Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries

Re-envisioning Public Libraries?

Yesterday, in the stately Trustee Room of the New York Public Library, the Aspen Institute released its report “Rising To The Challenge: Re-envisioning Public Libraries.”  It was based on the results of their Dialogue on Public Libraries.  (Full disclosure: I’ve been a member of their Working Group and I even helped out with the draft report a bit, including one of its sidebar stories.)

They also unveiled a new video about this future at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eh5E2VConxc

Readers of this blog will not be surprised that I’m clearly in synch with the central foundation of the report that “public libraries [are] at the center of the digital age”, our era.

The project was led by Amy Garmer of Aspen, who also wrote the report and who deserves enormous credit for this work.  As Deborah Jacobs, Director of the Gates Foundation Global Library Initiative said, Amy Garmer is now the most influential non-librarian in the library world. 

She begins the report by setting the stage this way:

“The process of re-envisioning public libraries to maximize their impact reflects:

  • Principles that have always been at the center of the public library’s mission—equity, access, opportunity, openness and participation
  • The library’s capacity to drive opportunity and success in today’s knowledge-based society
  • An emerging model of networked libraries that promotes economies of scale and broadens the library’s resource reach while preserving its local presence

The library’s fundamental people, place and platform assets”

In addition to these points, another strategic, but infrequently stated, point was made in the report — there needs to be a new model for sustainable funding for library services that recognizes and supports their fundamental role in our society and economy.

As part of the event surrounding the report’s release, there was a panel discussion with some more interesting observations:

  • Linda Johnson, CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library, said that we need to understand that libraries are not centers for books but for learning — and centers of enjoyment.
  • Ralph Smith, SVP of the Casey Foundation and Managing Director of its Campaign For Grade Level Reading, said he had learned over time that libraries have a unique combination of “hi tech and hi touch” which is what is required for education these days.
  • Nashville/Davidson County Mayor Dean said that “building libraries is the most popular thing I do.  Demand always outstrips supply.”

Although not directly related to this event, the Atlantic Magazine also had a recent article about the public library of Columbus, Ohio, titled “Not Your Mother’s Library”. 

What immediately stood out were two contrasting word clouds.  First, the words people associated with past libraries, the libraries of their childhood. 

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Then the words they used to describe the library of the future …

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In a more elegant and profound way, the Aspen report expanded on these simple descriptions:

“The Dialogue’s perspective on the 21st-century library builds on the public library’s proven track record in strengthening communities and calls for libraries to be centers of learning, creativity and innovation in the digital age. No longer a nice-to-have amenity, the public library is a key partner in sustaining the educational, economic and civic health of the community during a time of dramatic change. Public libraries inspire learning and empower people of all ages. They promote a better trained and educated workforce. They ensure equitable access and provide important civic space for advancing democracy and the common good. Public libraries are engines of development within their communities.”

Aspen intends to follow up to implement and move the vision forward, so look for these ideas to take root in your city with your help.

Note: The report is at http://as.pn/libraries

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

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Responses To The Revolution We’re Living Through?

I was recently reading Simon Winchester’s book, “The Men Who United the States: America’s Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible” which was published last year.  It’s an interesting exploration of important parts of American history that have gotten lost in the standard renditions or even the standard counter-renditions.

He spends a bit of time on New Harmony, Indiana, Robert Owen’s failed utopian experiment because its establishment enabled the growth of geology and geological exploration in the US, which was an important part of his story.

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But the description of New Harmony raised a question in my mind.  For those of us who have studied even a basic history of the industrial revolution, we’re aware of various reactions over more than two hundred years. 

Just for a few examples … There were the Luddites who tried to stop it.  There were the utopian communities, like New Harmony, which hoped to offer an alternative to the way industrialization was occurring – sometimes even using industrial tools, but in new forms of society.  Along with that, the Romantic Movement in the arts and the Arts and Crafts movement in the US were a kind of a reaction to industrialization. 

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The modern corporation was invented in response to the need to somehow manage and then build the industrial revolution’s manufacturing plants.

Marx, of course, developed his critique of capitalism which was the predominant form of economic organization that supported and was supported by the industrial revolution.  Later still, governments started to enact various laws to improve labor conditions, reduce monopolies, and provide for the more even distribution of the wealth created by the industrial revolution.

