Thursday, August 28, 2014

Uniting Analogue and Digital

This week I had the privilege of visiting Taupaki Primary School in a rural area just outside Auckland.  I was invited by a friend who is on the school board, who said, 'you've got to see our 10-12-year olds rapid prototyping and digital printing their own design projects.'  

Wow! It was worth it!

Principal Stephen Lethbridge is a true visionary who has brought technology to the School, but also and perhaps more importantly sees technology's role in uniting parents and children, parents with the School and the school with the community.

Here's how:

The thing that struck me was that the digital innovation was clearly present (Stephen's office looks like a cubicle at IDEO), the 'analogue' world was equally represented and celebrated.  There was a school garden and the workshops were still producing bird houses.  Stephen emphasised that he sees the analogue and digital worlds both very necessary and he works to unite the two.

For example, when I visited what looked like a 'home ec' (home economics) classroom, there were sewing machines that reminded me of similar classrooms from my high schools days many years ago.  But, the teacher, Kim (whom Stephen hired via Twitter) who, having spent time working in London, came home and studied teaching technology.  Kim pulled on a glove that had been sewn by one of her students.  With Stephen applying a battery charge to the leads, the glove lit up with tiny LED lights.  The project these 11-year olds were working on was a bike safety challenge--designing clothing to make riding a bicycle safer (riding a bike is incredibly dangerous in Auckland).  Analogue glove meets digital lighting!

Taupaki School is currently on its third generation of digital printers, whereas I doubt that my Business School owns one digital printer.  That is the scary part of this visit, to think about how we are going to challenge these students when they arrive at the University in a few years' time.

The recurring challenge for educators at all levels is to not lose touch with or appreciation of the physical, analogue world as we embrace the digital frontier.

Updated 23 November 2014

Here's what management consulting firm BCG says about the intertwinement between the physical/analogue and digital worlds in their fascinating project called, Now is The Time.  In their 4-dimensional report, BCG walks their talk by presenting analysts' commentary in text juxtaposed with photographic imagery.

"The Two Sides of Connectivity. Companies live in a multichannel world of bits and bricks, and they need to be masters of both. The physical world is being remade through massive spending on infrastructure. About $40 trillion in infrastructure spending will be required over the next two decades – rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure of mature markets and constructing new roads, railways, airports, shipping stock and telecommunications networks in emerging markets.
Digital technologies, meanwhile, are becoming embedded in everyday objects, everything from refrigerators and televisions, to roads and buildings. The “Internet of everything” is fundamentally blurring the hard distinctions between the physical and digital worlds."
You can find some more of Stephen's thinking on his blog at or follow him on twitter  @stephen_tpk

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Darn lucky to stay anonymous

American pop-art icon Andy Warhol once said: "In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes." 

Nik Dholakia, Professor of Marketing, E-Commerce and International Business at the University of Rhode Island, offers a new take: 

"In the future, we will be darn lucky to remain anonymous for 15 minutes."

Other insights from Professor Dholakia, include the following.

