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Connections by Design

You might have noticed something a little different when you picked up this issue of Wisconsin People & Ideas. It's true: we've had a makeover. Our new design is a little cleaner, with more visual interest and less superfluity, making the magazine, in my opinion, a bit more contemporary and accessible. While we've changed our cover and overall design for the interior of the magazine, you can still expect to discover within these pages the interesting people and innovative ideas that make our state great.

The changes you'll notice are largely cosmetic, but there is another, deeper philosophy at work that will guide the depth and breadth of our content in forthcoming issues. It is simply this: storytelling. Since the dawn of humankind, we have conveyed meaning to each other--connected with each other--through stories. We at Wisconsin People & Ideas want to find the stories behind the sciences, arts, and letters, in both rural and urban areas alike of our state, and deliver them to our faithful readers and Wisconsin Academy members.

We hope to guide further discussion of these stories with some elements I like to call next steps, which you will find peppered throughout the magazine. These are brief exhortations to act or comment on the subjects or ideas within a specific article. Many of these next steps offer suggestions that have to do with additional lines of inquiry or online discussions. Others connect directly to such other Academy programming as our Academy Evenings forums or the Wisconsin Idea at the Wisconsin Academy. We offer these suggestions because our magazine, much like other print journalism of the day, needs to do more--and with less--if it hopes to compete for attention with the video, online, and other kinds of digital content if it is to survive. And it is in the sharing and mingling of our thoughts with others who care about culture, nature, and the challenges of our times, that we find the most fruitful discourse, the most meaningful action.

While "digital content" probably isn't what you're looking for when you curl up with a good magazine or book (when asked about his preference, former Wisconsin Academy president Tom Boldt replied, "You won't catch me curled up in bed with my laptop-even if it is warmer than a book."), it's beneficial to maintain a balance between our commitment to the online world and the realm of print.

While the Internet has its uses, it isn't always the best forum for sustained thought, reflection, or discussion. Sometimes, print just feels right. For instance, in this issue of the magazine we contemplate the state of reading in our very own state, interviewing our preeminent priestess of prose, Lorrie Moore, and we offer up short reviews of some wonderful beach (or anywhere, really) reading by a diverse collection of Wisconsin authors, and highlight the work of the Wisconsin People & Ideas / Wisconsin Book Festival 2009 Short Story Contest winner.

But sometimes reading isn't enough, and the urge to connect takes us beyond the page. It's in this spirit of (non-online) connectivity that we've developed a new series of public Academy Evenings forums entitled, "Wisconsin 2050: Pioneering the Future." The impulse behind this series arrived during discussions amongst staff and supporters of the Wisconsin Academy. Hoping to get at the essence of what kind of public discussion would be most useful to the citizens of our state, someone put forth the questions, What is it that defines us as Wisconsinites? What are the key values or morals that shape us?

We very quickly realized there are those moments when something happens in our lives that change us forever. This event can be cataclysmic--the Great Crash of 1929 or September 11, 2001--or momentous--1969, when the Apollo 11 landed on the moon, or January 20, 2009, when Barack Obama became America's first African-American president. Large or small, these events affect how we govern ourselves, how we do business, how we are viewed in the world. And these events change the future, shaping the way we define ourselves as a people and influencing our values over time.

So, who will we be in the future and what are the events that will shape us? This is what we hope to discuss, with the help of some forward-looking thinkers, in our new Academy Evenings series. "Wisconsin 2050: Pioneering the Future" will reveal our state and world through the lens of the year 2050, allowing us to make some intelligent projections about our future based on current affairs, contemporary knowledge, and research by some of our best minds.

While we are certain our new Academy Evenings series will provoke discussion about the future of Wisconsin, we're hedging our bets by broadcasting it on portalwisconsin.org, Madison City Channel 12 (both cable and online), and on your local Wisconsin Public Television station. Look for the new Academy Evenings season schedule to appear in mid-August. In the meantime, visit wisconsinacademy.org to preview online and television viewing options. We hope you will join us in the forthcoming months and help to pioneer the future of your community—both local and statewide—by connecting with our Academy Evenings forums, or by simply curling up in bed with a copy of Wisconsin People & Ideas.

Contributors

Jason A. Smith is the associate director of the Wisconsin Academy and editor of the organization's quarterly magazine of Wisconsin thought and culture, Wisconsin People & Ideas.

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