From moon landings to media labs

Moon landings, new media, and black plastic frame glasses (iStock)This week marks the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing. I remember that event vividly: in my classroom huddled around a small portable television our teacher rolled in on a wobbly TV cart; those fuzzy pictures, the network anchors explaining what was going on in space with small plastic models, scenes of NASA engineers all wearing geeky black plastic-framed glasses ( which now have somehow come back into style). At the time as I sat there watching this incredible event happening, I thought that I was the luckiest kid in the world.

It was also the first major multimedia moment of my life. I remember my parents later talking about the TV in the classroom, and marveling about the opportunity that this new technology offered for my future. If only they had known how prophetic that conversation was.

Forty years later, and my kid’s classrooms are packed with electronics. The entire school is Wi-Fi enabled; every classroom sports digital video projectors, multiple computers, educational software, electronic digital wipeboards and multi-media sound systems. They are swaddled in communications technology in their school, and gifted with even more communication toys at home.

Their lesson plans are posted online; teachers’ blog sites reveal insights into upcoming tests; their text books come packaged with CD-ROM’s, jump drives and online “companion” texts. And much to their chagrin, their grades are posted online too, including any homework or papers that they failed to turn in the previous day.

Cut to, me in Interpublic Group’s Emerging Media Lab, surrounded by even more sophisticated communications technology. Digital billboards which recognize facial gestures, devices that respond to my voice and display at my command anything from the world’s stored data-base of knowledge on solutions I can carry in my pocket. And that’s only scratching the surface!

What a tremendous gift, to be entrusted with this space. I am now and always have been a boundless optimist in the face of new technologies. The phrase “early adopter” doesn’t seem strong enough to describe my attraction to all things new, shiny and emblazoned with flashing lights. My new offices make the NASA control room from the 1960’s look lame by comparison.

And I have this thought, this feeling that right now, in this place, armed with the power of all this technology, that I am still the luckiest kid in the world.

I think I will head out to purchase some of those geeky black plastic framed glasses.