Netaji gets a hologram instead of a statue. They say that the statue will take time to get ready. I get the need for statues, they represent permanence, a space in our memory, in sight so that memory does not fade. But I must admit to being very excited about the potential of learning via public holograms.

Holograms are a combination of the old and the new. They trigger the possibilities of combining old values and new ways. A hologram is a story told in lines of light. A beacon, calling us to pay attention to the story. (And to the tech that reminds us to craft our own stories.

Netaji up there today as a statue would certainly provoke conversation, even a lesson with a teacher in class. Netaji as a hologram instead of statue will build excitement. It’s new. It is now about technology. About building resilience. Sustainability. About philosophical conversations on change. And the notions of permanence. A hologram will provoke questions about ‘how’ and not just ‘who’. So much is started when we think beyond stone.

I would love to see so much more done with what has been started here. Many years ago, I started a project called Cities as Learning Aids. Public statues have traditionally been a part of learning. But bringing holograms to the public domain brings so much more than classroom AR/VR (augmented reality/virtual reality). A public demonstration of people, or even of progress using holograms is an incredible way of building engagement. To use hologram technology to embed learning in cityscapes would build a culture of learning that even our current definitions of smart cities lacks at the current time. Cities have always held stories, but cityscapes do not always call for engagement. This is where new technologies – now proved to be reliable and steady – such as holograms come in. Making public spaces build engagement with culture, with history and of course with science is waiting to be explored. I hope to see more of this.

For now, with statues and holograms, I’m thinking of simple things that bring awe, wonder, learning and discussion. I’d love to see statues of women in science, of poets, of thinkers and doers up there. I’m imagining a show, where the hologram changes every five minutes to a new leader, and a time when the passerby knows their stories. Of shows, of quizzes and games. Of laughter, and a mela around the stories of those who made today happen. When every story reminds us of what is possible when we bring the old and the new to reach out to each other. The stories of our leaders and thinkers are inspiring, and at a time when we need hope, every story raises us.

Public Learning is different from Public Education. These technologies are pivotal to the new world of hybrid learning. To engage across locations, in groups that go beyond those retained within school walls…to engage in public spaces that are inclusive and diverse – this is also what technology in education can deliver. Let the meta verse, and it’s versions not pull us back to their dark screens – bring learning technologies back to where they belong – the public.

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