In his Gravity Medium blog John Proffitt posted a chart showing the increasing speed of technical innovation in communications media and used it to tweak public media professionals about the glacial pace of innovation in the system. (That was a good metaphor before global warming...glaciers are moving faster than public media these days.)
The post led to a discussion in the comments between me, John and Rob Paterson, who served as a consultant to public radio in the "New Realities" project — a fruitless attempt to kickstart innovation on the national level.
Innovation is good. Innovation is necessary. But as this discussion shows, even among those who agree on the need for innovation, it's easy to become bogged down in differing visions that may prove impractical or unproductive. I'm reproducing the discussion here so it is up a level in the blogosphere, visible and linkable. Most feed readers still don't give you access to comments.
If it seems like the world moves faster, technologically, with each passing year, you’re not imagining things.
Consider this chart:
Starting from its introduction, the simple telephone took 71 years to arrive in just 50% of American homes. Think about that. An entire generation was born, lived and died waiting for a telephone to arrive in their home, and only half of them got it!
Even electricity took 52 years to reach 50% of homes. Cell phones — that ubiquitous device most of us take for granted — took 14 years, but the MP3 player took less than half that time.
Basic Internet access — the new omnimedia connection — took 10 years to reach 50%, and in the early days it wasn’t even that much to talk about. Today, high-speed Internet access is in well over 50% of homes in the U.S. and average speeds are rising (though not fast enough for me).
There are two lessons here I can see:
- We cannot be transmitter companies (and indeed, we never were — we just thought we were because it was easier that way). Technology is a tool, not a purpose.
- The public naturally innovates as better tools arrive for information gathering, sharing and entertainment. We must innovate with them to serve them; innovation must be built into our DNA.
What other lessons can you see in this chart?
A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be. –Wayne Gretzky