We’ve learned to understand these reactions, see them in context and know which failed and which succeeded.  That’s easy with the benefit of hindsight.

Although some parts of the world are still in an industrial transition, as I’ve written in various posts, the more economically advanced societies are now going through a transformation as great as the industrial revolution.  We are at the beginning of developing and emerging into a post-industrial society, a knowledge economy, a sharing economy, a digital economy, or something we haven’t coined a name for yet.

So here’s my first question: what responses and reactions to this new economy are we seeing now?

Thinking about the longer term:

  • Which responses will flame out the way New Harmony did? But what residual benefits will such short-lived responses leave for the rest of this century?
  • What new laws do we need and really expect to see?  Or even new forms of governance?
  • What new business arrangements do we really expect to see? Will we need to invent something as new in the same way corporations were invented?

Trying to look out over many decades into the future as this new economy develops, I only have some inklings and guesses – but no answers.  What are your guesses or boldly stated answers?

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

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How Separate Are The Digital And Physical Worlds?

Previously, I mentioned the relatively traditional view of the nation-state offered by Google’s Eric Schmidt and former State Department official Jared Cohen in their book, “The New Digital Age: Transforming Nations, Businesses, and Our Lives”.

That conservative view extended to the Internet as a whole.  The authors concluded the book with the statement that the physical world and the virtual or digital (Internet) world will remain mostly separate even in the future.

Is that so?

In addition to new blended urban spaces and augmented reality that I’ve written about before, there are examples of a blending of physical and digital in many areas, including retail business, education, health care and employment.

Among many such articles about this blending, for instance, is this one titled “The Future of Retail: Blending the In-Store and Online Experience”.   Another article from earlier this year describes the blended work environment, “The Physical-Digital Convergence: The Connected Employee”.

This phenomenon has caught the attention of the general media.  The Deseret News in Utah, had a story titled, “Blurred lines: How people’s lives have become an online and offline experience”, starting out with the case of an author living almost all the time in both worlds.

Google Glass, all kinds of new health-oriented devices (Apple Watch being just the latest) along with tech-embedded items of clothing is part of the public’s interest in wearable technology.  In a blog on the website of Forrester, the tech consulting company, Anjali Lai wrote how “US Consumers Embrace Convergence Of The Physical And Digital”.  Lai cited Forrester research on the increasing percentage of Americans wanting wearable tech.

Some research has even shown how the behavior of people in the purely physical world is impacted by what they learn and do in the virtual world.  See, for example, Jennifer Lee’s review of studies in “The Many Ways Virtual Communities Impact Our World Offline”.  Among other impacts, but one with especially broad implications, she reports on a study that:

“positive behavior can be reinforced in the physical world if the participant could visualize and experience a particular scenario in the virtual world [through an avatar].”

Even without avatars, this idea is reinforced by an academic experiment described in the ACM article, Blending digital and physical spaces for ubiquitous community participation, showed that:

“Blurring the notional boundary between the digital and the physical in social activity spaces helps blend — and motivate — online and face-to-face community participation.”

In an admonition to corporate executives (like Google’s Schmidt?) to understand what’s going on, Lai, the author of the Forrester blog mentioned above, quoted a colleague on the same subject:

“Convergence of the physical and digital world is eroding the boundaries that are the basis for many operating assumptions; firms today are ill-prepared to handle the resulting chaos [ … ] we are seeing a convergence of digital and physical identities — people are not differentiating who they are online and in person.”

Lai also used the environmental word ecotone, which is the “zone where two habitats merge”, noting:

“We are living in an ecotone where physical meets digital, where the edge of our offline experience converges with our online one.”

And also that:

“people are deeply attracted to these areas of convergence and interaction because the edge is where the action is … the edges we create in our society generate energy and are the places we push things to for the best results”

Are these worlds separate and the gap between them to be forever large?  It would seem not. 

