Exploring how social workers can increase their impact through futures frameworks – All content developed by Laura Burney Nissen, Ph.D., LMSW, CADCIII, Portland State University School of Social Work, Portland, Oregon, USA
What happens when you cross data science with feminism? Well – you get data feminism. Authors of a new book by this title Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein suggest that the way we approach data science, the way that we view, apply and understand data can be enhanced by careful examination of their (non-feminist) origins and that revisions to our thinking and methods for humanity are warranted. It comes out in March of 2020 – but reading the previews has definitely got me wanting more!
AI for Good – Is it Really?
I’m not sure I agree with each and everything in this piece but I really appreciate the effort to “complicate” the idea that “AI for Good” is just automatically so. In fact many of the challenges presented deserve careful, ethical consideration. I respect and appreciate this article. Here’s another piece that explores some of the same ideas with a slightly different flavor.
Everyone is using this phrase now…and folks are still arguing a bit about its accuracy. Here’s a great article that makes this case for its validity. I found the various categories to help us understand how your data, my data, everyone’s data is being used (not that I’m always a fan of this!!).
Thoughtful AI Requires Intelligent Human Participation
Here’s another review of a new forthcoming book called The Future Computed by Brand Smith and Harry Shum with some thoughtful ideas about a fast arriving future centering AI as significant driver. The discussion of potential AI-related job loss is notable, and the principles they assert (AI should be fair, trustworthy, transparent and controllable” are important.
I’m freshly back from the Institute for the Future’s 10-Year Forecast meeting. I’ll do a complete download in an upcoming post. It was, as always, a powerful, fascinating and engaging gathering. For now, here’s things I saw go by on Twitter that inspired, challenged and energized me. Hope they do the same for you!!
Special note: In the last few weeks, I’ve had occasion to meet a number of people who are regular readers of this blog. I just wanted to say that your stories of how you are using this material in social work/social work education spaces is deeply inspiring to me. THANK YOU for your feedback and your comments. Thank you for sharing, boosting an experimenting with these ideas in our shared mission to make the world a better place using new tools and frameworks. I also appreciate the ideas that you have for future social work curriculum, research and community development anchored in democratize futures principles. Let’s keep going and more to come!!!
I’m still exploring and learning about cryptocurrencies and how they might fit into the “future of the economy” story. This article says they are the future. I’m not endorsing this point of view – just sharing what I’m reviewing and learning.
As I write this blog post, California is experiencing yet another season of devastating fires…and other parts of our country, and our planet, are experiencing other significant challenges. It felt especially good to nurture some eco-healing inspiration with some finds from Twitter.
This is a regular blog post that I do to simply round up some signals that I see go by on Twitter and think might be of interest to my fellow travelers interested in topics related to social work, health, human rights, community well-being, higher education and other related topics.
Learn to Think Like a Futurist with IFTF and Coursera!!
The Institute for the Future is declaring the year 2020 the year of the future. In a beautiful and generous effort to “democratize the future” they are offering FREE futures/foresight training through Coursera. Check it out here!! This is information that has fueled my journey – IFTF has some of the inspiring folks globally teaching and guiding. Join in the adventure!!!
There is a new app called “Change Ed” that is promising to “revolutionize” student loan debt. Interesting idea – and good to see some innovation on this topic. Is this an answer? Not clear. Here’s another bit of media coverage. Much more needs to be explored. Worth a look.
There is a steady stream of news coverage exploring, imagining and predicting various futures of higher education. Here’s a new one from Quartz on their take on the Future of College.
Communities and Tech
As readers know, I’m a big fan of efforts to help social workers become more tech savvy and tech enabled in ethical ways. But this article promotes the “importance of citizen data scientists and how to support them.” Democratizing the processes and associated power of understanding and using data for the well-being of all is a future I can get behind. How about you?
As I did a brief search of this, I found very little that was U.S. based – which is not to say it doesn’t exist, but advocacy, policy and other guidelines are more prominently featured internationally.
Tech Ethics and Guidelines
What if we taught human rights law to software engineers? This article suggests that would be an excellent way to embed key ethical principles and related capacity for human rights protections into the software development workforce and ecosystem.
This book came out in 2017 but I’m just learning about it. “Twitter and Tear Gas” is a book about how social media is simultaneously changing, expanding and impairing contemporary social movements. A growing body of knowledge is emerging to study and chronicle how social media is changing patterns, methods and results of new types of communication tools in social change work. This is an important reference.
Ran across this certificate program that focuses on preparing people to become “regenerative sustainability design” practitioners. I don’t know a lot about it yet – but I found their materials inspiring and creative. Worth a look!
Hello friends – there are A LOT of signals flying around these days. Growing, working and learning in the futures/foresight space is NEVER a dull moment!! Here’s some signals I’ve run across in the last month.
Machine learning has learned to see through walls and in darkness. As always – we ask questions of ourselves and each other…how will this kind of technology be used, who will drive this use, who will lose – and what will vulnerability mean with potential increased use of this kind of tech? More social workers at the table means our ethics are at the table…and some of these questions will be asked.
The Institute for the Future has a new report out called “Connected Living” about increasing use of “smart items” that continue to grow and multiply in the world around us. How will these trends potentially change the way that social work is practiced? Or how will it potentially impact the lives of vulnerable people? As usual, this is a terrific tool to use with students to inspire different kinds of questions – and expand what “human behavior in the social environment” might mean in the future.
