Design Principles: Technology Tools

When the focus of a space is no longer about the technology, but about the creative and collaborative endeavors that occur within the space, more attention is needed to select appropriate technologies to facilitate the specific endeavors that are the goal for the space.  Indeed, it could be argued that lighting, color, decorations, and technology are all equally important in impacting the appeal and behavior within space.  To borrow from carpentry, no longer is the general purpose hammer good enough.  Now the question is whether to use a small finishing hammer, a large framing hammer, a soft-headed mallet, an electric nail driver, a pneumatic brad nailer, or a pneumatic framing nailer.

Given the ever growing wealth of choices, we’ve worked to distill down the options into a few categories and subcategories of devices which might be considered when equipping creative and collaborative activities.  The sections below review the various categories in greater depth.


The variety of computers from which one can choose is mind boggling today!  Desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet.  Even our phones are now general purpose computers that can give us directions, take notes, surf the web, and let us update our Facebook status with the latest pictures we just took using that very same phone.


When cell phones can take a picture or video of an event  and also send it out to the world, when is it important to have a separate device to do the job?  When is the audio of a cell phone or integrated microphone of a laptop good enough to capture a story, and when should a high-end microphone be added to the mix? What might it be necessary to go beyond microphones to equipment that allows electronic keyboards, drums, and guitars to “jack in” directly to the computer?  And what software is used to go from raw recordings to finished production?


Trackpads, touchscreens, pen and ball mice — the world of input devices is becoming increasingly rich.  Today even choosing a scanner has become a journey through a forest of choices.  From the traditional flatbed scanner to overhead scanners and even special mounts for digital cameras are now used to acquire images of artifacts such as a sheet of paper, a book, a poster, or even a 3D object like a vase.  It is becoming increasingly common to also see computers equipped with 2, 3, or even 4 monitors to facilitate creative projects. One or more of these monitors may even be a large screen TV or LCD projector.


Increasingly cars and cell phones are coming equipped with Geographic Positioning Systems, or GPS.  But while we now are increasingly aware of the value of using a GPS to report where we are and tell us how to get where we’re going, we don’t often think about the creative, collaborative side of the process.  Today there are many participatory GIS (Geographic Information Systems) that allow people to enter in the location information they collect using a GPS, along with data and multimedia documenting that location.  With this information, it’s possible to create guided tours of a community, to analyze and advocate for more effective locations for the next school or fire substation, or even provide valuable information for the public service agencies on locations of potholes, blown bulbs in streetlights, or live crime information.

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