Indeed, it’s best to think about this in an almost opposite way.  As the founder and former director of MIT’s Media Lab, Nicolas Negroponte, is quoted in “The Wisdom Of Nicolas Negroponte: Digital Convergence – You Don’t Know The First Thing”:

“Like air and drinking water, being digital [and blurring the boundaries between our digital and physical world] will be noticed only by its absence not its presence”

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

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The Angst Of Gig Cities?

Among some similar reports elsewhere, the New York Times published a story earlier this month with the title “Two Cities With Blazing Internet Speed Search for a Killer App”.  The sub-headline explained that:

“Both Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., have Google Fiber, a high-speed fiber-optic network, and are having a hard time figuring out what to do with so much power.”

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Considering the woe and anxiety of the people that the reporter interviewed in these two cities, you might call this the angst of the gig cities.   I’m not normally critical in these blog posts, but for those of us without gigabit connections to the world, this angst doesn’t generate much sympathy and makes us wonder about the thought process of some folks.

Let’s start with the headline that bemoans the fact that there is no single killer app yet to justify the gigabit bandwidth, but that they are still looking for one.  Back in the days when PCs were first introduced, supposedly the spreadsheet was the killer app that sold those computers.  And graphics was the “killer app” that sold the Mac originally.

But I’m not sure there is any single killer app for a fundamental technology like communications.  Was there one thing that drove increased phone usage 50 years ago?  Was there only one “app” that drove people to the web more recently?

The story also had this observation:

“[The] managing director of the KC Digital Drive, a nonprofit that is trying to figure out new ways to use Google Fiber, said people were expecting too much.  So instead of something otherworldly, [he] said the more likely outcome would be souped-up versions of things that already existed.”

How sad.  To use an analogy, even though they’re driving high-powered new cars, they’re talking and thinking “horseless carriage”, not sports car.

I can’t believe the communities that are complaining they don’t know what to do with gig lack imagination, but that’s the way it comes across in this article.   Surely there are creative people in Kansas City – not just software developers – and they ought to be challenged to come up with many ways to wow the rest of the residents.

The article goes into a bit of an aside about the various ways cities have deployed broadband – Google Fiber, conventional telecommunications providers and home grown.  I haven’t seen enough research about these Google Fiber cities or other cities that have accomplished a similar build-out by themselves. 

Perhaps, though, the problem of not knowing what to do with gigabit connections is greater in places where the community didn’t have to organize itself as much in order to get that bandwidth.  By contrast, cities, like Chattanooga, which had to work harder to build out its own network perhaps have deeper cultures of innovation and entrepreneurship – which is why they supported their own gigabit build-out to begin with.

There’s also a big gap between a gigabit connection and the more typical few megabits that most Americans seem to witness much of the time.  I suppose that’s also part of the gig cities’ problem. Perhaps they are feeling lonely.  It’s a bit like being the only person in town with a phone in the old days.

Maybe the new gig cities would find more things to do if they’d only begin to connect to other Americans at even a tenth of that speed. 

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

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Small Town, Big Story?

Can a town of 2,300 people in the countryside of Mississippi create a future for itself with broadband?  The answer is yes if you speak to the visionary leader of Quitman – its Mayor, Eddie Fulton – and about two dozen community leaders from business, education, churches, health care and other fields. 

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Quitman is not what you might think of as the likely star of a broadband story.  It has suffered de-population, economic difficulties, community tensions and all the other problems people in many small towns across America have witnessed.

Then along comes the Mississippi-based telecommunications company, C-Spire, who announced it would deploy gigabit Internet connection through fiber to the home in a small number of communities.  The key requirement was that a fairly sizable percentage of the community’s residents had to sign up for the service in advance.

Quitman was the smallest town to take on this challenge.  It would not normally be considered because of its size, but they had such a strong commitment to building on broadband that the company decided to make the investment.  Now, Quitman is ahead of the others in deployment and plans for developing their community.

Anyone who has ever been involved in a big technology project knows that the biggest obstacles to success are not technical issues, but human issues.  That’s why the chances that Quitman will succeed are good.  They have the necessary leadership, motivation and willingness to innovate.

They’ve also been helped by one of the long forgotten secrets of America’s agricultural and economic success – the extension service.  In particular, Professor Roberto Gallardo  at Mississippi State University Center For Technology Outreach has helped to educate the community and been their adviser.

