Warning: I reserve the right to totally 'geek-out' in this post.
I was going to write some rabble rousing anti-capitalist gibberish about presenting the question of what 'innovation' in a post capitalist society might look like. Whether 'disruptive innovation' as defined by Clayton Christianson has any meaning outside of his strict western/market centric ideology.
Before I move on completely to something more fun and interesting - I would highly recommend this article by sociologist Lucy Suchman, which make the case that innovation is away of avoiding fundamental change. The term 'innovation' is used to make difficult decisions which protect power structures.
This paper is 14 years old, but as a thought it seems that 'disruptive innovation' falls into the same pattern. Failing to 'disrupt' or be 'innovative' - The term 'disruptive' seems to be a way of warning the 'victims' of what could be seen as 'innovation's' double edged promise. 'Disruptive innovation' or even 'disruptive technology' is a way of failing to ask fundamental questions. It is the free-markets final defence of the 'status-quo' - a way to change while everything actually stays the same. There may be a faster/cheaper/more efficient way to get from 'a' to 'b' but shouldn't we ask how we got to 'a' in the first place and why in the world we wanted to go to 'b' after all, when it looks so much like 'a' after all.....
It was going to be a good rant, but..........
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was on the BBC on saturday! It looks like they are doing the whole thing, all of them, the 5 part trilogy - from destruction of earth to destruction of earth.
Here is one of the great quotes:
"Mr Dent you can't lie in front of progress forever."
"We'll see who rusts first"
This is not an irrational argument of a ludite but a statement of fact. I feel it is worth taking a second to stand on the only platform I have and tell everybody to listen to this great work.
And then the other day (and this all comes together I promise you) .....
I started to look at the cool stuff being made by MITs Tangible Media unit - like check out this material - http://tangible.media.mit.edu/project/jamsheets-thin-interfaces-with-tunable-stiffness-e/ -
This link is for a material call 'jam-sheet' it can be hard and flexible, you can make stuff with it then it can stay in shape - it appears to have a decent amount strength. It appears to be able to plug into a computer and then change shape based on the programs and digital inputs. The whole tangible media unit is doing similar cool stuff and this is only the stuff on the web site. I would love to find out if there are other 'back-room' projects which are too wacky or untested or whatever to be show to the world.
We (and by that I mean myself in association to various groups - like academics, geeks, parents, americans, etc. etc.) have a heavily narcissistic tendency and tend to stay a bit too focused on how our pudgy little fingers can better interact with the technology around us. Can the technology- respond to keystrokes, read eye movements, interpret real time voice commands, or I don't know read our thoughts (or at least our emails).
Which brings me back to Arthur Dent lying in front of a bulldozer. Because I don't think we should be focusing on how we interact with technology but how it pushes back on us. Computer scientists call this 'haptic feedback". But that isn't quite the kind of 'push-back' I am referring to. I think I am trying to get towards something more like Actor Network Theory.
Which is almost to refer to Mcluhan in saying we 'We shape tools and they in turn shape us', but that is far to neat, too linear. I don't shape my tools, factories china do that for me, designers in MIT do that. Would we be better saying "you shape my tools in turn shape my world" but world and individuals are hard to keep apart. So maybe this a word of warning in itself "I shape your tools and thereby shape you". Oh, it was simple, the tools of information transmission were only ink on paper for hundreds of years. Information transmission has been stuck in electrical binary signals for over 100 years already. But none of this mater in a sense because it is more about how the 'subject' or 'me' or 'I' (or 'ego' and 'id') experience and am shaped by the world. Do you print things you read? What information do you get through sense of smell (the dinner is burning), or through hearing (is there something wrong with my car), or through touch (my cloths are wearing out)... but the important messages come through all at once. The world pushes back on me.
Arthur Dent can smell the diesel, feel the mud, and hear the rumbling engines. He is pushing against progress even though the world is about to end. Sometime it is worth pushing back against the inevitable, because that is who you are.