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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Second Life: A Disruptive Technology

Christensen, author of
The Innovators Dilemma
Clayton M. Christensen coined the phrase disruptive technology in his 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma.  The term disruptive technology refers to a technology that "the process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves ‘up market’, eventually displacing established competitors" ("Clayton Christensen," 2009).  It is important to recognize with disruptive technologies that it is not the technology itself that makes it disruptive, but rather the impact that it has that makes it a disruptive technology.  PC World listed the ten most disruptive technologies as of 2008 as: entertainment on demand, inexpensive digital camcorders and YouTube, open source software, MP3 files, blogs, inexpensive portable file storage, cloud computing with mobile devices, high speed wireless internet, the Internet, and smart phones.  It is critical to understand that just because the word disruptive has a negative connotation, disruptive technologies do not have a negative impact.  A disruptive technology simply shifts how we do a task, or interact with media. 

Second Life is a virtual world filled that is populated and created by its users, and was created in 2003 by Linden Lab.  Second Life allows users to create a virtual character that interacts in a virtual world.  The founder of Lotus 1-2-3, Mitch Kapor stated “Second Life is a disruptive technology on the level of the personal computer or the internet” (As quoted by Nuthall, 2008).  The reason why people are claiming that Second Life has such potential at being a disruptive technology is that it radically shifts how and where people can interact socially.

Second Life replaces that traditional environment for people to interact in.  Through the Second Life world people can attend classes, meetings, stores, and parties.  Now people from all over the globe can get together in a virtual environment to interact.  In a 2008 TED Talk, Philip Rosedale (founder of Second Life) summarized the popularity of Second Life with two aspects: it is a new way to socially interact with information, and since it is a virtual world with images language becomes less of a barrier. 

There seems to be a lot of hype about Second Life in the technology world, but in the real world Second Life does not seem that popular.  Personally, I know very few people who have heard of Second Life, never mind use it on a regular basis.  It is going to take a many years before Second Life is a fully adopted technology.  Once Second Life is a fully adopted technology it is at this point that a new technology could be developed that disrupts Second Life. 

In the academic world Second Life has the potential to offer courses to students who live in rural areas with limited academic offerings.  With deep budget cuts affecting academic offerings at many high schools across the country Second Life is an inexpensive option for students to take a larger variety of courses.   

Enjoy ~SJ

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wish Books to Wish Lists!

The Sears and Roebuck company began as a mail order catalog in 1888.  Since at that time people bought must of their goods from the local general store they were required to pay inflated prices.  Sears and Roebuck were able to offer lower prices through their mail order catalog which featured farm supplies, toys, sewing machines, cars, houses, and just about anything that a person could need.  This business expanded until 1993 when it stopped producing its large catalog.  Today it prints fewer and smaller catalogs due to the interest in online shopping.

The Sears and Roebuck catalog and transitions to online shopping is an example of what Dr. Thornburg described as a Rhyme of History.  Someone once said that "The future will be like the past, only with cooler toys."  Although new technologies are invented, these new technologies allow us to go tasks that we used to do, but easier.  One example that Dr. Thornburg used in his Rhymes of History vodcast was social networking.  Social networking is a rhyme of history because it brings back the concept of a watering hole.  The watering hole was a place in a community used by people to not only gather water, but to also exchange news and stories.  Social networking sites hold the same purpose today, they allow people to share news and stories in the digital age.

Online shopping at mega stores such as Amazon.com allow people to accomplish the same task as the Sears and Roebuck catalog did.  People can log onto Amazon and browse until their hearts are content.  They can read about an endless variety of items, read descriptions as well as reviews from customers.  Once a customer finds an item that they are interested in they can either place it in their virtual cart, or my personal favorite place it on your wish list.  Placing something on your wish list is the same as turning the corner down on a page that has an item you are interested in.

It isn't that the idea of dream shopping has died with the lack of print catalogs, it is simply the way that people interact with the catalog has changed.  Gone is the thrill of receiving the Sears catalog in the mail, instead we receive email updates on family members growing wishlists!

As a side note, according to a Boston Globe article if you are interested in viewing all of the Sears catalog pages since 1896 they can be viewed at ancestry.com 

Enjoy ~SJ