Afrofuturism was coined in 1993, is entrenched in pan-African history but has everything to do with the future. Our overlooking digital access and equity is a newer part of an old conversation: Imagining a future of state of joy and justice.

That’s from the 2015 essay collection edited by Reynaldo Anderson and Charles Earl Jones entitled “Afrofuturism 2.0: The Rise of Astro-Blackness.”

Below I share a few notes for future reference.

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What should your city be in 150 years?

Spinning out of the THRIVING reporting project I’ve led at, I’ve hosted a pair of sessions imagining Philadelphia in 150 years. I hope to do similar longterm future-thinking here and elsewhere.

I’ve found helpful several books on longtermism and other community engagement experience of my past. This week, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an op-ed I wrote with my friend and collaborator Mike O’Bryan on the topic. I wrote this summer on the concept after our first session. (photos below)

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Predicting the future isn’t as hard as predicting when that future will come

On a long enough timeline, you might be right about plenty.

The cars might drive themselves. The software might generate itself. The transited American “inner cities” might become wealthy hubs segregated from poor inner-ring suburbs.

You could make predictions for days. Looked indefinitely, there are few trends I’d challenge. If a bet is a tax on bullshit, it’s not the idea I’d be as quick to challenge as the timing. That’s because, of course, it’s easier to predict the future than it is to predict when that future will happen.

Predicting the future is difficult because it’s easy to expect that future to look too similar or too different than the past. That stays tricky because

Look at predictions about 2019 that Isaac Asimov made in 1983. It’s difficult. But he just might have gotten the timing more wrong than the content.

It’s worth remembering that the very reason our memory can be faulty may be a consequence of our evolved ability to imagine a future.

(Photo by Naomi Tamar via Unsplash)

A conversation on building a maker community: Philacentrics

I’m thankful I was included in a salon-style dinner among a dozen Philadelphia city creative and philanthropic leaders at the historic Waterworks restaurant. The prompt for the conversation over dinner was the ‘maker economy.’

The discussion focused on Philadelphia but clearly the themes tie to a lot of cities around the world today: how do we build a broad future economy? The conversation was off-the-record, but there were a few topics interesting enough to be worth sharing without attribution.

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5 ways the world will change in five years: Non-Obvious Dinner

How will the world change in the next 5 years? That is the prompt for the annual ‘Non-Obvious Dinner’ organized by Jeff Rollins and Ben duPont, two entrepreneurship leaders whom I’ve come to meet in launching Delaware.

I was among 100 guests invited by the pair to the historic Wilmington Club earlier this month asked to arrive with an answer to that question. First, over dinner, we shared at tables of 10, and we chose the best at our table to present to the entire group, and one was chosen as the most interesting and believable way the world would change in the next five years. (here is another idea from someone who attended last year)

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Aspen Institute Roundtable on Local Journalism and the Public Square

How the fractured media landscape can come together in a ‘public square’ was a dominant theme of a roundtable conversation held last Thursday by the Aspen Institute in Washington D.C.

Along with fewer than 20 varied industry leaders, I heard the presentations of two new white papers from the institute, which are a follow up to the Knight Commission Report on Informing Communities.  This was the seventh in a series of roundtables.

There’s quite a bit that came from the morning session, but I wanted to start by sharing some initial takeaways on the presentions and subsequent conversation.

Norm Ornstein on Creating a New Public Square

  • Mid 20th century America created a public square with limited-choice network TV news and widely circulated newspapers. This featured ‘a common set of facts’
  • Future public squares may be varied, but there should be largely shared set of ideas.
  • This is a reason for partisanship today, a lack of shared perspective
  • Keep newspapers alive until business plans arrive — this could be seen through growth in tablet usage

Re-Imagining Journalism: Local News for a Networked World

  • If journalism was created today what would it look like?
  • $1 billion in federal spending annually on advertising, largely national, but that could be brought locally to grow public affairs on a smaller level

Questions I was left asking and interesting take aways I had:

  • The web has put a mirror to ourselves, and the web metrics question our belief in audience interest in our best product.
  • Aren’t social networks and other web-based tribes the future of the public square?
  • Can the need for heavy broadband infrastructure be someday trumped by advanced wireless technology for access
  • Steve Buttry: “We operate the only machine named in the Constitution” meaning newspapers

Why print will last so much longer than you think it will (hint: we can feel it)

Print is going to last longer than we might think because we can prove print in a way we cannot prove with digital.

