New Times Call for New Tools
by Pete Gerr on May 13, 2011
Admittedly, I’m a data-driven kind of guy. I love facts, metrics, and feel that “anything worth doing is worth measuring,” as my dad taught me. I also love to consume information and have very eclectic interests. I do feel overwhelmed with data sometimes, as I’m sure many of you do; the more interesting people I meet, technologies I read about, or disrupting and innovative ideas I discover, the more I want to keep exploring. How did we ever survive (evolve?) on just word-of-mouth and reading local newspapers?
I recently had an exchange with someone (let’s call him “Bob”) on Facebook about an article Techcrunch had posted about Flipboard being the iPad “2010 App of the Year”. He felt that apps like Flipboard and Pulse would “unfortunately…kill newspapers and serious writing even faster.”
That claim is a variation of “killing the messenger” when they deliver bad news; or perhaps insulting the messenger for the poor grammar of the message before killing them for delivering it.
I, for one, think newspapers are no longer useful, but there has never been more of a need (and opportunity) for serious writing to be created and shared on a global basis – it’s not an issue of quality, it’s an issue of scale.
Newspapers and Flipboard share a common lineage – they’re both mediums for finding and digesting information. Stone tablets and network news fall into that category as well. Flipboard, Pulse and similar tools are just that, a forward step in our evolution, much as large national daily newspapers, which to me seem so archaic (it’s yesterday’s news for gosh sakes!), were a forward step from local radio programs, word-of-mouth, and if you go back far enough…stone tablets.
In fact, Flipboard and Pulse to me are far superior to a printed issue of the Wall Street Journal or The Economist because they allow me to read more of only those topics that interest me, and do so more quickly, while enabling me to share the most interesting bits with friends and colleagues. Compare that to your average Sunday Times, a scissor and a copy machine to save the few articles relevant to you, and the US mail to share that “must have” recipe or interesting story with Mom. There is no comparison. Using Flipboard or Pulse is like having a newspaper of unlimited length delivered to you on-demand with only the content you personally find interesting.
Bob also commented that “quality writing” would suffer with the advent of Flipboard and real-time media. Again, to me this is short-sighted. Why would the method by which we consume information negatively impact the production or quality of it? If anything, I would think that today’s democratized media world where virtually anyone, not just the few who have access, can record a video or write a manuscript and post or publish it to the web immediately would encourage more individuals to do so and we’d discover even more quality writing.
The Proper Perspective
The perspective I favor is that the amount of data sources available to us today is exponentially greater than in previous generations and so the tools we use to gather, filter, preserve and share this data and information must adapt and change. As recently as 20 years ago, the local newspaper and nightly television news were the only sources most people had for gathering insight – today we can have access to virtually every newspaper, magazine or periodical published globally with a few clicks. Can you imagine trying to read all those sources in printed or physical form?
The tools we use have evolved (printed local newspaper vs. instant access to global content) along with us. Gathering raw data, information, and expertise has become much easier (in fact, sometimes it’s overwhelming), but perhaps at the cost of insight or knowledge. There is more “volume” but perhaps less understanding and so we need new tools.
In business, the stakes are even higher. Take for instance healthcare – the skyrocketing cost of administering care is one force driving providers and payors to seek new tools to manage the explosion of new types of patient information such as digital MRI and CT scans, or 3-dimensionally extruded full-body images, while at the same time striving to improve the quality of care. “Better care, faster”, could be the tagline.
Hitachi Clinical Repository (HCR) is one example of how technology can be used as a multi-faceted tool to address several challenges. In many ways, HCR enables the medical equivalent of Flipboard – HCR aggregates data, information and metadata from multiple sources, and in turn, provides healthcare professionals with on-demand, instantly understandable information providing context, meaning and answers when and where they are needed. In a hospital or on top of a glacier.
Once the raw data is consolidated, HCR enables providers to have a “longitudinal” or historical view of a patient’s complete medical profile through a single UI from within a single secure digital archive.. Leveraging the power of Hitachi virtualization and the Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) and allowing for openness to integrate with any number of third party software apps, HCR illustrates how new tools can fundamentally increase the amount of raw data we can process while we search for the valuable nuggets of information therein. New times call for new tools.
You can read more about HCR here and how Klinikum Wels-Grieskirchen, one of the largest hospitals in Austria, trusts Hitachi to store and protect patient records but also to provide the unique longitudinal view of patient’s medical history to help improve care and reduce costs.
Comments (2 )
I agree with your sentiments here Pete. Maybe “Bob” was referring more to the fact that with information overload and shorter attention spans that folks are losing the ability to focus and go deep. Both Twitter and facebook are tending to propagate a certain shallowness to our communications. Nicholas Carr’s latest book “The Shallows” addresses this phenomenon.
Hi Mark, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment – interesting to bring Carr into his. So, I do agree with Carr’s analysis of information technologies ( the alphabet, maps, printing press etc). IMHO, I think the jury is out on his assertion that “Google is making us dumber”. I actually think compared to or pre-internet ancestors, we’ve evolved collectively and our individual world view has expanded exponentially.
We are definitely evolving against the changing environment and tools the internet age has introduced. I guess I try to take a more balanced view than Carr – he states that we are losing our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection (and infers that’s a deficiency for us as a species).
I actually think we’re trading in some skills that are not as useful in today’s world (deep thinking alone or philosophizing with a couple other people in our tiny part of the globe) for a set of attributes and skills that are more social, more democratic and generally beneficial, compared to, say, the age of Socrates and Plato.
The other way I look at his argument is that more individuals have faster and easier access to more information today, at their fingertips, than at any other point in recorded human history. Information used to be a closely-held weapon of power for a very few – today, its becoming democratized, and although it does come in a flood, we’re learning (and building new tools) to survive, evolve, thrive.
Great discussion though, and much more we could discuss – thanks again.