Nichola D. Gutgold | Technology guides communication

Editor’s note: This is the final column in a series running every Monday in March.

Phillip Abelson, a well-known former editor of the journal Science, who wrote more than 500 editorials on subjects that ranged from medical research to energy policies, noted that “without communication, there is no science.” He understood that the communication about the research was as important as the research itself.

It is how I feel about the Schreyer Honors College’s Shaping the Future Summit:. To echo the sentiment of Abelson, I believe that without communication there is no innovation.

The summit, which has been a yearlong series of compelling events tackling such big issues as the future of medicine, entrepreneurship and sustainability, is about sharing the promise of innovation so we can take on, as keynote speaker Peter Diamandis has put it, “the grand challenges of our society.” The summit is a coming together to imagine what the future will be, and it invites each one of us to play a part by helping to shape our own future and that of the world around us.

Before I joined the Schreyer Honors College, I spent more than 20 years teaching effective communication. On Tuesday when Diamandis takes the stage at Eisenhower Auditorium, a microphone will be the communication tool that helps him to make common his message of abundant innovation. Through the power of video technology, he will be broadcast not just to students at the 24 Penn State campuses or those enrolled in the World Campus but to anyone, anywhere wanting to be a part of this event.

When we think of the scholarly communication process, those of us who have worked our way through the promotion and tenure process of a research institution like Penn State are likely to think about the peer reviewed journal article. And why shouldn’t we? For many decades, and still today, the peer reviewed journal article has been the main method of sharing our innovative and scholarly work.

But in this age of digital communication when seeing a loved one is perhaps more likely to happen over Skype than it is over the dinner table, the notion of what it means to communicate is changing.

Our geographically dispersed Penn State community often comes together through video conferencing, and thousands of students will earn Penn State degrees without ever stepping foot on a Penn State campus.

This reliance on technology to connect us underscores the reality that scholarly, innovative messages are turning to technology to be heard. No longer is the printed page the main method of consuming and sending messages. Indeed, Diamandis tells us, we are living in an age of abundant communication.

This provocative programming needs your energy, enthusiasm and participation. We hope that Diamandis will have you thinking, talking and sharing your ideas, creating a ripple effect.

If you have read “Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think,” Diamandis’ exuberant look at what’s next for all of us, you have a sense of the optimistic view our keynote speaker has for the future. Indeed, we have computers in our pockets and daily updates on everything from dinner choices to prom dates via Facebook. Communication in the palm of our hands! Diamandis tells us that we are living in an extraordinary time and that technology is at the center of everything.

From our own daydreaming, reading, thinking, listening and sharing, we have, indeed, the chance to shape the future.

Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Eisenhower Auditorium, the Penn State community is going to come together for the Shaping the Future Summit. Will you join us?