The future campus: Disneyland, Woodstock, Soccer, or closed?

What´s the best way to see the future for the physical part of a university? How should a Campus look in a couple of years? These benchmarks reveal interesting options, don´t just knock them down. But sometimes we can´t wait. So, don´t miss this great opportunity. Decide instead on style, take action and keep them.

Demolishing buildings is easy, at least compared to building them. But to keep them, they have to be used, for something.

It’s already clear; time to start thinking about the future campus. Should we just sell them, transfer them into something different, perhaps apartments, or office-space, or just knock them down?

It’s obvious that more and more things a Campus-area historically provided can be done digitally. Why should a student, in the future, physically transport oneself to campus? Why should employees?

Most people that´s ever been to a campus have a similar opinion: socializing is the keyword, a side-product that ones evolved out off universities – note: not perceived as a core-product. Students meeting students, perhaps to study, or just to have fun, students meeting teachers, colleagues meeting colleagues.

“I´m traveling to Mumbai next week, sign up here if you want to meet for a coffee somewhere close to where I will be”.

MOOC-teachers interested in students already use

But … there already exist options for meetings and socializing. Not to mention social media, even dating sites. These options shows the level of competition for someone that wants to enter the business of socializing and meetings. These solutions are already used. Neither students nor employees are different from other people on the globe.

Historically: socializing was an interesting side-product for a campus delivering education, not the core-product.

But what´s the best way, best place, to do it today?
Starbucks: 33 000 stores in 83 countries.

Starbucks Coffee is a great place to meet and socialize. Perfect for small gatherings, like a seriously intellectual conversation.

They have great coffee, nice chairs, not the least; they play fairly nice music during your stay. Well, if we like it or not depends on what music we like.

I myself happen to know this pretty well. I had a long period of sitting at one of their coffee-shops writing a book some years ago – this one. I also had lots of meetings there. It was at the central railway station, perfectly located in the center of Stockholm. I was definitely not alone using this shop for that purpose. The only problem I had was: not enough electricity plugs. But I think they have fixed that issue now.

There is actually not any kind of coffee, any kind of chairs, not even any kind of music, at Starbucks. Starbucks spend time on these details, have done so for long. Get your own opinion by checking out Spotify and what playlists Starbucks have. Or, why not check out my own playlists, for instance this one I made in order to make it a bit more fun to read my book “Play it, well”, click; here.

That´s competition on the market for socializing.

Music enhance feelings, a reason for us to stay at a coffee-shop. But most universities don´t play music at Campus. Still; the right kind of music is perfect for supporting learning.

Really; why don´t universities play more music than they do?

When thinking in this way it seems obvious for Campus-areas, that in the future wants students, or employees, to physically come, have things to learn by bench-marking actors like Disneyland, the Woodstock-festivals, or maybe a big soccer-game between Barcelona and Madrid. That is; if they do not dare to benchmark a bit more radical cases, like what you can find here.

What can we learn from these benchmarks?

More than 700 million visits at Disneyland since the first theme park opened 1955.

Disneyland: very strong brand. A typical family-kind of thing.

But is that, really, what a Campus wants to become in the future? Well, why not? There is a huge numbers of grown ups interested in hanging around together with young people.

If being a bit old, it´s very difficult to find an excuse to have a serious intellectual conversation with a young person – actually, also the opposite goes.

If you would be a technical university: why not buy a technical Museum, and develop it? Lot of them are probably rather cheap to buy at this moment. Would be totally in line with for instance the maker spaces that some universities already have. But more could be done, much more.

Some museums are already great places for learning. MoMa in New York. The anthropology museum in Mexico City. The history museum in Taipei. The museum for photography in Stockholm.

Directly the day after a new legislation was introduced in Sweden, 2009, and actors like Pirate Bay could be forced to give out IP addresses of file-shares, the total web traffic for the whole country went down 30 %!

The point is; at a museum, we often find unique physical artifacts, that are seriously interesting. Difficult to digitalize, seldom a point in even trying it.

In my home town Stockholm there is a Technical museum we can visit and find the server that Pirate Bay ones used – the one that not that long ago totally messed up the global music industry. We can go there and knock on it, knocking on things are somewhat difficult to do when on-line. I have used it myself several years.

