Monday, November 01, 2004

Hurdles in the adoption of new technology

I’ve been reading Christine Hine’s Virtual Ethnography book for another class, and came across an interesting phrase. Hine discusses the fact that so many times a new technology comes along, and proponents suggest that this new device will lead to the end of such and such, or the beginning of a new era in so and so… And that quite often those predictions are completely wrong.

So she concludes “This argument suggests that, rather than technology itself being an agent of change, uses and understandings of technology are central.” I certainly agree with this sentiment. Just because something should work, doesn’t mean it will work. Many times I’ve heard somebody (usually programmers) say, “lets write up a quick program that will automate this. All people will have to do is…” And there is the trick. Based on a different cost/benefit structure, the automated program doesn’t actually lower the cost for the intended user. Sure it works great for a techno junkie, but not for the common man on the street.

And a further hurdle is that something can’t just be easier (lowered cost), it has to appear to be easier, since so often perception is, in fact, reality. I would be willing to bet that many time saving devices that should have caught, didn't catch on for these two reasons. Using the device did not actually lower the cost for the intended user, or they were not perceived to actually lower the cost, even though they would have.

Something to keep in mind when trying to convince somebody you have an answer to their problem.

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