“The first, the fast, and the least reluctant to change will succeed”: Interview with Saskia Van Uffelen, Digital Champion for Belgium, Part 2

Saskia Van Uffelen is the Digital Champion for Belgium, tasked with promoting the benefits of digital society as part of the European Commission’s efforts to ensure every European citizen acquires the digital skills they need to remain productive, employable and enfranchised. After a career encompassing roles at Xerox, Compaq, HP, Arinso, Bull, and Ericsson, she is currently Corporate Vice President for the French group GFI, supervising developments in the Benelux countries. Saskia is also the author of Dare For Tomorrow: Leading, Working, Learning, and Living in a Digital World. You can read the first part of our interview here.

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As Digital Champion, you have an interest in the future of the public library, an institution which is also very dear to my heart. The social changes you’re describing will have an impact on our civic information institutions, and the context they operate in.

You’ve said elsewhere that, “If anything has remained the same in your organisation (culture, processes, eco-systems), it will simply not work anymore. You need to adapt your company and your culture. Adapt or die.”

Are libraries too prone to thinking about what used to work, instead of looking strategically to the future and to forces outside their sector?

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“We have stretched our society to breaking point…These issues are the responsibility of all of us”: Interview with Saskia Van Uffelen, Digital Champion for Belgium Part 1

Saskia Van Uffelen is the Digital Champion for Belgium, tasked with promoting the benefits of digital society as part of the European Commission’s efforts to ensure every European citizen acquires the digital skills they need to remain productive, employable and enfranchised. After a career encompassing roles at Xerox, Compaq, HP, Arinso, Bull, and Ericsson, she is currently Corporate Vice President for the French group GFI, supervising developments in the Benelux countries. Saskia is also the author of Dare For Tomorrow: Leading, Working, Learning, and Living in a Digital World.

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The crises of 2020 have moved many aspects of our lives online, not always without complications. I started by asking what this year looks like from the perspective of Belgium’s Digital Champion.

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Future health: Oslo and the ‘a-ha’ moment

Our University of Oslo scenarios for the future of schools, out this week, surfaced health, and perceptions of health, as a battleground between parents and institutions in the education sector of 2050.

This was an “a-ha” moment for university researchers seeking new issues to explore around the digitalisation of education.

In scenario planning, we don’t aim to predict the future, but rather to generate plausible visions which can usefully inform present-day decision-making.

The future stories we create together are intended to highlight issues and drivers which exist in the present; the future scenario can then be set aside in order to focus on the issue at hand.

For the Oslo education researchers, a world in which parents and institutions warred over children’s health in a heavily-surveilled society – bickering with ‘the algorithm’ even over when to wipe your child’s nose – highlighted the extent to which their research should explore questions of health and wellbeing.

Today, in the Norwegian news, we see a parent-led Facebook group urging the city to close schools while the municipal authorities maintain that there is no reason yet to do so.

The campaigners argue that if businesses are sending staff home, then young children – who are less able to follow guidelines on infection control, like coughing into your elbow – should certainly go back to their families too.

Questions of distance learning, and education via screens and digital devices, may be sharpened by the current pandemic – even for the youngest children.

How will coronavirus affect the way we teach and learn, in the short and long term? Could it impact even the youngest children, irrespective of whether they contract the disease?

Good foresight work can help communities, institutions, and individuals navigate such turbulent and uncertain situations. You can read more about the Oslo education scenarios project here.

New strategic plan for Supreme Court Library Queensland

I’m pleased to announce the publication of one of my recent projects, the new five-year strategic plan for the Supreme Court Library of Queensland, Australia (SCLQ).

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Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law, Brisbane by Wikipedia user Kgbo – CC BY-SA 3.0

The project, which ran through 2018 and early 2019, comprised research, interviews, survey and workshop design, plus co-writing the finished plan with Supreme Court Librarian David Bratchford.

Researching and writing the plan gave me the opportunity to explore one of the most fascinating and challenging sectors of the information profession – the law.

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Politics and youth participation in the digital age – interview with @PhilippaCollin, pt.2

On the blog this week, I’m joined by Dr. Philippa Collin, a Senior Research Fellow at Western Sydney’s Institute for Culture and Society. Read Part One of this interview with Philippa on political, participation, youth engagement and the digital world here.

How does your role contribute to discussions around youth engagement – and activities which bring young people together with different institutions and organisations?

In the last few years I’ve been involved in large-scale, cross sector engaged research initiatives that bring together young people, industry, community, policy and academic partners to collaboratively identify, design and undertake research on a range of issues such as youth mental health, engagement, employment and online safety.

