Chapter 7: Knowledge Sharing and the Next-Generation Network

Article excerpt

Abstract

The devices and networks we use to communicate, learn, and create are becoming increasingly interdependent. We can share knowledge of our successes and failures to make the library hype cycle more collaboratively productive.

From Hype Cycle to Innovation Trajectory

The hype itself is integral to innovation, which thrives on ingenuity, enthusiasm, and imagination. The productive result of inflated expectations is energy, required in abundance if one hopes to seek the freedom to develop, prototype, and gain knowledge in order to help the rest of us distinguish between real and imaginary potential.

If some librarians take emerging tools at face value, as I did in the case of video calling, over time and in the community of our colleagues we can develop insight into their actual value: the actions and interactions they facilitate.

It is tempting to veer off at the trough of disillusionment in search of the next best thing. Problematically, this is when a platform or device starts hitting its productive stride among the non-librarian or non-tech obsessed population. Technology hype requires media coverage-Twitter, blogs, etc.--which, in this field and many others, tends to be most avidly created and consumed by early adopters. Implementation, on the other hand, is a drawn-out process, and the true test of any innovation is its day-to-day plateau of productivity.

The video kiosk was a relative bust, and the Skype a Librarian call-in service a modest success. The same simple evaluation can be made of any of the library services profiled in this issue: some worked, others didn't. What matters is how you learn from this information and apply it in your own context. Instead of taking a new application and running with it blindly, we can create a layered perspective on how and why it suits our needs:

* Utility--First understand a product's technical foundation.

* Application--Then, examine how it is hyped, adopted, adapted, and rejected.

* Insight--Finally, implement with a critical understanding of its capabilities and caveats.

It is this process that transforms the hype cycle into an innovation trajectory: A strategy of investigating utility, discovering application, and implementing insight can and should be applied to any emerging technology as a means of understanding its holistic development rather than its superficial promise. I have found that VoIP provides two principal benefits for libraries--reducing costs and enabling rich virtual communication experiences. These insights are derived from VoIP's proven, long-term characteristics:

* VoIP is a mature technology. New uses of VoIP still emerge, such as Skype's 2010 integration with HDTV, but the devices, programs, and services it enables are no longer strictly beta.

* VoIP is a stable technology. Unlike some bleeding-edge tools that require watching and waiting to determine their usefulness, VoIP has had time to perform in a number of contexts, from virtual instruction to video interviews.

* VoIP is an intelligent technology. The adaptable nature of IP communications means that its end-use products can continue to develop with other emerging technologies, such turning a mobile wifi device into a free Web phone by simply installing a Skype app.

* VoIP is a converged technology. Rather than representing a wholesale departure from fixed-location use, VoIP is part of the fixed/mobile convergence that characterizes next-generation computing and communications} Wired and wireless combine to create the seamless, high-capacity connectivity that allows users to interact in many ways.

* VoIP is a bellwether technology. Organizations that switch from plain old telephone service to some form of IP calling can do so only if their communications infrastructure is up to speed. When broadband connections are robust enough to support end-user demands for quickness, coverage, and reliability, VoIP adoption is indicative of superior service and an early-adopter IT orientation? …