I’ve done a couple of talks in Sydney recently both of which finished with the idea I’m about to relate. (The talks were the closing keynote at Web Directions South, October 2009 and a talk to the Planning Institute of Australia around the topic of ‘creative cities’, February 2010. The images below are slides from the presentation.)
It’s not a detailed, analytical, thoroughly-researched idea, as will become all too clear. Rather, it’s a way of thinking about Australia which is intended as a prompt and provocation as much as anything.
It was partly inspired by reading Jacques Attali’s patchy but intriguing book A Brief History of the Future (2006). In a thoroughly entertaining and insightful rattle through human history, Attali implicitly suggests that the story of civilisation can be punctuated by observing the dominant oceans at any one time. In very broad brushstrokes, the emergence of what would become mercantile activity starts in Mesopotamia and ends up in a fabrication lab in Shenzen. Grand narratives such as Attali's are often problematic, but that doesn’t stop them being interesting and useful to think with.
With that in mind, I decided to end Web Directions South in particular on a rallying call. It’s worth bearing in mind that no-one asked for such a rallying call, and thus its effect may be somewhat limited accordingly. Equally, that particular platform is hardly the place to ‘launch’ such broad ideas. But they didn't seem to mind.