Someone recently mentioned to me that in 10 years, we’ll still be predicting the death of newspapers. I think sitting here, in my office, looking at a copy of the Wall Street Journal that I stuffed into my pocket after finding it on a bench at the 2nd Street station in Old City Philadelphia, I believe that to be true.

Let me say something controversial: newspapers mean something more than news sites. Just like printed photographs mean something more than Facebook pictures.

Digital media still should amaze in their flexibility, utility and reach. But their printed counterparts are also still remarkable for all the reasons their future seem limited: they are inflexible, expensive and in-viral.

Continue reading Why print will last so much longer than you think it will (hint: we can feel it)

Stories that never ran: the Philadelphia workplace in five years

More than a year ago, I handled a half dozen interviews and a couple rewrites on a story for the Inquirer that covered what Philadelphia workplaces will look like in the future. As is sometimes the case, it never found its home in print.

The story’s primary timeliness has been lost, but I think it still has merit. So, with permission from my editor, I share it below, in addition to a slew of extras from the heavy lifting of reporting.

It was meant to be a localized version of a Time magazine cover story that caught my attention.

Below, read the story, see portions of my interviews that didn’t make it into the piece and watch some related video news pieces

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Payment for writers and journalists will continue to fall, positions reduced

I came across this dated quote from Clay Shirky:

“So forget about blogs and bloggers and blogging and focus on this – the cost and difficulty of publishing absolutely anything, by anyone, into a global medium, just got a whole lot lower. And the effects of that increased pool of potential producers is going to be vast.”

While I write here for free and have given a great deal of sweat equity to startups Technically Philly and NEast Philly without much monetary return yet, I’ve taken a fairly firm stand that I won’t write for free and don’t think other freelancers should, which happens to be my biggest beef with the Huffington Post.

But Shirky’s assessment (which came in 2004, I should add) and other conversation about the cost of writing brings up a topic that continues to weigh on my mind.

Continue reading Payment for writers and journalists will continue to fall, positions reduced

How some established journalists see the rest of us

The 21st century graduates of The Temple News:
The 21st century graduates of The Temple News at the 88th anniversary alumni reception: (Back from left) Andrew Thompson, '09; Chris Reber, '08; ; Alex Irwin, '08; Brandon Lausch, '06; Lucas Murray, '05; Christopher Wink, '08; Mike Korostelev, '09 (Second from back row) Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman, '07; Chris Stover, '09; Morgan Zalot, '11; Dave Isaac, '09; Anthony Stipa, '09; Kevin Brosky '10; Kriston Bethel, '10; Tracy Galloway, '10; Unclear (Third from back row) Brian White, '04; Holly Otterbein, '09; Leigh Zaleski, '08; LeAnne Matlach, '09; Jen Reardon, '10; Sherri Hospedales, '10; Stephen Zook, '10; Chelsea Calhoun, '10; Maria Zankey, '10; Brian Dzenis, '12; Shannon McDonald, '09; Sean Blanda, '08; Rachel Playe, '08; Brian James Kirk, '08 (Front Row) Brianna Barry, '08; Melissa Dipento, '08; Ashley Nguyen, '12; Malaika Carpenter, '08; Charmie Snetter, '07; Nadia Stadnycki,'06

You just aren’t doing everything you can.

It’s the seemingly unintentional, passive-aggressive jab that I sometimes get from older or otherwise more established journalists, writers and editors. Most often and in many ways, I’m sure the sentiment is pristine in its accuracy, often abutted by the never-to-be-defended-against “it takes time,” which, of course is always true.

But I can’t help but think what’s happened since, say, 2007 or even later, is something bigger that is changing the value of a lot of once rock solid professional advice for young and otherwise aspiring journalists, and making it awfully hard out there.

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