In this work I’ve been a strong advocate for participatory approaches and thinking about how to be inclusive of young people’s views – from agenda-setting about what gets researched and the terms of inquiry, through to translation and application of research findings. I hope I’ve had some influence!

My most recent project has involved collaborating with eight colleagues at WSU to run a Young and Resilient Living Lab Foundation Project. We brought together 100 participants over five workshops to co-create a community and an agenda for engaged research to inform technology-based strategies to promote the resilience of young people and their communities.

Fo us, resilience should be understood as the capacities to transform the conditions of social life – achieved through ongoing processes of individual and collective receptivity and responsiveness. Read more

Politics and youth participation in the digital age – interview with @PhilippaCollin, pt.1

On the blog this week, I’m joined by Dr. Philippa Collin, a Senior Research Fellow at Western Sydney University’s Institute for Culture and Society. Philippa is a social scientist who previously worked at www.reachout.com, the world’s first online suicide prevention initiative aimed at young people. She researches the role of digital technology and media in young people’s lives, including a focus on political participation, identity, and exclusion.

Portrait of Dr. Philippa Collin
Dr. Philippa Collin

I hear a lot of concern from public institutions about the notion of “making better citizens” right now. Political upsets, fear of ‘fake news’: the powers that be are concerned about the nature of citizenship in the digital age.

Institutions could adapt their structures to meet the needs of people they perceive as “disengaged”. Or, instead of the institution adapting, they might try to help people develop the skills & capacity to engage with existing structures.

What pitfalls are there for organisations seeking to engage the (apparently) disengaged?

I come from a community of scholars who have actively argued against the normative framing of ‘politics’ and ‘participation’. For example ‘politics is about what happens in parliament’ and the ‘good’ forms of participation are to vote, join a party or get involved with set activities or processes – usually all designed by adults! Read more

This Digital Life @usqedu @thewritplatform: Mums, Dogs, and Inmates

The Writing Platform has published my three-part series on the work of Australia’s Digital Life Lab, an academic unit at the University of Southern Queensland exploring our experiences of the digital world.

Part 1 in the series, “Mums“, looks at fake news, parenting decisions, and the information world of new mothers on social media, as researched by social scientist Kate Davis.

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Part 2, “Dogs“, follows researcher Ann Morrison’s investigations into animal-computer interaction, teasing out the implications of a world where animals and digital devices interact without a human intermediary.

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Finally, part 3, “Inmates“, looks at digital engagement in remote communities – principally the Australian prison population – through the lens of two projects: the Shakespeare Prison Project and Digital Life Lab’s ‘Making the Connection’ initiative, led by Professor Helen Farley.

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Find the whole series here at The Writing Platform.

 

Artists Ettamodern & Scribbletronics visit University of Southern Queensland

As part of this week’s Astronomy Festival at the University of Southern Queensland, we’re joined by Melbourne artists Wendy Catling and Peter Miller, aka Ettamodern and Scribbletronics.

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Wendy is an artist, designer and teacher who employs light to create works on paper and fabric – particularly blueprint-style ‘cyanotypes’. Her prints are held in the collections of Warrnambool Art Gallery, the Australian National Gallery, and private owners.

Peter is a composer, sound designer, and audio-visual artist whose work includes sound design for films The Ring and Rango and additional design for Mad Max: Fury Road, as well as a sound installation in the Qantas first-class lounges in Sydney and Melbourne.

I’ve previously worked with Ettamodern and Scribbletronics on the Time Travel Detectives roleplay, which was built around two of Peter’s digital artworks. This children’s event blended steampunk adventure, optical illusions, and tablet technology to help kids explore Australia’s past and the scientific method.

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On this visit, Wendy and Peter will join USQ staff, students, and the wider community to explore new opportunities to work at the meeting point of art, science, and community engagement. Find out more at the University of Southern Queensland’s website.

Everyday Stories and Creativity: Regional Queensland and Transformative Technology

I joined forces with Donna Hancox, Director of Research Quality in Creative Industries at Queensland University of Technology, to talk about the impact of digital technology on rural and regional Australia.

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You can read “Everyday Stories and Creativity: Regional Queensland and Transformative Technology” over at The Writing Platform.

A Quick Chat About The Digital Future

In my final week with the State Library of Queensland, I managed to squeeze in a short discussion about what digital technologies might mean for communities in rural and regional Australia.

I spoke with Donna Hancox of Queensland University of Technology and Tyler Wellensiek, who works on coding & robotics initiatives for the State Library of Queensland.

Check it out: