New technologies are coming to market at an ever increasing pace. Public computing centers can serve a critical role in helping community members adopt emerging tools where appropriate.
Observability: People are more inclinded to try something new when they see someone else successfully using it. Glass windows looking into computer labs and multi-use spaces that integrate computers within rooms that also support non-computer activities can provide opportunities for those are not active computer users to gain a glimpse into what computer users are doing. Special events and programming can be used to provide demonstrations. But perhaps most effective is the word-of-mouth that happens when a growing number of the population get excited and talk about the new things they’ve started with new hardware and software technologies.
Trialability: People are more likely to use something on a regular basis if they can try it out slowly, repeatedly, one feature at a time, over time. By having access within a public computing center, the pressure to invest in new technology is removed, allowing individuals to try technology at their own pace. Tech volunteers and staff within the space can foster trialability by encouraging individuals to take next steps using new features as they show a readiness.
Complexity: There must be support systems in place to help users overcome their fear of trying out new hardware and software and to help them learn how the technologies work. Encouraging staff, one-on-one mentoring, workshops, and readily available quick references and manuals can all facilitate in this process. Choosing emerging technologies that minimize complexity can also speed adoption.
Compatibility: The design of new technologies should fit within community values and existing ways of doing things whenever possible. Consideration of prior experience is important. Space design principles can serve to build an environment that can greatly help reduce stress so that even if a new technology itself is outside of community experiences, its location within a space that reflects the local culture can inspire familiarity.
Relative Advantage: New technologies should have a demonstrated advantage over existing ways of accomplishing tasks. By providing an attractive space with access to technical support, public computing centers can provide additional value to new technologies that increase relative advantage, especially early in the learning process when that advantage might not be readily apparent.
(Adopted from Everett Rogers Diffusion of Innovation, 5th Edition, Simon and Schuster, New York.)