Sunday, September 13, 2009

What's new? and can I get some.

what's new media?
I tripped over this question on a couple of blogs this morning (Jenna McWilliams and Julie at new media power) and seems to me it's a subset of a question I address in the early parts of my thesis. An opportunity then for clarifying my own thoughts since my thesis is about new and emergent technologies in a Youth counselling centre as at some stage I am going to have to clean up that section...

In popular parlance, a new technology is anything invented after you were born.
I quite like Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".

E.M. Rogers pointed to the use of the word innovations and technology being used synonymously as many of the ideas analysed are technological innovations. He defined innovation to be an idea, practice or object that is perceived as new. So it's something in the eye of the beholder.

For Ursula Franklin, technology is 'the way things are done around here' so new means its new to the context. And i like how she expands on this in ways grounded in reality...Thats why i think it is better to examine limited settings where one puts technology in context, because context is what matters most. . one has to keep in mind how the practice of doing something defines the activity itself... precludes the emergence of other ways....it saves us from thinking of technology as part of the icing on the cake. Technology is part of the cake itself.

Taking those involved and the context then as a primary consideration, an actor-network analysis is helpful as looking at what makes things more and less real provides greater depth to understanding hoow some new things 'take off' and some fizzle. Bruno latour's take on what makes something real is that, “...anything can become more or less real, depending on the continuous chains of translation. It’s essential to continue to generate interest, to seduce, to translate interests. You can’t ever stop becoming more real.” (Latour, 1996: 85)

A new take on the story of the velveteen rabbit- Being played with makes it real.

Seems to me it is the process of becoming involved with something that makes for better questions in new innovations, technologies or media. In what ways are we both shaped and shaping when we negotiate our involvement; play, work or tinker with such things? And I really like how Chris Bigum and Leonie Rowan sum this up in saying:
"The key issue here is that innovation... is not determined by scope or scale, but by direction and effect."

Expanding this further, how then are we pushed and pulled, knowingly and unknowingly, as we work, play and tinker with new technologies and as new technologies work, play and tinker with us? For as Sproull and Kiesler have identified, it's not just the changes that we anticipate that may be important. And in areas where the changes are about communication, such effects become hugely important because, as identified by Sherry Turkle, '“The tools we use to think, change the ways in which we think.” (2004, p.1).And Clay Shirkey takes this further,"When we change the way we communicate we change society."

There are a lot of new ideas out there just fighting for survival, and in a Darwinian survival of the species mode, if they can get copied they will...using you and me as their propagation, copying machinery...we are the meme machines as eloquently expressed by Susan Blackmore on memes). What's new may be less important than how might we use it, and how might it use us?

References
Franklin, U. (1999). The real world of technology (Revised ed.). Toronto: House of Anansi Press.
Latour, B. (1996). Aramis: Or the love of technology (C. Porter, Trans.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5 ed.). New York: Free Press.
Rowan, L., & Bigum, C. (2005). Innovation chains; possibilities and constraints for critical perspectives on computers, difference and educational Innovation. Paper presented at the OQL Seminar, Deakin University, Melbourne.
Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes every-body. London: Allen Lane.
Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1991). Connections. New ways of working in the networked organization. Cambridge: MIT Press.

1 comment:

  1. oh, and why not? here's a quote from Douglas Adams on this very issue:

    “There’s a set of rules that anything that was in the world when you were born is normal and natural. Anything invented between when you were 15 and 35 is new and revolutionary and exciting, and you’ll probably get a career in it. Anyt...hing invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.”

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