Looking at the world through a different lens

by John Mahaffie on November 13, 2007

Nokia’s Jan Chipchase travels the world, exploring often subtle cues in societies, and taking pictures of them. His blog Future Perfect, is a marvel to look at. It often is not clearly meaningful at first glance, but there’s always something to ponder. He doesn’t explain everything, you have to do your own thinking, but he can add a dimension to your understanding of different settings and societies. Chipchase is part of Nokia’s comprehensive effort to explore societies and lifestyles on the ground, country by country. Few companies have invested as much as Nokia has in doing this. A few months ago, I noticed that a couple of Chipchase’s pictures looked familiar. He had been in my neighborhood, near the subway entrance, and had photographed a sign warning of neighborhood police surveillance. His visitor’s view gave me a new view. My city is now heavily surveilled by the police and probably multiple Federal agencies, since I live in Washington, DC. We are building communities that are closely monitored by technology. What will that become in 5, 10, 20 years? Will there be people-focused, positive capabilities? Is it all just an emerging police state? Does it change social behavior, expectations, the sense of a right to privacy? It surely does.

Even in your own neighborhood, you can try to open a different pair of eyes and perhaps discover something new—a clue to change, and a clue to the shape of the future.

Chipchase sees the world through a distinct lens—his way of looking at things, and through his camera lens. It’s a different way of exploring the landscape—especially distinct from analyzing aggregate evidence of trends and change.

It’s easy to bring a camera most everywhere you go. You may see something that merits a picture, a picture you can look at later, try to interpret, share, and communicate with. There are no pictures of our future, but a picture from today can powerfully capture an insight on change that’s unfolding now.

Update: Please see also this special page on environmental scanning.


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