In the last twenty years, technology has emerged that creates new possibilities for storytelling, creativity and creative education. Innovative and pervasive technologies have been developed, mobilising and ubiquitising computing and digital media.
The gap between the poor and rich of the world has been widening over the past few decades. Differences in health between social classes are becoming greater and the combined effects of social inequality and low socio-economic status are shown again and again to have a negative effect on physical, psychological, and social well-being of individuals. It’s not easy to escape intergenerational cycles of poverty and low socio-economic status, particularly when free market ideologies reinforce the idea that social inequality is a ‘natural’ feature of our societies. But social inequality is a problem that cries out for intervention and many international organizations, including the World Health Organisation, highlight the need for intervention in this context. Naturally, this requires a deep understanding of the dynamics at play, such that targets for intervention can be identified.
People sometimes talk about the need to bring academic disciplines together to tackle complex societal problems. It makes sense. Different disciplines bring different knowledge and methodological skill to problematic situations, and a good synthesis of this knowledge and skill can often help a group arrive at more effective and efficient solutions to problems. But there’s a problem with the general design of our education system: we generally don’t focus much attention on cultivating interdisciplinary skills and dispositions in students, and we generally don’t provide students with an option to receive an interdisciplinary education.
In his book, Societal Systems: Planning, Policy and Complexity, John Warfield (1976) — motivated by our inability to resolve societal problems — focused on developing methods to support our collective intelligence. Although Warfield was writing 40 years ago, in 1976, his words resonate today, in 2016:
“Examples of important societal problems abound – wars, crime, poverty, urban problems, regional problems, international problems, inflation, malnutrition, starvation, and disease. Experience shows how imperfectly we deal with these problems…Shortages impend in energy, food, water, affection, wilderness, knowledge, personal freedom, and wisdom. Excesses impend in pollution, population, crime, hatred, war, ignorance, and human suppression…Societal problems, being interlocked, challenge human ingenuity” (p. 1 – 3).
The future is uncertain. There is little doubt about that. Although scientific infrastructures, explanatory scientific models, open data platforms, and methods of predicting the future are constantly evolving, our ability to predict and plan for the future remains limited. But there is one certainty, at least: we will worry about our future. Our worry is understandable. We want to know what the scenario for our future is. How will the story play out for us, our children, our grandchildren, and all our many relatives? And if we have a tendency to think big, we might ask, how will the story of life on Earth unfold?
Story books for children have a long history and are universally valued by children and parents alike. Digital stories for children offer new ways to share stories and advance literacy skills in children. The production of a quality eBook often requires a team that includes authors, graphic designers, professional actors for custom narration, music soundtrack and sound effects, and editors and page layout designers for different devices and operating systems. In order to create quality eBooks, the design team benefits from an awareness of what key stakeholders value. For example, what do children, parents, and teachers look for and hope for when they open up their eBook? And if the goal is to design pedagogically valuable eBooks — books that foster literacy skill development – how do we design such books?
Millions of people migrate every year from rural to urban areas. At a time when most cities around the world are projected to experience exponential growth (United Nations, 2015), more work is needed to understand how the city environment influences happiness and health across the lifespan (see recent journal article here). The population of the world is growing, cities are getting bigger, and the ongoing environmental design challenges are immense. If we’re going to live in a city for the whole of our life—from childhood to old age—along with millions of other people, we need to think very carefully about how we design our cities.