In the world of technology and gadgets, "design" today has to do with human-computer interaction. It's becoming the key differentiator between success stories and also-rans (witness the popularity of YouTube, with it's easy-to-use share/embed features, versus other video websites, or the dominance of the iPod).
This article on CNET pionts to the growing emphasis on design over algorithms in educating the next generation of technology developers (it's not the tech, it's the culture).
Undergraduate and graduate computing programs are also answering the demand. AnnaLee Saxenian, dean of the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley, said in an interview late last year that the ubiquity of the Internet, along with the globalization of technology industry, has prompted the need for a new generation of engineers with broader skills. In recent years, Berkeley's school began requiring engineering students to learn human-computer interaction skills.
I guess this is a recurring theme: technology and culture are merging, which calls for designers and thinkers that can translate from one world to the other. Here's how John Maeda calls it (make sure to subscribe to his weblog, it's great)
there's "a need for hybrid people, who can put together a mean car and pimp it out, too. This is the holy grail of this new generation. Schools are changing slowly to adopt this model of education."
I was talking about Twitter to a friend recently, and I think one of the points I was trying to make was this: when you are talking to people about what you think, it's easy to bullshit (as in when you IM, especially with people who aren't your close friends).
When you are relating to others in a big social group, it can be superficial, and kind of "gossipy" (as in Facebook's News Feeds, for instance). These modes of communication suggest a much greater degree of authenticity and candid expression than what they actually offer. At the end of the day, however, when we talk about what we are thinking, and when ego gets in the way, we all tend to bullshit a bit. Saying something can never reveal as much as doing something; this is something that is becoming increasingly clear in today's media.
The subtle genius of Twitter is that answering the simple question "what am I doing right now" is both incredibly mundane, yet much more revealing about who we really are than what we might say about ourselves. It's a very direct and personal manifestation of the "do, don't say" mantra that is at the heart of new marketing and the post-communication world we live in.
Just to be clear: I don't really pretend to know what Twitter might mean, in the long run. All I'm commenting on is the cool way in which a picture emerges of what a person is about from the things they DO, rather than what they might say about themselves. For this reason, it seems to go quite nicely with a lot of the things regarding transparency and authenticity that characterize what communication is about these days. And it is also a great example of how simple technology- messages are easily sent from a mobile, for instance- can unlock a new, simple, yet powerful mode of communication.
Do not miss this article from Henry Jenkins, outlining his thoughts on what media education of the future might look like.
Excellent stuff, lots to think about. In specific, Jenkins raises some great questions regarding media's role in society, the blurring of the lines between consumption and creation of media and the implications of fundemantal shifts in power within our culture.
I may be biased, but in my opinion, the relationship between commerce and culture, social organization and technology, hinges on media, and anything that contributes to improving our understanding of media today is sorely needed. (Few are better than Jenkins).
imagine what would happen if academic departments operated more like YouTube or Wikipedia, allowing for the rapid deployment of scattered expertise and the dynamic reconfiguration of fields. Let's call this new form of academic unit a "YouNiversity."
How might media studies, the field most committed to mapping these changes as they affect modern life, be taught in a YouNiversity?
One theme in his piece that comes through loud and clear, and why I want to share this here: old distinctions between technology and culture, or even public discourse and academic study are no longer as relevant. We're at a critical point in the reshaping of culture and society as a result of networked technologies, and it's high time that the ivory towers become part of the real world, in order to contribute to the public good.
I haven't even got to page 7 of Mark Earl's new book, Herd, and I already know it's going to be a great ride. For someone with a nagging tendency to think in terms of crowds (the DJ thing again) this book is perfect. Human behaviour only makes sense to me when it's explained as group behaviour. It's an orientation I couldn't change if I tried. So how happy am I when I read things like this, right in the introduction?
"we are a we-species who do individually what we do largely because of each other".
It's what attracts me to ideas like iconic brands, cultural movements and more recently, trying to understand how networked communication is changing what "each other" means. The crowd is much different today than it was just 10 years ago, thanks to all of the changes we always go on about with the "creolization" of media.
Small personal anectode: I've had dozens of promoters and club owners pick my brain over the years about what it takes to get people to come out to their party. They all look for the silver bullet, all the time. Too bad they're always dissapointed when I tell them that I only really know one thing for sure: people like to go where there are other people.