Through new information and communication technologies, "virtual life-worlds that are portable and always networked are becoming pervasive, persistent, and constantly malleable."
Global statistics back that up. According to the International Telecommunications Union, at some point in 2014 the number of active mobile phones will exceed the number of people on the planet. Russia, already has 1.8 times more in-use mobile phones than people. Brazil has 1.2 times as many. Importantly, those phones are increasingly smartphones, with full internet access. And, as everyone knows, the internet is becoming porous with social media and with early experiments in augmented reality.
To make sense of what is happening, says Professor Dholakia, a useful step is to "fly above the turbulence" and grasp the technological changes in terms of the social and political factors involved – in other words, to develop some co-ordinates, or "conceptual anchors". Dholakia's recent research, and that of several colleagues and students, has focused on doing just that.
Among the insights:
  • The "newness" of the new technologies is relative. Every medium already participates in the mobile, the social and the virtual. Film and radio, for example had enormous potential as social media and began as one-to-one and many-to-many media. It was commercial interests that turned film, for example, into a one-to-many, or mass medium.
  • Mobile has become the core global identity credential. More than a passport, a driver's licence or a national identity card, the mobile phone is becoming the universal ID credential. The new coming-of-age marker is when a child gets his or her mobile phone. More people worry about leaving their phone at home than their wallet.
  • Mobile is becoming an individuating, locating and enabling technology. The development of apps is very open and this is one of the more positive aspects of the mobile sphere. Many apps enable sampling, comparisons, ratings, curating, locating and more.
  • We are on the threshold of augmented reality. For more than a century the offline versus online distinctions held. Virtual realities were clearly identifiable and often immersive but quite separate and distinct realities. Now, with broadband hyperconnected mobile devices, we are entering a time and a space where these distinctions are dissolving. Augmented realities are emerging on a mass scale – but unlike the old video arcade games, and because of the individuating nature of the mobile device, they tend not to be shared realities.
  • Social media has added frenzy and fluidity to media fragmentation. Many countries have seen a shift from a one-channel universe to one of a billion channels or more.
  • Traditional trust anchors are disappearing. Social media lacks the regulating structures of traditional media, such as awards and industry codes of conduct. It will take time to come up with new, reliable and accepted ways to vouch, to verify, to endorse and to guarantee. This happens in all periods of technical upheaval. Developing new forms of trustworthiness is not the task of science, but of society.
  • The power of "meta-industries" is growing. The amount of stored data is increasing rapidly, but data transfer over networks is rising at an even faster rate due to the new forms of data, including hi-res video, being sent. Some countries, including those in Scandinavia, have introduced public policy measures to improve broadband availability. The growth in content produced by individuals is being rapidly overtaken by that produced by content delivery networks (largely commercial video providers). Machine-to-machine traffic is also projected to increase by 84% a year.
  • What any technology becomes depends on who controls it. Examples from across the world show how social, mobile and virtual technologies have been harnessed to improve lives and open channels of communication for previously excluded people. Some researchers are studying how new media can help us become what they call "produsers" and "construers". Unless we embrace such notions, they say, the consumer in us will continue to inflate, squeezing out our other life roles.
Professor Dholakia spoke about digital media at the Business School in July 2014 as part of the Dean's Distinguished Speaker Series.
The above was extracted from the UABS Network e-magazine, written by Vaughan Yarwood, Managing Editor.

For the full article, see this link

Friday, August 8, 2014

How technology is changing time, space and relationships

Genevieve Bell is an anthropologist and Vice President at Intel.  In a recent column interview of the NY Times, she commented on how technology is changing society in terms of time, space and social relationships.

"First, there are changing ideas about time. With the advent of electrification in the 19th century, there was no more night. Now with digital we think in new ways about availability, responsiveness, the time it should take to get things done.
The devices want to be connected, in touch, upgraded, all the time. We’re on their clock. But that may get renaturalized. Every major world religion divides out some kind of special time — there is time for prayer, time for fasting, time for celebration. 
I harbor a suspicion that we need to be disconnected at times." 
Space is also changing.  As Bell observes.
"We map physical space differently: At the airport, the location of power outlets becomes critical. We think of spaces that have good Wi-Fi or cellular locations. They are “better.” And we’re seeing the idea that the Internet is going to create one world is not quite true. Turkey turns off Twitter. You get different search results in different places."
Bell's third area of change is in social relationships.
The last thing, after space and time, is changing social relationships. 
"How do we relate to each other? What do we think about social ideas like privacy, security, risk? There are changing ideas about love, fear, passion."
What does all that mean?
"When tech affects ideas about time, space and social relationships, it carries anxiety. We are reinventing a lot of ideas around security, privacy, safety, love, marriage, kids, god, violence, the nation state, power, justice, money. Everything is up for grabs.
It means social movements will emerge around this, arguments about what government should look like. One hundred years ago there were arguments about government, and how we should organize ourselves. There was Fascism versus utopian government. We’ll have arguments about government and governance, about taxation and regulation."  
As Bell suggests, the technological changes associated with connectivity mean 'everything is up for grabs,' which is both exciting and contentious as we re-negotiate time, space and relationships. It is, however, a frontier we have entered and society cannot go back to where we were pre-Net.  
As pioneers, we cannot possibly know what the collective patterns will be, but we can be mindful of our own personal and micro-social (email, for example, is a social not personal medium) beliefs and behavioural patterns, which ultimately shape future society more than technology.