine
Change management for entrepreneurs and the self-employed.

INSEAD Knowledge http://knowledge.insead.edu/welcome.cfm
An international business/market research portal based in France.

The Economist http://www.economist.com
Best international political and economic briefing (IMHO).

Far Eastern Economic Review http://www.feer.com
Best political and economic briefing on Asia and the Pacific (IMHO).

Jane's Information Group http://www.janes.com/
Originally -- a century or so ago -- a source of up-to-date information on ships of the line, in design and in service. This expanded to multiple journals offering a wide variety defense-related technology data. The website is simply a good source of publicly available strategic intelligence and analysis.

Ananova News Avatar http://www.ananova.com/video/
News delivered by virtual newscaster. Site for updates on news, weather, media.

International Herald Tribune http://www.iht.com
Best international English-language newspaper (IMHO).

Slate Magazine http://www.slate.com or slate.msn.com
News stories and editorials from a wide variety of sources.

Salon.com http://www.salon.com/
Well-written, often slightly edgier, like both the hot topics and sf sections.

Utne Reader Magazine http://www.utnereader.com
News stories and editorials from the alternative press.

World Press http://www.worldpress.com/

This is a one-stop shop for news. You can find news in categories such as environment, human rights, business; or news by major cities such as Beirut, Dubai, Baghad, Calcutta, Hong Kong; or by continent.

World Future Society http://www.wfs.org/
American-based, application-oriented futures group.

World Futures Studies Federation http://www.wfsf.org/
A global, critical "problematique"-oriented futures group.

(anyone at a university should be taking advantage of free access to Lexis/Nexus, which most major university libraries have)
Dialog http://www.dialog.com
A Lexis/Nexus competitor, connected to the Thomson Scientific publishing group, with access to a wider database (they say) than Lexis/Nexus. Individuals can subscribe, for a yearly fee and download charges per article.

E-Library http://www.elibrary.com
"Research without the legwork" This is a paid database, but I find it worth the price (--S. Burchsted).

Google http://www.google.com/
Good accuracy of returns, which are logically organized.

Northern Light Search http://www.northernlight.com/
Comprehensive search returns, organized into folders.

National Geo Maps http://www.nationalgeographic.com/maps/
Given the mutability of the international political scene, this is invaluable.

SOFTWARE/TOOLS for searches.
Copernic 2001 Basic http://www.copernic.com/index.html
This is an Internet meta-search tool. It can access eighty search engines at the same time, grouped into 7 categories. Free download from the site.

assignment | scanlinks | special topic(s): art links
Scanning Special Topic: The Future of Art

General Arts:

Art and Technology http://arttech.about.com/

Rather like an on-line encyclopedia of developments in a range of contemporary arts -- from painting and sculpture to industrial arts and design, film, special effects, scientific art including space art and mathematical art, to performance art and written art. Also offers art history, info about museums and exhibits. Unfortunately has pop-up ads attached to the site.

Arts and Letters Daily http://www.aldaily.com/

Excellent portal site: newspapers, journals and magazines, special interests, news services, book reviews, radio news, columnists, e-zines.

AtomFilms http://atomfilms.shockwave.com/

AtomShockwave's vision is "entertainment: anytime, everywhere," and this website gives you your pick of on-line movies, both animated and film, covering a broad variety of topics, sorted into genres. Warning: not all are politically correct or acceptable by Miss Manners.

Harry's Ain't It Cool News http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com/

A "professional amateur's" take on the movie industry -- a site which pools information from readers and insiders about current projects and developments in the movie industry, and which has earned the attention of the industry -- for one reason or another.

TheScreamOnline http://thescreamonline.com/

Billed as an "Internet magazine of Art, Photography, Literature," offering articles, commentary, and reviews on art, photography, music, film, poetry, fiction, non fiction, humor, the strange and bizarre, and technology.

Upcoming Movies.com http://www.upcomingmovies.com/

Just what it says: plans in the movie industry for the next five years.

Voice of the Shuttle http://vos.ucsb.edu/

A database designed to offer content related to the humanities, and how they are adapting to social, cultural, and technological changes. Click on the "Art and Art History" link found in the navigation column on the far left for a myriad useful art-related links.

Specific Items of Interest:
ANANOVA (The Technology Page) (an article from The Scream Online)

A brief history and explanation of the development of Ananova, one of the first animated news anchors, found online at www.ananova.com.
Critical Art Ensemble http://www.critical-art.net/
Online home of a collective of five artists "of various specializations dedicated to exploring the intersections between art, technology, radical politics, and critical theory. They created the art piece "GenTerra," described in the news article immediately following.
DNA Plus Bacteria Equals Art http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0,1286,50830,00.html
A news article from WIRED News (http://www.wired.com/news/) on the GenTerra art project, and the difficulties it is causing site administrators and exhibit managers.
The glasshouse effect http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=759571
"In the wine country north of San Francisco, two world-famous architects are designing a totally new kind of house for a new kind of art." New art and new media demand new exhibit designs. In this case, two people with a film- and video-based art collection wanted a house on the surfaces of which they could display their collection. From the Economist online (www.economist.com).
Quiet Man Goes Searching for Intelligent Life with face2face Software
http://www.digitalproducer.com/aHTM/Articles/2000/september/09_25_00 /quiet_man_uses_face2face_software.htm

Just an example of continuing developments in math, programming, digital arts, and animation. An article from Digital Producer Magazine online, at: http://www.digitalproducer.com/
Sandia Labs: MEMs Movies http://www.mdl.sandia.gov/micromachine/movies.html
Miniatures have a long history in art. Think of this as action sequences on the microscopic level. (Personal favorite: "High Speed, Low Drag")
Slow Wave http://www.slowwave.com/
Our collective unconscious, captured dreaming and presented in cartoon form on-line. Interactive: submit a dream of your own. Drawn weekly by cartoonist Jesse Reklaw.
TOT Toys of Tomorrow http://toys.media.mit.edu/
Where the demented design masters at MIT's media lab are designing the toys -- and in some cases, the jewelry -- of the future. Way fun.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.
--Scott Adams

Quote borrowed from the High School Hub "Art*Music*Technology" webpage, another interesting general site which is designed for high school students. Not comprehensive, but you might find some of the links useful, and they have a fun page on creativity, with a related set of graphic tools pages.

Art*Music*Technology http://highschoolhub.org/hub/art.cfm

(Back to top.)

> Essays > Futures Studies > Virtuous Circles and Variety
>> Imagination/Innovation: Innovations | Science Fiction | Archetypes
>> Education/Outreach: Plausibility | Details | Overview
>> Articles/Presentations: Strengths and Weaknesses | Scanning | Scenario Analysis | Good for You | Essential Visioning |
>> A/P continued: Words, Dreams, and Action | Unpacking Our Cultural Baggage | Visions R Us | Sidling (Creativity/Critique)

15 February 2003. Email IF.
Copyright © 2003, Wendy L. Schultz
All rights reserved.
Since 1/15/2003, over [an error occurred while processing this directive]
people have explored our infinite futures.

(in addition to the 17,500+ visitors from 10/1/2001-12/15/2002).