The changing nature of technology innovation

I’ve just watched Clay Shirky’s recent talk on ted.com on “how twitter can change history“. Although the content of the talk is very topical there are added nuances this week in particular with the explosion of community driven social media interactions around the Iranian election.

One of the key premises of the presentation it that the nature of technological innovation is changing; primarily due to the most participatory and social nature of collaborative web 2.0 technologies. He goes so far as to say technologies “don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring”. And once they become socially interesting the impact they have can be profound. (Clay references China in the talk but there are obvious parallels with the current situation in Iran). The real power is at not the “shiny” developer end but at the point where technologies become ubiquitous and can be harnessed by communities in ways not realised by developers.

This really got me thinking about the nature of an innovation centre such as CETIS. Traditionally we have been right at the “shiny edge” of things; playing with all the new things then leaving them behind once they become close to mainstream and moving on the the next glittering thing on the horizon. But are we missing a trick? Maybe we should be sticking around a bit longer with certain technologies to see how and if ubiquity fosters innovation in education.

In some ways I think we are starting to be more engaged at the socially innovative end of things. Undoubtedly for those of us who twitter it has provided us with an added communication dimension both with our direct work colleagues and our wider community. I’ve been on it for about 2 years now and still can’t see anything at the moment that is going to replace it.

In our outward facing service role, activities such as the widget working group are allowing us to be more engaged with teaching practitioners. From the outset we realised that there would be two distinct phases of this work, beginning with the technical infrastructure and then moving on to the user creation and use stage. I really hope that we can continue in this vein and that our own use of social technology can help us become more a part of the everyday experience for educators and not just the geek ship on the horizon.