We’ve got wearables, smart watches, smart homes and smart-everythings; more importantly; the future that Doc Brown and Marty travelled to is here. We might not have hover boards, flying cars and talking fax machines (ah, remember the fax machine?) but no one can deny the world has dramatically shifted in the last ten years. But WHAT has it shifted towards? That’s the question FutureEverything asked this year, sure it’s because it’s the 20th Anniversary of the festival but also because it is the right time to do so. Anticipation of the future often comes with uncertainty, however that is not the kind of future we are concerned with now, especially when we’re already living in it.
So what future are we exploring? A future where uncertainty is welcomed and harnessed to bring about critical change – sure there were experts in TV, writers, professional coders and developers all speaking about the amazing work that they’re doing but what were they trying to tell us? The crux of every talk was to bring people together and make something new, be it Stef Lewandowski’s motto of “create something new everyday” to Julia Kaganskiy from New Inc who is changing the way museum-led projects are positioned within the digital economy. Now more than ever, change is at the heart of future. FutureEverything or future-anything – an endless stream of possibilities await us.
When you start considering the inverted model of the future already in the present, the definition of change is going to need to be altered as well. Change is no longer something that is going to happen or needs to happen but a process, where you find yourself in somewhat of a spectrum of change. Change is inevitable which means how you negotiate the terms is the result that forms your future. With talks from Matt Locke, Alexis Lloyd & Matthew Boggie, all of whom are reconsidering how storytelling affects the growing society, you quickly begin to realise that you as an individual matter, you as a person with an idea is the most treasured resource for the future to flourish.
Yes, of course there was data involved, everything is data now and we’re all data scientists to a certain extent. We are constantly analysing and quantifying ourselves be it as data sets, in emojis or by creating an inventive piece of art like Jer Thorp at MoMA. If you realise you are a sum of bigger parts, it becomes easier and more accessible to respond to your immediate environment in curating an environment that is designed to allow us to perform better as individuals. The big spaces that the conference covered; Memory and Identity, Ownership, Democracy and the Weird & Wonderful, are as diverse as they appear, and are all fundamentally revisiting their past counterparts on what they used to be. Are they defined by previous models of democracy, ownership, etc? Most certainly. Does that mean that they are bound by their past? Not in the slightest. The future of memory, ownership, democracy and everything in the weird and wonderful world of what lies ahead needs to come together to curate a future that is vaguely comfortable in posing uncomfortable questions.
And it was in these uncomfortable questions that the entire conference prevailed. Projects such as PUBliC, Dissolve, Touchback, THNGS and numerous other such experiments only went onto affirm that weirdness is a valuable commodity for the future. It is not in our “safe zone” to discuss our online identities, online dating and, other such questions around our social fabric. What do you need to do? Get uncomfortably curious so that answering your curiosities becomes the only true resolution. As Warren Ellis closed the evening with “if you ever wondered why there is nothing new these days, find a Postmodernist and beat the shit out of him” the church bells rang in affirmation, you could fall into dismay at the thought of not being able to create anything that’s new or we could pack our bags and set about a journey to redefine the new.
The Future is Now. So what? The Future is Here. So how do you wish to play with it? Needless to say, we packed our bags and began another journey, until FutureEverything 2016!
Bhavani Esapathi is a writer and speaker on digital innovation, future of museums & galleries and all things tech. She likes curating experiences for cultural audiences by creating unique digital experiments while building on the larger social narrative. You can follow her blog at Bhaesa and get a sense of her experiments by subscribing to The Bhaesa Times. Her most recent social innovation project Chronically Driven brings about real change to real people by telling real stories of those living extraordinary lives with a chronic condition. Drop her a hello on Twitter: @bhaesa.