And so it was that last week I was in Quitman leading what the Intelligent Community Forum calls a Master Class, as part of its community accelerator program. 

I pointed out that, rather than being an anomaly, a small city like Quitman could be the quintessential broadband success story.  I told the community leaders that a number of recent studies have shown that broadband has a much greater impact on small towns and rural areas than in cities.  As I’ve written before, this is not surprising.  Big cities provide many traditional ways that many people can interact with each other.  It is only when residents of small communities get connected to everyone else through the Internet that they can start to level the playing field.

I reviewed the historical context that is opening up new opportunities for rural communities.  I provided various examples, from elsewhere in North America and beyond, of the ways broadband can make a difference to the countryside.  The point of the examples was to give the community leaders ideas and also to see small towns, like theirs, doing great things with broadband. 

Then to bring the strategy and examples home, I asked them what they would do with broadband when it was deployed.  The community leaders separated into three groups, one each focused on education, health and economic growth.  They had a good discussion and came up with good ideas that will enable them to move fast when the connectivity is available later this year.

The signature line of the old song “New York, New York”, written at the height of that city’s industrial prominence, proclaimed: “If I can make it in New York, I’ll make it anywhere”.  This century, in the post-industrial era, the line should be: if broadband helps make Quitman a success story, then it can happen anywhere.

I’ll keep you apprised of their progress.

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© 2014 Norman Jacknis

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Will The Best & Brightest Return To The Countryside?

There have been recent news stories about those coming and going and possibly returning to life in the countryside. 

A couple months ago, the New York Times had a major story about older folks returning to rural life after business careers elsewhere – “A Second Career, Happily in the Weeds”.  (Among others, it featured Debra Sloane, a former Cisco colleague.

Then this past weekend, in a kind of counterpoint, the Times’ Sunday Review section had an op-ed article about a woman who tried and gave up on living in the countryside – “Giving Up My Small-Town Fantasy”.   While she returned to the city, she also wrote that she moved to a small town because:

We were betting on the fact that we wouldn’t be alone in fleeing the big city for a small town. Urban living has become unthinkably expensive for many middle-class creative types. A 2010 study from the Journal of Economic Geography found a trifecta of reasons some rural areas have grown instead of shrunk: the creative class, entrepreneurial activity and outdoor amenities. In 2012, a University of Minnesota research fellow called the influx of 30-to-40-somethings into rural Minnesota towns a “brain gain” — flipping the conventional wisdom on the exodus from the boonies to the big city.

To further the idea that the traditional brain drain from rural areas is changing, the well-respected Daily Yonder had a feature article last month summarizing research on “The Rural Student Brain Gain”.  As they note:

The common wisdom is that rural America’s “best and brightest” want to leave home. New research shows these students are no more likely to want to leave than their counterparts. And when they do go, they have a stronger desire to return.

There is no doubt that many young people who can leave will do so – which more likely means the brightest who can get into major universities.  To some extent, all young people want to see the world beyond where they grew up. 

Almost a hundred years ago, Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis wrote what became a very popular song as many young men went off to Europe in World War I.

How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm
After they’ve seen Paree’
How ya gonna keep ‘em away from Broadway
Jazzin around and paintin’ the town

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By the way, this is not just a rural question.  A generation ago or so, parents in New York City were asking the same question – would the young return after seeing California?  Feeding this concern, for instance, was an article in the New York Times on October 1, 1980 about so many New Yorkers living in Los Angeles that two of the big high schools in Brooklyn held alumni reunions there.

So while we don’t want the young to feel they are being kept captive, the question is will they return to their countryside origins or something like it?

To answer that question, there are others that need to be answered first. 

In a post-industrial, global, Internet-connected economy, can young people still feel they are part of the larger world? Can they have as many opportunities for fulfillment and success back home as in the “big city”?

The answer is yes, the potential is there.  But the young are still leaving because too few rural communities have done the things they need to do in order to open up those opportunities for their brightest young people.  These lagging leaders haven’t built up the broadband necessary to connect both young and old to the world, nor have they helped people understand what they can do with that broadband connection, nor have they focused on the larger issues of developing a community anyone would want to live in if they had a choice in the matter.

