I was so honoured to be recognised with an Order of Australia in this year’s Australia Day Awards. I see it as a big responsibility. By Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell
An Order of Australia is a recognition of services to this nation, and for me it is also a call to action to support and welcome and bring forward into conversation the many and varied voices in this country.
I am incredibly grateful to the many people in my life who supported me as I have tried to drive this kind of change including my mother, Diane Bell, an anthropologist of renown and a trail blazer throughout her life. My extended family and network of friends and colleagues over a twenty plus year career in the United States are also happily continuing their support and encouragement of me which has been invaluable as I embarked on a new set of roles in Australia.
My mother raised me with one pretty simple principle: if you could see a better world, you were morally obligated to help bring it into existence. That you should put your time, your energy, your passion, your intellect, your heart, your soul, everything on the line. You shouldn’t sit on the sidelines, you should actively advocate for the world you wanted to see, and that world should be one that was better for many, not just for you.
Twenty years in Silicon Valley has left me with the distinct sense that we need to keep asserting the importance of people, and the diversity of our lived experiences, into our conversations about technology and the future. Since returning home to Australia in 2017 and establishing the 3A Institute at the Australian National University, I have been increasingly struck by the complicated dance of being human in this world I was helping make digital and what we could and should be doing differently.
This past summer has consolidated my concurrent fears and feelings that more and more urgently we need to consider our impact on this planet, its ecology, biodiversity and climate. And how we build our technological future must engage through every decision, with this reality.
As the ABC Boyer lecturer in 2017, I suggested that it was time for another conversation about our digital and data-fuelled future. And now, I think it is time for yet another conversation. Or perhaps to extend that conversation. About our possible human, technological and ecological futures and about the world we might want to make together.
We need to start that mission, right now, right here. In this beautiful continent many of us call Australia.
I want to also congratulate the other amazing recipients of awards this year. In Australia, what is “business as usual” has completely changed. I am taking that forward into 2020 and beyond. For more on my thoughts on this, see links below.