31-3.7 Bursting bubbles, and getting tech to grow up

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Sunset over the Adur

I just wrote a post for NEXT Berlin which has provoked a little more reaction than normal. I admit – it’s a more touchy subject than most, encompassing both a missing plane, and thus many lives at risk or lost. And it takes a side-swipe at the obsessions of the tech business right now. But despite the not entirely positive reaction, I’m pretty pleased with it, because it encompasses a lot of what I believe about blogging, both in terms of process and in terms of exploring ideas.

First of all, on the process front, it reflects one of my cardinal rules of doing blogging well: connect the impetus to blog with the action to implement as soon as possible.

I was procrastinating slightly about posting, because I wasn’t massively enthused about the subject I’d come up with, and then I came across Mary’s Facebook post, and the appropriate neurones leapt up of the cognitive couch, brushed the metaphorical pizza crumbs from their notional chests and went to work.

Why did this get me interested? Well, it invoked two of the things I feel strongly about:

1. Get out of the bubble

This is a serious one. I’ve talked before how I find the intra-journalist discussion about the digital future amazingly dull compared the the conversation happening at the intersection of journalism and everything else. That problem – the echo chamber of like-minded people talking to themselves is everywhere, and it holds us back. When you only look inwards, you keep finding the same old answers.

I feel that the internet of things – as a concept – is locked into that right now. Lots of people borrowing ideas off each other, but basically ending up with the same bunch of products.

This is one of these stories where two worlds come together to make a very interesting possibility. Mash together aviation – and its obsession to safety detail – and the efficient communications skills of the internet of things movement, and you have a very interesting potential partnership. If I could introduce the problem from one side of the fence to potential providers on the other, how could I resist?

Was the timing wrong? I don’t know. If you have this conversation long after the event, then you get no traction for the ideas. In a sense, I was taking my cue from the aviation community, which certainly seemed to think that this was an appropriate time to discuss these matters.

2. Time for tech to grow up

The move to mobile and apps is great and everything – but isn’t there more than this? It feels like the grand tech juggernaut has ground to a halt and has got utterly distracted by finding new ways for us to play games and chat to each other in increasingly simplified ways. Both of these are admirable things in their worn right. But is that really what we’re going to use all this great tech for?

OK, I’m overstating the case. Interesting things are being done outside the startup/apps/VC economy, but you wouldn’t know it from the the tech press right now. I think that needs to change. I think we need to puncture that happy little tech bubble, and start looking more deeply at how it really impacts life outside that sphere.

But right now, it’s past 11pm, I have to be up early in the morning to deliver a day’s training, so I’ll leave further exploration of that idea for another day.

This is the seventh in a series of one-a-day substantive posts I’m going to try to write through March.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.