And those who have given up hope for their rural communities because they know people there can never earn the megabucks found on Wall Street?  They should be informed by other research, including a fascinating, classic study by Professor Gundars Rudzitis of the University of Idaho, in his article in Rural Development Perspectives, “Amenities Increasingly Draw People to the Rural West”:

More people are moving to rural areas for reasons that have nothing to do with employment.  … the rural West is one of the fastest growing regions in the United States. …  Surveys in the 1970’s began to show that, if given a choice, people prefer to live in small towns and even in rural areas.

Amenities such as environmental quality and pace of life were becoming important in explaining why people move. The apparent sudden preference of people for rural life shocked many academics and planners because rural areas were thought to be at a major disadvantage compared with urban areas. 

These findings also were a surprise because they conflicted with the major assumptions of migration theory, or why people move. Simply put, people were thought to move because they wanted to increase or maximize their incomes. … This approach, however, failed to explain why people moved out of cities into places like the rural West.

…  People who migrate to high-amenity counties are often assumed to be retirees, as the growth and development of States like Arizona and Florida bears out. In our survey, however, only 10 percent of the new migrants were over 65 years of age. Instead, migrants were more likely to be young, highly educated professionals.

These studies and stories about people moving from city to country and back make clear that these decisions are more complicated than the headlines indicate.  And broadband connectivity will upset these patterns even more. 

Indeed, this new picture of what is going on may tell us why the best and brightest of the countryside might want to return after they’ve seen Paris (or New York or San Francisco).

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/97138255998/will-the-best-brightest-return-to-the-countryside]

Technology Gets More Personal?

This is the last of my end of summer highlights of interesting tech news.  Aside from being interesting, perhaps they also illustrate how technology is getting more personal now.

  • The creative, Munich-based augmented reality company, Metaio, showed off a way it can turn any surface into an augmented reality touchscreen.  The company notes that this is their:

vision of the near future for wearable computing user interfaces. By fusing information from an infrared and standard camera, nearly any surface can be transformed into a touch screen.

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  • Also from Germany, the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits announced a few days ago an app for Google Glass that analyzes what its camera sees and assesses the emotional state of the person in front of the Glass wearer.  It even takes a guess at the person’s age.  It’s an extension of their previous work, offered as SHORE technology.  There’s a video demonstrating this at http://youtu.be/Suc5B79qjfE

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  • As part of its RISE basketball tour in China, Nike unveiled the LED basketball court to train athletes.  This new facility in Shanghai, called the House of Mamba, has motion sensors capturing the actions of the players and LED displays providing direction on the floor.  There’s a picture below, but to see it at work, you should watch the video at http://youtu.be/u2YhDQtncK8

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  • In another example of the blending of the virtual and physical in urban environments, there’s Soofa's urban hub.  As they describe it:

a solar-powered bench that provides you with free outdoor charging and location-based information like air quality and noise levels by uploading environmental sensor data to soofa.co. The smart urban furniture was developed by Changing Environments, a MIT Media Lab spin-off.

  • Toshiba Corporation announced that it will add a new dimension to its healthcare business by starting production of pesticide-free, long-life vegetables in a closed-type plant factory that operates under almost aseptic conditions … and will start shipping lettuce, baby leaf greens, spinach, mizuna and other vegetables in the second quarter of FY2014.  http://www.toshiba.co.jp/about/press/2014_05/pr1501.htm

That’s it for reports from around the globe.  Next week back to analysis and questions about where we’re headed.

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/96538933986/technology-gets-more-personal]

New Energy?

This is the second of my August posts that review some interesting and unusual tech news items about various subjects I’ve blogged about before. 

Recently, there have been frequent announcements about developments in new and alternative, yet sustainable, energy. 

Among other developments in more efficient batteries than the traditional lithium ion battery, there is the Ryden battery, whose producer says it is both environmentally sustainable (carbon, not rare earths), supports an electric car with 300 mile range and charges 20 times faster than lithium ion batteries.  Their May announcement adds:

“Power Japan Plus today launched a new battery technology – the Ryden dual carbon battery. … The Ryden battery makes use of a completely unique chemistry, with both the anode and the cathode made of carbon. … [It is the] first ever high performance battery that meets consumer lifecycle demand, rated for more than 3,000 charge/discharge cycles.”