Future of Government
The group Nesta (in the UK) has prepared a really interesting publication that explores issues of trust, viability of government and general “future of government” kinds of issues.
I ran across a recent issue of the Journal of Community Practice devoted to the topics of “Ecosocial” work and community practice. It includes a terrific and engaging collection of articles that are relevant for social workers focused on climate change-anchored practice.
I guess we all know it is a particularly challenging time to be alive. It can safely be said that every single social work colleague I know, has also reported that the load is heavy. Here’s an article from the publication “The Grist” that gives us a window on 50 young activists who are changing the world in some way. It is powerful. It is inspiring. Let’s help each other stay fueled…all our work matters!!
Should universities be preparing students for the gig economy? This article says yes. And though we may debate this issue intensely. Certainly there will be value in finding pathways where students see ways for themselves to succeed in the future. Even if we’re not inspired by the gig economy – few would argue that we need to help our students prepare for the way the changing world of work is unfolding.
Inside Higher Education did a great overview of the “critical digital education” world and noted that some of the most important voices on the topic are coming from outside of higher education. There is a list of names with links to explore more. Their point is that those within higher education institutions face many challenges to approaching the topic with sufficient disruptive sensibilities – and that may be part of why higher education continues to struggle to innovate.
I thought this was a super creative article called “Seven Ways to Die in the Future” which does what a really good piece of futures writing should do…made me curious, made me laugh, made me cringe and made me think! Check it out and see if you find yourself in any of these scenarios…think twice as you journey into the future!!
Loved this particular article on augmented modernity. Thoughtful and creative provoking the reader to consider what kind of larger transition we are engaged in connected to technology and the role it plays in our life.
A couple of weeks ago, I did a tech round up on this blog, underscoring some of the most important ethical issues that are being debated right now in tech and science. This particular piece is a wonderful teaching tool…helping to empower students to “get to ethics” sooner as they move into the emerging workforce. How to interview a tech company? A guide for the ethically minded student
There have been lots of fascinating things (as always) floating around online to spur some new thinking and inspiration related to futures work and study!
If you follow this blog, you may know that I do regular posts about things I find that relate to areas of interest – future of government, well-being, social problem/solution-building, higher education, ethics in tech, and other related topics. You can scroll through some previous posts along these lines here. I curate this for those who are in my particular field of social work education – but also for others that may have common interests. This is a way that I personally/professionally track “signals” that I see, compare, combine and consider about what may be coming!
Excited to share that earlier this summer, I became a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, CA. I’m very intrigued and inspired by the work they do there, and the varied and diverse fields of practice that their team includes. My sabbatical should provide some needed time and space to delve into so many of the interesting projects and explorations they have in play. If you’re interested in learning more about them – they have a fantastic conference once per year (called a 10-year Forecast Summit). This year the theme is about the future of power…a timely and vital topic. Information about the gathering is here. I will be there!!
Intriguing, inspiring and important piece by the BBC on “the perils of short termism” as our planet’s greatest threat. This idea is frequently discussed in futures work – and in many respect – foresight is the opposite of, or anedote to, this limited set of perspectives.
Just finished reading “Fix the Future” by Andrew Keen. I liked a lot of things about it! Thumbs up. Here’s a review. Will probably do a review at some point.
Also just finished reading “Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code” by Ruha Benjamin. Huge thumbs up on this one! Will definitely be doing a review with strong implications for social work. I would go so far as to say social workers and social work scholars should run out and get this book ASAP. Important and significant implications for our work and scholarship. Here’s a review.
A few months ago, I did a review of the highly impactful book “The Future of the Professions” on this blog (which I continue to recommend to anyone who will listen). This past month, I had occasion to meet with an attorney who was most interested in the future of the legal profession and on her way to becoming trained as a futurist here in Portland. After getting together, I came back to do a little searching about what I could find to help her get started on her journey. Dr. Susskind is back at it with some specific scholarship and thinking about the legal profession. Here’s a talk he gave at Harvard Law School on this topic (from 2017), an article, and a review of a new book he’s written on the future of law and the legal profession. All of this has enormous implications to help other professions (and for the purposes of this blog – social work) understand how the changes occurring in the world are indeed changing and evolving professions, whether the professions themselves are attending to this or not. I found these resources to full of sparks, insights and linkages to lots of futures topics.
After a brief hiatus involving changing jobs (hello sabbatical!) and changing houses after 20 years (hello new house!), I’m back to share some futures items I thought were noteworthy from the past month – regarding topics I find important in my focus on the future of social welfare, higher education, the arts and more!
Amazon has announced that it is getting into the training business with some serious dollars invested in this quest. This is a short piece that lays out what is involved and the scope of their aspiration. While there are many corporate partnerships with higher education successfully operating, some express concern that this bypassing of universities altogether could be an emerging trend. What is the “purpose” of higher education beyond preparing folks to participate in the workforce? What is the difference between education and training? What is a future where folks are continuously trained but not educated? What happens to the idea of academic freedom, open inquiry, challenging multiple points of view or politically unpopular perspectives in such a scenario? These are some of the questions that such movement inspires.
Responding to challenges from its members, Pinterest (and numerous prestigious partners) recently launched a new service through its webpage to help users find resources to manage stress and anxiety. Interesting spin on “go where the people are” kind of approach rather than starting freestanding apps or services. Worth a look.
Quite interesting to read the UK’s recently released guidelines for “Data Protection Regulation” and imagine what it would look like if all countries operated openly, transparently with these such guidelines. Many countries are wrestling with this issue.