The legendary head of the news division of the United States television network CBS, Fred W. Friendly, coined the term “Due to circumstances beyond our control, the broadcast originally scheduled for this time will not be seen.” He used this phrase in the late 1960’s upon the lower part of millions of television screens to alert viewers of significant change. He later described his increased frustration at not being able to intrerrupt an enteratinment television programme to broadcast more important news because his superiors valued entertainment over public service news coverage.
Each day I witness the term “Breaking News” crawl more frequently across the bottom of my twenty – first century television screen and I often sadly wonder how much more in the world must break before our entire society is ultimately broken?
To ease this alomost daily breaking of the old societal norms, I often imagine how the world may be re – purposed to try and future proof our most cherished institutions. There are three sectors of the Scottish economy that I believe would benefit from high level discussions by government, corporate and third sector leaders to insure not only that they survive but also thrive in the world that is changing all around us.
The first institution is education, where most of my career was focused. Our schools, colleges and universities are now engaged in urgent real time planning to determine how to safely educate their pupils. This may include having less face to face time between pupils and tutors and this will have repurcussions regarding space allocation upon their campuses. I wonder if, as some predict, up to fifty percent of future educational delivery is through on line technology, how these campus buildings may be re – purposed and re – used to better serve all of society?
One idea I propose is to expand the use of these valuable buildings by transforming them into Community Hubs offering health and hygeine support, providing adult education for retraining the soon to be displaced workforce, and community youth and adult recreation programmes. These campuses could become vibrant communal hubs for the improvement of health and hygeine, for developing the work force of tomorrow and for promoting physical and mental health through recreation.
A second sector that I believe will need to be re – purposed is commercial property. As more and more workers prefer to work from home and more employers embrace this idea, the need for commercial property used for traditional offices will continue to shrink. Therefore, one way to re – purpose these traditional office buildings is to transform them into sheltered housing for the fifty thousand or more senior citizens in Edinburgh who now require affordable accomodation. Many of these buildings are centrally located with excellent access to local surgeries, dentists, grocery and other shops and therefore may be ideal for transformation to provide a convenient home for our rapidly growing ageing population.
The third and final sector that I believe must be transformed is culture. I propose that our cultural institutions consider not only further expanding the dissemination of their treasures using technology but also perhaps consider offering our annual festivals on a biennial basis similar to the Venice Bienniale or the Manchester, England International Festival. Each year, one half the number of annual Edinburgh festivals could be offered on a rotating basis and be better supported by core government funding. This will improve the fractious relationship between local residents and their cultural leaders as well as create a better and more sustainable climate for tourists to visit our inspiring city. Perhaps more importantly, it will allow our festivals a critical two year planning cycle to be able to better prepare and deliver world class and ecologically sustainable programmes.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, each day becomes more and more riddled with anxiety and the potential of a dystopian future. I believe that one way we may over come our current individual anxiety and insure that our communal future is more secure is to begin reimagining our world as one that values creative solutions to age old problems. Therefore, we should never be afraid to create a better and more sustainable world for ourselves and future generations and to do this we must first be willing to ask difficult questions of ourselves and others. Once we ask these questions and receive the most plausible answers, then we will be better prepared to seize with both hands what could be a better future for all.