DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5860-8.ch008
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The #SocialIT layer of the STEMcell Model is visualized as a layer surrounding and penetrating the other layers to interact directly with the individual core. It represents the seismic transformations where technology underpins and transforms the future. Six drivers most likely to shape the future workforce are highlighted in this chapter: longer life spans, a rise in smart devices and systems, advances in computational systems such as sensors and processing power, new multimedia technology, the continuing evolution of social media, and a globally connected world. Specific tools and potentials of #SocialIT are discussed, including big data, augmented reality and wearable technologies, crowdsourcing and the new ways for people to meet and collaborate, rapid changes in technology fracturing generations only a few years apart, and the social, educational, and career implications of substantially extended active lifespans. The #SocialIT layer implies that future programs, projects, and activities should be developed by tapping into this shifting technological landscape and actively using the tools and platforms. However, the deeper meaning is that what is happening naturally is going to rapidly overtake anything we can plan based on the present.
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We are clearly living in a period of huge transformation – technological, social and economic, and while we can’t know exactly what the future holds – that is we can’t predict the future, neither can we assume that today’s choices and assumptions will be relevant tomorrow. – Marina Gorbis (2012), Institute for the Future



Castells’ (1996, 1997, 1998) Information Age trilogy was an early herald of the shift toward a world built on technology and interconnections. He argues that technology can “unleash the power of the mind” and hence dramatically increase individuals’ productivity. He examines the social dynamics of production, power and experience, how they inter-relate, and the dynamic of the self and networks in a continually changing culture. This leads to the argument that “The Information Age, The Age of Consumption, and The Network Society are all perspectives attempting to describing modern life as known in the present and to depict the future of society. As Castells suggests, contemporary society may be described as ‘replacing the antiquated metaphor of the machine with that of the network’” (Aragon, 2013).

That conclusion may be overstated: the network and the other technologies we depend upon are built on machines and rely on their power and precision. But we cannot doubt the transformative power of those technologies. Thus the Institute for the Future (www.iftf.org) identifies six drivers most likely to shape the future workforce (Tandon, Pritchard, Savelieva, Smith & Vogt, 2012):

  • longer life spans

  • a rise in smart devices and systems

  • advances in computational systems such as sensors and processing power

  • new multimedia technology

  • the continuing evolution of social media

  • a globally connected world.

In a similar vein, Scoble & Israel (2013) declare a new era they have tagged as “age of context” and report five converging forces that “promise to change virtually every aspect of our lives: Mobile, Data, Sensors, Location Based Technology and Social Media.”

The IT sector clearly underpins this future, both as underlying infrastructure and for the creation of devices and smart apps. The importance of IT in the future is reflected in the Europe 2020 strategy establishing Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as a core element for five of the seven flagship initiatives to promote growth in the European Union: the European Platform Against Poverty and Social Exclusion, An Agenda for New Skills and Jobs, Youth on the Move, Digital Agenda for Europe and the Innovation Union (European Commission, 2013). Whilst these initiatives primarily focus on digital inclusion (access, skills/competencies and use) they are enablers and clearly underpin the future.

The Institute for the Future (2013) identifies a curve of incumbent practices that will slowly decline over the coming century and a second curve that will rise to shape our new human enterprises. Further, they anticipate interplay between these two curves, as second-curve innovations provoke first curve reactions, which in turn initiate adjustments in the second curve. Thus there are forces already in play, such as rapid changes in the technological landscape, continued evolution of social media and the prospect of life extension, which are rebuilding social constructs and will significantly change our ways of thinking and doing. Translating that into the context of this book, the first curve is the traditional way of thinking and acting for addressing the “problem” of declining representation of women in technology studies and careers, while the second curve is the disruptive new way of thinking and doing that is represented in the #SocialIT layer of the STEMcell Model.

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