It does not matter if I bring CEOs or young tech-students there. I always here the same comment: “how small it is!” Exactly. That´s the learning-point.

-> Examples on how museums can be used to achieve great learning.

In August 1969 more than 400 000 people voluntarily traveled to dairy farm in Bethel; a town in USA with less than a population of 4500.

The Woodstock-festival: Also a strong brand – a world-known music event 1969. Just maybe a bit too messy.

But is that, really, what a Campus wants to become in the future? Well, why not? It could be like trying to make the existing Campus-areas a bit more lively than what they are today (maybe skip the worst parts of this analogy).

And notice: people that traveled to Woodstock obviously were willing to travel to a rather dirty old field, in nearly nowhere. Why did they? There was power and energy in Woodstock.

How come Burning Man has become so big during the last decade? People going there not only to consume, they create. Co-creation is a strong thing nowadays – a bit different from teachers perhaps doing one-way-broadcasting.

So, why should a Campus that is located far away give up? Being located far off could actually be great. Maybe even greater than to be located in the middle of an average city. Pick a place close to a nice lake. Or at the top of a mountain. Or, actually wherever. Just don’t pick a random place.

And then; turn up the volume.

Hundreds of millions of people yearly watch the El Clasico, when FC Barcelona and Real Madrid meet.

A soccer game then, perhaps Barcelona versus Madrid? Competition among rivals. Who is going to win? I am on Barcelona´s side and you are on the Madrid side.

Competition has a tendency of getting an audience. Like “Britain´s got talent“. Or old Colosseum in Rome. We love watching them fight. Like Wrestling.

The power among supporters is sometimes even so strong that it can become a business of its own. How come?

Campuses could be great places for energetic debates between intellectual giants. What kind of actor would be better suited for hosting such kind of events?

Why has TED become big? It´s just 15 minutes of somebody speaking to us.

Well, it is not “somebody” doing it. But, still no debate.

I really can´t see any reason at all why these benchmarks should not be of interest for a Campus at this moment. Seriously analyzing them could instead be a great management-consulting advise.

2018 Stephen Hawkings wheel-chair was sold for close to 400 000 USD. Pict; Hawking at his home-university, Cambridge.

And how should a Campus in the future be able to afford to keep up otherwise? The nice flowers, and great lawns, and the old, often rather nice, buildings they have are actually rather expensive just to keep. Would it not be somewhat sad just to close them down in the future?

Also remember; far from all universities on the globe are like Cambridge or Oxford in UK, places we already today travel to. And why do we?

Well, we travel there if we want to get the feeling of “an Apple falling on our head”, Isaac Newton. Or, we do it to sit at the same pub, even at the same table, as the ones that “invented the DNA”, Crick and Watson. Or, perhaps we do it to bicycle there and remember “the scientific wonders of Stephen Hawking“.

Tivoli in Copenhagen opened already 1843, the third-oldest operating amusement park in the world.

Or, why not try the Tivoli at Copenhagen as a benchmark instead? Their lights during Christmas time is unusually great just to watch jointly with others. They also provide unique food, Danish Smörrebröd. It’s a lovely place to be during that time a year.

The only problem I have with this Tivoli as an analogy is: they only light it during the Christmas. So, what shall we do with such kind of Campus during the rest of the year?

Please start getting to know examples like this, before it is to late. Start thinking in these terms and take the idea of socializing and meeting a bit further then just naming it.

People without buildings make sense.

For how long does buildings without people make sense?

But how about libraries and the old tech-labs? Well, then I guess it was some years since you previously visited a campus…

Libraries of today are already digital. A lot of techlabs, like windturbines, steel cooking-equipment and mechanical drilling machines, are already gone. Today, lot of research is just digitally simulated – laptops.

An average university of today, physically speaking, is just rather similar to an ict consultancy firm with classrooms on top, and that´s it. And now, we can observe that also the classrooms gradually are becoming digitalised. That fact … is a big thing for a university. It´s even a seriously huge thing. Well, if you want to keep them that is. Not everyone actually wants that at this moment.

Perhaps fewer than we think believe that Campus areas, as such, are important today.

Why not then make them important?

Share perhaps this post with someone that also would find it a bit sad just knocking down campus-buildings a couple of years from today.

4 thoughts on “The future campus: Disneyland, Woodstock, Soccer, or closed?

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