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
| scanlinks | special topic(s): art
On the common, or garden variety, environmental
Wendy L. Schultz
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
| scanlinks | special topic(s): art
-- 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
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:
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."
Impacts: continued green value shift? more
| scanlinks | special topic(s): art
Scanning Sources on the Web.
Changes in population, consumer values, lifestyles, etc.
Demographic and market
research info on the next generation(s).
Billed as "America's
Finest News Source," this website lampoons the news with politically
Arts and Letters Daily
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.
Science and science policy news.
Site: News and Views http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/
News from the beginnings and far reaches of the universe.
Magazine Home http://www.sciencemag.org/
More science discoveries.
Links patients with ongoing medical research.
Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers' newsletter.
Technology Review http://www.techreview.com
The forefront of technological innovation from the innovators.
Where programmers/hackers share news and updates.
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.
Click on "EnviroLink News" for environmental news updates.
Environmental and scientific articles.
Has been watching over the planet's health for decades.
New environmental-business movement ideological webrag; sparked
by a speech from Bruce Sterling: http://www.viridiandesign.org/viridiandesign.htm
Another great newspaper: the British Wall Street Journal.
Where Wired meets Fast Company: e-commerce.
Fast Company Magazine
Change management for entrepreneurs and the self-employed.
business/market research portal based in France.
Best international political and economic briefing (IMHO).
Eastern Economic Review http://www.feer.com
Best political and economic briefing on Asia and the Pacific (IMHO).
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
News delivered by virtual newscaster. Site for updates on news,
International Herald Tribune
Best international English-language newspaper (IMHO).
News stories and editorials from a wide variety of sources.
Well-written, often slightly edgier, like both the hot topics and
Reader Magazine http://www.utnereader.com
News stories and editorials from the alternative press.
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.
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
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.
the legwork" This is a paid database, but I find it worth the price
Good accuracy of
returns, which are logically organized.
Light Search http://www.northernlight.com/
returns, organized into folders.
Given the mutability
of the international political scene, this is invaluable.
Copernic 2001 Basic
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.
| scanlinks | special topic(s): art
Special Topic: The Future of 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Just what it says:
plans in the movie industry for the next five years.
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:
(The Technology Page) (an article from The Scream Online)
Art Ensemble http://www.critical-art.net/
- A brief history and
explanation of the development of Ananova, one of the first animated
news anchors, found online at
Plus Bacteria Equals Art http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0,1286,50830,00.html
- 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.
glasshouse effect http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=759571
- 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.
Man Goes Searching for Intelligent Life with face2face Software
- "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).
Labs: MEMs Movies
- Just an example of
continuing developments in math, programming, digital arts, and
animation. An article from Digital Producer Magazine online,
- Miniatures have a
long history in art. Think of this as action sequences on the
microscopic level. (Personal favorite: "High Speed, Low Drag")
Toys of Tomorrow http://toys.media.mit.edu/
- 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.
Creativity is allowing
yourself to make mistakes.
- 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.
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.