There’s a video explaining this more at http://youtu.be/mWPgnbRYNRM

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And Modern Farmer magazine had a story this month about the use of store-bought spinach as fuel for cars.  But before kids tell mom that spinach is too valuable to be used as food, read on:

In a recent study, an international team of chemists and physicists have taken the first “snapshots” of photosynthesis in action—the process plants use to convert light into chemical energy. … In experiments recently documented in Nature, the scientists shield spinach leaves they buy at the market in a cool, protected room where a sun-like laser activates photosynthesis. …

Using lasers, X-rays, and some spinach, the team has created the first-ever images of the water-splitting process that leads to plant energy. …  Once scientists get a handle on exactly how photosynthesis happens, they’ll recreate it using other technology to create what’s called an “artificial leaf” which could convert solar rays into cheap, renewable fuel.

Finally, for situations that don’t require mobile power, there’s a new kind of wind turbine unveiled a couple of months ago by some Dutch engineers.  Unlike the blades we see in wind farms, this turbine uses a screw-pump design, originally conceived of by the ancient Archimedes – which is also the name of the firm that makes this product.

For under US $6,000, the company says its Liam Urban Wind Turbine is as much as three times more efficient than traditional wind energy, perhaps the most efficient wind turbine yet.  And it does all this without the also traditional whining noise.  It kind of looks like a big pinwheel.

There’s a good video — recorded from a drone — of one of these in operating at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5t77JwkjUY

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© 2014 Norman Jacknis

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Expanding Communications?

In something of an annual August tradition, I’ll review some interesting tech news items about various subjects I’ve blogged about before.  This will be the first of a couple of posts and will focus on some of the developments that are expanding bandwidth both in capacity and in coverage.

Considering basic physics, there are theoretical limits to how much data can be sent over the air.  That has led many people, myself included, to think that wireless data would not be sufficient for the video and other high bandwidth applications that people have come to expect.  But the wireless phone companies have successfully increased their capacity for users over the last few years. 

And various technologists are developing even greater speeds for electronic communications.

A couple months ago, the Chinese company, Huawei has announced that it demonstrated in a lab, Wi-Fi with a 10 Gbps data transfer rate.   See

http://www.huawei.com/ilink/en/about-huawei/newsroom/press-release/HW_341651

And a few weeks ago, scientists at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Fotonik) reached speeds of 43 terabits per second with a single laser, which beat the previous world-record of 26 terabits per second set at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany).  See more at http://www.dtu.dk/english/News/2014/07/Verdensrekord-i-dataoverfoersel-paa-danske-haender-igen

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They describe the significance of this achievement this way:

“The worldwide competition in data speed is contributing to developing the technology intended to accommodate the immense growth of data traffic on the internet, which is estimated to be growing by 40–50 per cent annually.

“What is more, emissions linked to the total energy consumption of the internet as a whole currently correspond to more than two per cent of the global man-made carbon emissions—which puts the internet on a par with the transport industry (aircraft, shipping etc.).

“However, these other industries are not growing by 40 per cent a year. It is therefore essential to identify solutions for the internet that make significant reductions in energy consumption while simultaneously expanding the bandwidth.

“This is precisely what the DTU team has demonstrated with its latest world record. DTU researchers have previously helped achieve the highest combined data transmission speed in the world—an incredible 1 petabit per second—although this involved using hundreds of lasers.”

While the speed limit of communications is dramatically expanding, there are, of course, many people in the world that still need basic broadband – even in rural areas of developed nations or anywhere that has been struck by a natural disaster which destroys the established communications network.  One of the ideas that I’ve suggested to them is the use of weather balloons and similar, flexible “instant” towers that go up much faster and cost considerably less than building traditional radio towers.

There was a twist to this idea in an announcement from the National Science Foundation a few weeks ago (http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=132161&org=NSF ):

“Yan Wan from the University of North Texas exhibited unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) she developed that are capable of providing wireless communications to storm-ravaged areas where telephone access is out.

