Sunday, November 20, 2011

Future of Shift

In 1970, Alvin Toffler's Future Shock altered the world's thinking by arguing that society was facing a "future shock," a certain psychological state of individuals and entire societies -- namely that the world had "too much change in too short a period of time."   Toffler popularized new concepts such as "information overload" and the "third wave." His insights resulted in a US president to commission a special report, inspired cultural and artistic creations, and gave a powerful new concept to the social sciences.

Could Lynda Gratton's Shift: The Future Work is Already Here have a similar influence in the way we perceive the world and work?   It's certainly too early to see, but from judging the arguments made and the quality of thought put into the book, there is great potential.

A faculty at the University of London's Business School, Gratton looks at current developments of the world, and predicts what it would look like in 2025. A workbook created is available for download that offers readers an opportunity to think more deeply about how to go about crafting one's working future. Follow the three steps and ten questions to make the Shift yourself - Download The Shift workbook. Free of business jargon or economic models, the book is offers refreshing look at what might be, not what the world should be.  This book is an excellent companion for any librarian and information worker who is truly interested in how information, data, and the web is altering our work and our lives

1.  Force of Technology - Ten pieces of this technological puzzle includes: technological capability increases exponentially; five billion become connected; the Cloud becomes ubiquitous; continuous productivity gains; social participation increases; the world's knowledge becomes digitalized; mega-companies and micro-entrepreneurs emerge; avatars and virtual worlds; the rise of cognitive assistants; technology replaces jobs.

2.  Force of Globalization - Eight storylines that emerge: 24/7 and the global world; the emerging economies; China and India's decades of growth; frugal innovation; the global educational powerhouses; the world becomes urban; continued bubbles and crashes; the regional underclass emerge

3.  Force of Demography and Longevity - Four trends will emerge: the ascendance of Generation Y; increasing longevity; some baby boomers grow old and poor; global migration increases

4.  Force of Society - Seven developments will reshape our way of living: families become re-arranged; the rise of reflexivity; the role of powerful women; the balanced man; growing distrust of institutions; the decline of happiness; passive leisure increases

5.   Force of Energy and Resources - Three emerging trends in energy that will affect the way we work: energy prices increase; environmental catastrophes displace people; a culture of sustainability begins to emerge

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Fall of Faculty?

Benjamin Ginsberg's latest book, The Fall of the Faculty, is a scathing yet insightful analysis into the increasing tensions between university faculty and its administration.    A polarizing book to say the least -- verging on the edges of controversy -- Ginsberg asserts that since the turn of the century, universities have increasingly added layers of administrators and staffers to their payrolls every year even while laying off full-time faculty in increasing numbers -- all in the name of budget cuts.

While many of these non-academic--administrators are merely "career managers" who not only reduce the importance of teaching and research, they also manipulate the legitimate grievances of minority groups and liberal activists to "chess pieces" in a game of power politics. By championing initiatives such as affirmation action, social justice, and gender rights, the administration has gained favor with these groups, while boosting their own powers over the faculty.  Intensely fascinating, heavily cloaked with sarcasm and wit, this work is definitely going to be a polemical force in years to come in the academic world.

The danger of Ginsberg's arguments -- though cogently displayed -- is that it potentially creates more problems than solutions.   (In fact, Ginsberg offers very few).   Ginsberg's confidence that the university is the nurturer of society's ideas and hotbed of political and industrial movements -- where the Silicon Valley's and the Civil Rights movements had its origins -- has been the discord of many who dispute that the university is out of touch with that very society that Ginsberg's university seeks to salvage.  In somewhat patriarchal fashion, the notion that faculty is the central raison d'etre of the university place perhaps not only distances the university from society, but places its students as almost an afterthought.   While one cannot fault Ginsberg's hesitations about the rise of managerialism and bureaucracy at the expense of efficiency and mandate of teaching and learning so central for higher education, the idea that increasing the leverage of faculty alone can be the solution potentially further deepens the view that the university is sheltered behind the ivory walls of academia.  Is it irony or is it a paradox?