I graduated in 1979 as part of the first graduating class from Irvine High School in Irvine, CA. I am pleased to say that for the most part, I left the place in the rear-view mirror and, except for a few scattered moments of weakness, have not entertained any desire to return.
However, despite the thorough unpleasantness that occurred to me there (I’ll describe that another time), there were some very excellent moments. One happened in February of 1978, when the then Governor (and now current Governor), Jerry Bown, along with the Superintendent of Schools, Wilson Riles, came to visit. Irvine High was chosen as one of the host cities for the PIRS conference – Project Interactive Regional Satellites. The idea was to allow schools to have two-way satellite time for real-time video communication. The highlight was a conversation between Brown and futurist Marshall McLuhan.
It would have been nice if we students could have had a chance to speak, but it wasn’t on the agenda. Still, this was a groundbreaking moment. Imagine – schools talking, sharing instructors in real-time across the country using dedicated closed circuit channels.
Four months later, Prop 13 hit California and blew this up. It was nice while it lasted.
Author D. G. Speirs conducts a teleconference with students at North Lake Middle School in Lake Stevens, WA. 10-12-2017, Photo : D. G. Speirs
Fast forward to today. I spent the better part of two hours answering questions from fifty students at North Lake Middle School a continent away using technology McLuhan could only dream of, helping them understand the nuances of writing and performing a monologue, all with brighter sound and a bigger picture than McLuhan and Brown had then. I have to marvel, because what was a VBD two generations ago (think of the intellectual and political firepower involved) was NBD today. The teacher and I arranged this in a week, and we popped in and out using existing off the shelf hardware and free software (Google Hangouts) for this
The kids have lined up a dozen deep to read my Triangle books in the library, some are also beta reading the Hex manuscript as well. I’m available to review and comment on any of their monologues. Most of all, we had fun. Media itself as the message? Perhaps. Seems more Aldous Huxley than McLuhan. But it definitely is taking what I saw four decades ago for granted now. Brave new world indeed.