VITAL SIGNS: Spring 2017

Written by Hanson Hosein.

This fall, a 17th cohort of students will join our (as Anita calls it) “genre-busting” program. A record number of 92 Communication Leaders-to-be have accepted our offer – out of the largest, most competitive applicant pool in our 16-year history.

Many of these new Comm Leaders will be moving to Seattle from elsewhere. Presently, 57 people a day do exactly that – uproot their lives and cast their fortunes in what is now the fastest growing city in the United States. Our program’s growth is our region’s growth. We have found ourselves firmly situated in the “right place, at the right time.”

And what an interesting time it is. Our program’s original claim to fame was its pioneering focus on technology and media. And while it’s the technology sector that is propelling Seattle’s boom, Comm Lead continues to have its eyes set on a point beyond the current horizon, beyond peak smartphones and gadgetry.

Years ago, I used to teach from Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody, highlighting his observation: “the invention of a tool doesn’t create change…it’s when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound change happens.”

This is the “appliance-ification” of technology. We can’t live without our refrigerators. But we barely think about their utility today, despite the great impact they had when consumerized in the 1930s.

That’s not to say we should disregard the communications technology that is driving so much of that change right now.  One of tech’s foremost journalists, Walt Mossberg, just retired – but not before publishing his final column. I strongly suggest you read it. As Mossberg rightly points out, we’re on the cusp of the next “age”:

“We’ve all had a hell of a ride for the last few decades, no matter when you got on the roller coaster. It’s been exciting, enriching, and transformative. But it’s also been about objects and processes. Soon, after a brief slowdown, the roller coaster will be accelerating faster than ever, only this time it’ll be about actual experiences, with much less emphasis on the way those experiences get made.”

This age of “ambient” computing is coming. That presents both wonders and worries – along with a unique opportunity for us. Communication Leadership will certainly continue to explore and employ these emerging technologies. But ultimately our mission is to educate the storytellers and change makers who will catalyze meaningful, essential human connections in this not-too-distant future.

View other articles from the Comm Lead Alumni Newsletter, Spring 2017:
Of Course!
Sister Courses
Spring Partnerships in Bloom
All This Talk About Resumes

MollyVITAL SIGNS: Spring 2017
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