Too much technology

I've just had a very interesting e-mail exchange with Rowena Young at NESTA about social innovation and social technologies, and particularly the need to reach out beyond the normal early adopter communities into the much larger community of 'non-webbies'. In Rowena's words:

"We are concerned most with the application of innovation to social change and impact, so novelty gets tempered by what difference it's actually making."

It reminded me of this blog post I wrote earlier this year, which itself quoted a line from Clay Shirky's recent Q&A at the RSA (slightly paraphrased): "It's not about novelty, but ubiquity. If you are looking for social scale change, it's adoption."

During the industrial revolution, one of the key technologies that enabled widespread industrialisation was simply everyone agreeing on a standard size for screws. It's the little things that have a big impact. And it's designing technologies that can reach out to wider communities, and which genuinely make things easier for people that can change the world.

Angela - your comment really resonates with me.

A writer friend of mine claims he can tell the difference between books which were first written freehand and those written straight into a word processor. The elbow, he says, is the best editor.

This troubles me, since I'm so deeply qwertyfied I'm terrified by the idea of writing at length without the ability to cut, paste, delete and rewrite as I go - and yet I'm quite prepared to believe that I'd be a better writer if forced to follow the flow of the hand on the page.

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