Tuesday, December 31, 2019

What will our future be like?

Have you ever tossed a coin? I had a friend’s Dad who was a big proponent of this form of adjudication. He’d toss it up in the air. Like a film, time slowed. I watched the coin turn and turn as it flew. Quick hands clasped and then covered the coin. Finally, the reveal and the answer. Head! (or Tails!). He never did it for anything that matter, because middle schoolers rarely allowed Dad’s to decide anything important. But I still remember watching the coin, and wondering, and waiting. In some ways, that’s what the end of 2019 was for me. I’d poured through the various comments on the questions I asked for your predictions of the next decade. But the responses depressed me. Really bummed me out, depressed me. As Susan Spero reminded us, in 2029, our current 12-year-olds would be graduating from college. What would our field be like for them as they go into the work force? Though when I read Susan’s tweet, I did wonder how many people at 22 can get hired at a museum in anything but a part-time job. Think about that. My first reaction was that in ten years we’d still expect graduate degrees to do entry level jobs. Not a very optimistic look at the future of our field. I’m not alone with a jaded attitude toward our future. When polled, many people thought working in the field would feel much the same.
I think the general mood in the field is ambivalence. There are moments of hope, like the work of MASS Action, and then plenty of problems like the Marciano Foundation's closure. There is plenty of good and plenty of bad, and we don't know if as a field we should call heads. The path we take is not completely our choice; though we all have more choice than we might imagine. In trying to make sense of everyone's tweets, I decided to do some preparatory reading. Dear readers, I value you all, but I rarely read 1 book let alone two as source reading for a post. :> First, I read The Optimist's Telescope by Bina Venkataraman, a book about the challenges of predicting the future. In essence, the book said our present grounds so wholly as to bias our predictions of the future. I moved on to The Drunkard's Walk by Leonard Mlodinow, which basically tells me chance is as likely a force in our life as choice. I'm not sure either book helped me write the post, but they did remind me I can only be wrong in the predictions I offer. So what will our future look like? If we toss heads, we'll end up with a landscape very similar to what we have. Many predict there will be more museums:
We'll still be enamored with technology:
We might toss the coin, though, and win. I asked us what our most ardent wish for the field would be. That offered so many positive and exciting possibilities for our future. Mimosa Shah shared her ideas of an inclusive field:
And, many people who took the poll thought our audiences would be more diverse:
This diversity doesn't mean more of everything though. Our leaders have learned to prioritize. We do less better, as Matt Tarr and Susan Edwards suggest:
In short we move from lip service to action, as Scott Stulen suggests:
How do we do this? First, museums start repositioning themselves:

And, they have the money to make these positive changes: The thing I realized as I read those books about the future and how choice and chance interact is tomorrow is always the future. Tomorrow at work you can make choices that make the field a bit better. Every day, you have the opportunity to pivot this field toward equity. Every person in every organization can choose to try to change things. I'm not talking change-maker level stress. I just mean the little choices. You can try to explain your reasons for your choices. You can listen to other people's reasons. You can choose to reply to your staff member's emails. You can choose to smile at your colleagues. You can choose to find ways to create the middle ground. We are all working on the future of this field, every day. As Mar Dixon reminded me, we've been building this future for the last decade: We are the future. It's not up to one giant coin toss. Our future is a million little actions. Our best intentions are useless, but our so-so actions are everything. Any action toward good moves this ship toward a future I want to see. We are charting our course every day. I want to be going toward a positive future. With all of steering this ship, I am optimistic we can get there.
blog comments powered by Disqus