Cool case studies of transformative technologies.
August 25, 2006 9:09 AM   Subscribe

If you could spend a few months studying a place where people are using a particular technology in a particularly interesting way, where would you go?

I'm thinking of applying for a grant that would pay for me to do on-site research on this topic of transformative, often unorthodox use of technology. This wireless mesh network for Tibetan refugees is a good example. I'm brainstorming places in the world (could be a small village, could be an entire country) where some technology has a uniquely profound impact on life, one it doesn't have in most other parts of the world. What cool situations have you experienced or read about where a group has leveraged a specific technology in a big way, whether with its intended use or an unintended one?

Bonus points if it's in Western Europe, rather than the developing world - only because I think the notion of the developing world finding ways to jury-rig tech for their purposes has been covered more, so it would make for a more intriguing proposal. It's less obvious that there could be a place in the fully developed world where a certain technology has a gigantic impact it doesn't have in many other places.
posted by TunnelArmr to Technology (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This sort of improvised innovation (called user innovation) has been pretty extensively studied in the management of technology literature. You may want to read MIT Professor Eric Von Hippel's Democratizing Innovation (released online as creative commons).

That being said, there are many easy examples, and there are a bunch of researchers in Western Europe (mostly Vienna, Munich, and Copenhagen) studying this. You can find a massive directory of papers on this topic (and open source, which shares many similarities) here.
posted by blahblahblah at 11:44 AM on August 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Probably too obvious for what you're looking for, but Japan is the mother lode of weird, transformative uses for technology, that are unique to Japan. The list of unorthodox uses for technology that result in wide social impact, yet only in Japan, is probably too vast for me to list (I'm not an expert anyway)
posted by -harlequin- at 5:03 PM on August 26, 2006

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