Let me explain the thinking here, in the spirit of transparency I’ve been adhering to.
I selected the observatory metaphor for a few reasons. One is that it emphasizes just how much research is going on across these projects – i.e., there’s a lot of observing going on. We’re trying to observe the future ahead of time*. That also signals that this futures work isn’t purely speculative, but is grounded in plentiful evidence garnered from the world. “Observatory” also unites this pretty disparate projects – i.e., my articles and books probe the future in one way, FTTE in another, while the Forum uses discussion to get at what’s coming in another fashion, but they’re all looking ahead under that shared dome.
Moreover, the actual modern observatory is a shared, collaborative, and distributed entity. Multiple people share a physical site and mixture of infrastructures. Partners are sometimes virtual and/or asynchronously connected. Observatories are sites for all kinds of production, from popular science outreach to data to scholarly articles. This maps onto my work, because it’s not just “my work”. I partner with outside organizations (NMC, EDUCAUSE, etc.), crowdsource a lot of research, host conversations, and learn from other people continuously.
I was inspired by the use of the observatory metaphor around the world – curiously, not widely used in the United States. Examples include the International Observatory on Participatory Democracy, the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, and Tecnológico de Monterrey’s excellent Observatory of Educational Innovation. Note that all of these are collaborative, multi-modal projects.
Additionally, all of my projects were proceeding well on their own, but weren’t connected together too well. People found individual efforts, but missed the others. So this is a kind of synthesis.
I tried a new approach for creating a web project here, by quietly soft-launching the site a couple of months ago. This blog even hinted at it in September. I and others have been kicking the tires, making sure it works on multiple devices, and tweaking it without publicity. The idea was to get the thing working, live, in order to get it running before an “official” announcement. I admit to being a bit nervous about making a website in a very different style than I usually follow.
Two of the links aren’t active yet. That’s because they are to projects in process, and soon to appear. Announcements will come.
What do you think of it?
*Observing the future ahead of time actually reverses what astronomical observatories do. They perceive this history of the cosmos, which is especially evident as distances mount up. So my use of the metaphor, looking ahead rather than back, is a bit perverse.