“Typical wireless communications have a range limit of only a hundred meters, or about the length of a football field. However, using technology Wan and her colleagues developed, Wan was able to extend the Wi-Fi reach of drones to five kilometers, or a little more than three miles.”

The implications of this ever expanding communications capability are only beginning to be explored.  As an example, the NSF also noted:

“One day, Wan’s research will enable drone-to-drone and flight-to-flight communications, improving air traffic safety, coordination and efficiency.”

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© 2014 Norman Jacknis

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Repeat Of Urbanization?

I’ve mentioned before that the common journalistic meme about how half the world is living in cities now is a reflection of the industrialization of China, India, etc., rather than a huge movement to urban areas in already industrialized nations.  (That massive movement to cities already occurred in more advanced economy during their era of industrialization.)

On several trips to China, going back to 1998, I frequently heard that half the building cranes in the world were busy in construction there.

So a review of a recent book (“Supreme City”) in the New York Times caught my eye with this opening fact:

"Between 1922 and 1930, a new building went up in New York City every 51 minutes, according to Donald L. Miller. Most of the truly spectacular structures — like the Chrysler Building, with its aspirational steel spire — emerged in Midtown, previously a region of open rail yards and shabby industry. Beginning with the reconstruction of Park Avenue in the early 1920s, Midtown became a destination neighborhood for the city’s ultrarich …

Pictures make the point as well.  First, here’s midtown Manhattan around Grand Central Terminal before the growth spurt.

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Here’s midtown Manhattan more recently:

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And another bit of historical comparison tells the same story.  In the 1900 census, the newly created New York City (of all five boroughs) had a population of 3.4 million.  By 1930, it had 6.9 million people — more than doubling the population.

While these trends today are having dramatic effects in Asia and elsewhere in the world, they would seem to be a duplication of previous patterns of industrialization.  For me, the more interesting question is how people will move around as the post-industrial, Internet-infused, knowledge economy develops.

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/94630055656/repeat-of-urbanization]

The Experience Economy In The Public Sector?

B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, the authors of a groundbreaking article in the Harvard Business Review in 1998, followed up in 1999 with their influential book – “The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business A Stage”.  (The book was later updated with a 2011 edition.)

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The original article and book were widely credited with establishing the field of customer experience management and the idea that a successful business relationship involves more than just delivering the goods or services promised. 

As the summary of the original article says:

“In this article, co-authors B. Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore … preview the likely characteristics of the experience economy and the kinds of changes it will force companies to make. First there was agriculture, then manufactured goods, and eventually services. Each change represented a step up in economic value — a way for producers to distinguish their products from increasingly undifferentiated competitive offerings. Now, as services are in their turn becoming commoditized, companies are looking for the next higher value in an economic offering. Leading-edge companies are finding that it lies in staging experiences.

“An experience occurs when a company uses services as the stage — and goods as props — for engaging individuals in a way that creates a memorable event. And while experiences have always been at the heart of the entertainment business, any company stages an experience when it engages customers in a personal, memorable way.”

These memorable moments stick with people and cause them to comment favorably to others.  To help them remember, many companies even provide souvenirs – another form of experience.  When business people think of souvenirs, it is not necessarily something elaborate.  For example, what one business would hand out as a simple receipt a smarter, more experience-oriented business would provide as an elaborate document, perhaps even on thicker parchment-like paper.

The books go into great detail and elaborate these ideas beyond the simple summary I’ve provided here.  It’s worth the time to read.

And the kind of thinking presented by Pine and Gilmore has had a big impact in the business world.  Many of the modern heroes of the economy, such as the late Steve Jobs of Apple, were known for the way they built their success on customer experiences.

Yet, the ideas in the Experience Economy have had only a small impact on the public sector and few pubic officials are sensitive to the experience their constituents are having.  This is somewhat surprising for several reasons.

First, as a matter of electoral survival, incumbent office holders want the residents of their community (i.e., the voters) to have favorable memories of the experience of being a citizen.  Indeed, professional campaign consultants have heard stories of public officials who “did everything right” – these politicians did what the public wanted – but were rejected anyway because people were unhappy with the experience of being a citizen in that jurisdiction.

In the broadest sense, this is about making a difference in the lives of citizens – something that drew many officials to public service in the first place.

