The Future Geography of Political, Social and Economic Innovation

What might a map of future social, etc. innovation show? As with any map, different features come into relief at different scales. We must eventually consider all scales from individual to global and extra-planetary, since 1 to the third power = 1. A proactive approach to community organizational, school, home, and office designs to facilitate many-to-many collective intelligence will catalyze innovation in all fields.

A map of present social etc. innovation at a community scale might show wireless coverage, cell coverage, hi-speed access, libraries, churches and other places of worship, other commons, wireless hotspots and internet cafes, Elks and other social clubs, to name just a few possible features. Like any map, this map would help us to get where we want to go, in this case towards a community that fosters greater innovation.

Such an “innovation map” over time would reveal interesting trends and shifts in emphasis – areas of interest – as telephone internet modems give way to cable, only to be supercede by wireless (or what-have-you). The location of innovation resources such as schools, libraries and meeting halls has profound influence ‘on the ground’ in peoples’ lives, travel patterns, habits and behaviors, and interpersonal interactions. In the past, towns were made or broken by the route of a river, railway, or highway, and as much is true of the digital divide. Consider the change in lifestyle, habits and travel patterns, profound though slowly incremental over time, with the advent of movies and movie halls, TV, drive-in movies, multiplexes, VHS and Blockbuster, TIVO, YouTube, etc. What can be learned by mapping such trends in the dissemination of information and thus innovation? Well, if the Queen has a YouTube channel… the mission of the Church and of political activists, and futurists can all be better fulfilled.

A corporation such as Barnes & Noble, E-Bay, Starbucks, Google, or Amazon could potentially transform the information landscape by franchising an internet cafĂ©-innovation-newniversity in a manner that rivals or even exceeds the Carnegie library legacy. How would a corporation or other entity actually design this new infrastructure? What communities should get the first newniversities? Where should they be built precisely? What ethical precepts guide the choice? What would be an ideal design for the campus? For a room? For a “cubicle”? The computer has changed the shapes of our desks, and more subtly the shapes of our buildings, but what if a computer as “central nervous system” were to fully shape our urban design in the future, as the spine shapes the embryo? How will we humanize, design, and implement our geography of innovative human social spheres?

Space in Space

The STILP model suggests some initial implications to me for mapping innovation. In space, ironically, space is at a premium. How can we learn from STILP in designing (mapping) a Space station? Here [I] might equal efficacy as an astronaut: health, response time, dexterity, mood, acuity, etc. It seems vital to provide astronauts personal time and personal space. The Space station of the future would need “play space” free of the clutter of the station, a nearly empty space to relieve the sense of constriction in the main vessel.

The Innovative Building

Since change is constant, how can we design buildings to be innovative? The key feature of architecture is to define and enclose space, differentiating outside from inside, and interior spaces from each other. What materials and building methods are most adaptable to innovation? How can buildings respond to our new whims and activities like a Hamster Habitrail? One immediate idea seems non-load-bearing walls, moveable walls. We can anticipate that our dwelling needs will change, if not exactly how. Buildings that foster innovation are built with systems “soft-wired” so that doors, walls, windows, etc. are modular, and easily interchangeable. Rather than a room built okay for everything, good for none, or a room built for a single purpose (e.g., kitchen or audio studio), a room built for the context of innovation would provide opportunities for people to re-shape their interior spaces, to provide opportunities for people to gather and interact in innovative ways.

Innovative “Cubicle” design

The prevalence of office cubicles, and their attendant visual and emotional fatigue calls for the re-thinking of how we design personal space. A simple alternative to the cubicle would be to use a semi-circular unit, arranged in a circle. The ¾ wall could have a pocket door to provide complete privacy. Such an arrangement could obscure a person’s monitor from passers-by, while at the same time providing the computer user with sight-lines beyond the carrel to the wider room. A competition for “Concept Cubicles” based on the “concept cars show” could foster innovation in this area.

Geography of Books

Something may be learned from explicating a specific example further than the movie house – multiplex – TIVO example used earlier (to which we could add, panavision, cinemascope, etc.), let us consider books. In the context of dissemination of innovation, political, social, economic, religious and otherwise. We would also map literacy, printing presses, libraries, book shops, private collections, etc. Names like Nag Hammadi, Alexandria, Gutenberg, Gideon’s Bible and Bezos’ Kindle would loom large. My intent is to characterize the innovation ‘landscape’ in such a way that strategies and tactics for cultivating innovation can be implemented, tested, proven, and continually improved.

The Geography of books is a human geography, person, place and circumstance change. In this case literacy is the circumstance; in the broader sense we mean Biblical literacy, technological literacy, citizenship literacy, and collective intelligence.

Since S = (T;I;L;P), we need to map the circumstance in the past, present, and alternative futures, literally geographically to show where people interact with the technosphere including each other. That gives us our who-when-where. Our indicator [I], is literacy; [T]=when; L=location-where; [P]=population-person.

Consider the ridiculously abbreviated history of the book below:

Clay tablets – papyrus – scribes – literate priestly class… Renaissance – illuminated manuscripts – private libraries – wider literacy… Gutenberg… e-book – Bezos’ Kindle –Espresso Book Machine.

First we see the profound implications of the materials, paper or not. Like clay, paper has a weight, which any publisher can tell you, affects its economic geography. In other words paper is expensive to produce, ship, warehouse, ship, print, ship, warehouse, ship to distributors and end users (“readers”). Our purpose in explicating the obvious here is to draw useful parameters for our future innovation map. Looking over a map of rural libraries, we might choose a strategy called “bookmobile,” for example. But where should we take the bookmobile? Can we answer these questions in our broader context of innovation?

In our equation S = (T;I;L;P), our goal is to increase literacy of various kinds. Thus we seek to maximize the other factors, to provide a time and place to gather and reach populations of people. Population densities and travel patterns over time reflect how much time people spend at home, school, office, church, social, political, and other locations. What is our equivalent of the book? It is Opportunity. Opportunity for people to experience, model, and share innovation.

The Espresso book machine and Bezos’ Kindle each seek to free the book from the limits of paper in their own ways. What is our “paper”? In other words, what limits our dissemination of innovation? I propose that the disappearance of the commons by whatever name, in my opinion as a geographer, factors large in our equation of innovation. The revitalization of citizenship depends profoundly on, and at this time can best be created by, a re-establishment of town halls, and other non-commercial venues where people can gather. As people feel they have less time [T], the [S] situation i.e. innovativeness decreases, and political engagement decreases.

As new technologies emerge, they shape our patterns of movement and interaction, which can be usefully mapped over time. Using our movie example, when movies first came to town, people who like novelty might go to town on the day of the release, hence innovation-medium-time-location inter-twine.

Now let us consider a “Newniversity” by any name. XYZ Corp franchises a brick and mortar “storefront”, locations chosen, buildings designed, furniture arranged for innovation. What are the design criteria for locating these Temples of Tomorrow (if I can use that term)?

I would like to research the choice of location of these focal points of innovation specifically in the areas of politics, commerce, spirituality, but also as a whole.



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