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  • 1.  A New Era

    Posted 04-28-2020 04:51:00 PM
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    We are at the dawn of a new era. Fifty years from now, when historians look back at 2020 they will conclude it was the end of one era and the beginning of another.

    Like 1993, which was the demarcation between the pre-Web era and the information-everywhere era we know today, 2020 will be seen as the year in which we discovered we can work together while being apart. Never before in human history have so many people around the globe worked together on shared endeavors without being in the same place at the same time.

    Virtual work has existed for decades, but has often been seen as a poor substitute for face-to-face work. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to work virtually, sometimes joyfully, sometimes grudgingly. We have learned and will continue to learn how to succeed (and fail) at virtual work, whether it is teaching, learning, researching, or serving others in our universities, communities, and global organizations like AIS.

    Prior to the rise of virtual work, we did not have words to describe working face-to-face (FTF), because there was no need-how else would one work? After 2020, will see new terms enter our lexicon? Will we describe meetings as webcam to webcam (WTW) to denote meetings over video? Will we create new terms to describe the many flavors of work that are not FTF, just as we Canadians have many terms for snow?

    Make no mistake-these are hard times. Colleagues, friends, and family are sick and we are losing some of them. We hope the worst is behind us, but only time will tell.

    Regardless, we will forge ahead. We are pioneers in new land, and like pioneers before us, we need to explore and experiment. We must try new things and cannot be afraid to fail, because we will fail. But we will succeed more than we will fail, and that is how we learn.

    The pandemic will end, and will leave behind a new set of technologies and social structures. We will have new customs and new ways of working that will persist long after the pandemic is a fading memory. In the future, we will more carefully choose how we work together, having learned that FTF is not the "normal" way of working together.

    I invite you to join us in this blog as we explore the new world. Help us document our pioneering by sharing notes and ideas here and elsewhere-perhaps at our conferences and in our journals. When our children and grandchildren ask what we did during the great pandemic, we will have a good, if still painful, story to tell.

    Alan Dennis
    John T. Chambers Chair of Internet Systems
    Indiana University
    Bloomington IN
    (812) 855-2691