Second, in a world where people have increasing choices about where they might live or travel to, the experience of being in a city or state will have a big impact on the economy there.  If it’s a positive, memorable experience, more people will want to be there and the economy will grow – as will funding for the government.  If not, bad experiences will lead to worse experiences for those trying to lead a community with declining population and declining revenues.

Although great experiences are not everyday events even in the business world, it is not necessarily that difficult to create these experiences.  Think about the typical interaction between a citizen and the government.  What would it take to turn that into a positive, memorable experience?  Not a lot of money; just an increased sensitivity to the experience from the citizen’s side. 

And public officials might also find that their staff, rather than resisting the changing to make the workplace more fun and memorable, would become more motivated.

I’d like to continue this conversation by elaborating on how the ideas of the Experience Economy can be applied in the public sector.  Let me know if you want to see this and, of course, please share any examples you have of memorable public sector experiences.

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/93970296574/the-experience-economy-in-the-public-sector]

Video On Technology, People & Rural Prosperity

Explanation in previous post.

Presentation On Technology, People & Rural Prosperity

Previously, I mentioned that I gave the opening keynote presentation at the final annual conference on Rural Prosperity in Canada, held at Queen’s University of Kingston, Ontario. 

Jeffrey Dixon, Associate Director of the Monieson Centre which has run the project, was very kind in his feedback:

Norm Jacknis provided an inspiring presentation at our 6th annual rural economic development conference. He helped a group of community leaders, business people, policymakers and researchers consider new opportunities for rural prosperity and to think creatively about how they can use technology to transform their economies.

A video of the presentation, including questions and discussion, is now available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7PmYBxcqgA&index=3&list=PLc4qJ1UgXeFHWsWwtzQm5TvfeNuDvfRad and also as the Tumblr post just after this. I went into a fairly deep explanation of the trends occurring in the economy and technology — and why and how these trends open up new opportunities for small towns and rural areas.  It’s about an hour long video, although the actual presentation starts about two minutes into the video and ends about forty minutes later.  (Sit back and relax – I tried to make it as entertaining as possible.)

You can see the printed handout at http://business.queensu.ca/centres/monieson/events/Economic_Revitalization_2014/Presentations/2014%20conference%20presentations/Norm%20Jacknis.pdf   Of course, if you only read the handout, you’ll miss the videos and also what I say about each slide since I don’t really read them.

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Also, in conjunction with the conference, the university staff issued a series of research papers that you can read in the Journal of Rural and Community Development at http://www.jrcd.ca/viewissue.php?id=20

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/93308163833/presentation-on-technology-people-rural-prosperity]

Three Books And A Webinar

I’ve been asked about books I’ve written part of or have a relationship to.  Since we’re in the relative quiet time of summer, I’m using this post to respond.

First, before this year, I wrote a chapter on “A New Kind Of Public Square For Urban America: How Sub-National Government Will Be Impacted In A Hybrid Physical-Virtual World Of Ubiquitous Communications”.  It appears in Transforming American Governance: Rebooting the Public Square (Transformational Trends in Governance and Democracy) .

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More recently published, in March 2014, was the compilation of essays, titled Smart Cities for a Bright Sustainable Future - A Global Perspective .  The chapter I wrote focuses on “Beyond Smarter City Infrastructure – The New Urban Experience”.

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As Senior Fellow at the Intelligent Community Forum, I’m also pleased to see the three co-founders of ICF write a new book in April 2014, titled Brain Gain: How innovative cities create job growth in an age of disruption .  You can learn more about the book and the ideas in it at www.BrainGainBook.com .

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Obviously, these books have a focus on big urban centers.  But they have implications for smaller communities as well.  For a flavor of that, you might want to register for Public Sector Digest’s webinar on “Small Communities, Intelligent Communities”.  It will be held today, July 23, 2014 from 1:00 PM EDT to 2:00 PM EDT.

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/92629010535/three-books-and-a-webinar]

This blog explores the future of government, the economy, business and knowledge. It will be a combination of my own thinking and pointers to interesting stuff that I see. You can follow me (@NormanJacknis) on Twitter to learn when blogs are posted.

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