The Opportunities and Challenges of Technology Driven Creative Collaborations

The Opportunities and Challenges of Technology Driven Creative Collaborations

Diego E. Uribe Larach (State University of New York, Buffalo State, USA) and John F. Cabra (State University of New York, Buffalo State, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-519-3.ch016


The onset of the 21st century is marked by deep psychological and sociological transformations affecting every scale of human endeavor, ranging from individual to crowd behavior. Deep and central to these transformations is the penetration of digital communication and computer technology into modern day life. Above all, this new and evolving technological landscape has opened exciting new possibilities to drive creative behavior, organizational creativity and innovation through computer-mediated interactions. Such opportunities are met with equal challenges that need to be addressed in order to harness the full potential of massively distributed creative collaborations. This chapter will elaborate on the underlying trends that give rise to these opportunities and challenges and to what extent these trends will govern creativity and innovation in areas of organizational life such as business, education, science and design in the next 10 to 30 years.
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We have taken the task of writing this chapter with deep emotional and cognitive dissonance. It is almost a strip of dark comedy to write about technology and innovation in a medium that has remained unchanged for centuries and that is on the verge of becoming obsolete. There are indications that several formats of printed media are already losing ground against digital vehicles of information (, Retrieved October 26, 2009). Moreover, we know we are targeting a shrinking demographic unlike the vast audience of not-so-distant future teachers, managers, scientists, designers and engineers who should read this book but may miss the chance to do so because they were connected elsewhere. As media guru Marshall McLuhan (1964) succinctly stated, the medium is the message—printed books are living remnants of the 20th century persona, society and knowledge.

Take a minute to think about a typical day in your life. You are unlikely to find a day when you had no interaction with some sort of digital technology. On this day, you may have worked on your laptop computer, purchased something online, taken a picture with your digital camera and then uploaded it to a social media site. You certainly called somebody using your smartphone, listened to music on your mp3 player, interacted with a digital vending kiosk, or played a videogame. In all likelihood you did all of these things and more on that same day using only the smartphone you carry. Although these technologies are in their infant stages with no more than a few decades of existence, their influence and pervasiveness in modern day life have been remarkable. As of 2008, the average U.S. American between the ages 18 to 55 have consumed between 500 to 570 minutes of digital information per day through means such as TV, mobile phones and computer technologies (Council for Research Excellence, 2008). This is the equivalent of 8 ½ hours of our daily lives. It is yet to be seen and difficult to imagine the extent to which we will continue to integrate these technologies in a seamless and frictionless way. The thought of what lies ahead is evocatively exciting and frightening as we ponder the integration of technologies such as intra-body nanotechnology, sub-dermal radio frequency identification tags—just to name a few—with our psychological, sociological and even physiological being.

On one hand this integration is exciting because it has democratized computer-mediated networks. Whereby networks flourished only in select geographical locations, now they are free, accessible and ubiquitous to anyone who holds an internet connection or a mobile phone service.1 Networks feed and breathe in a cloud.2 With this phenomenon, clouds condense the time it takes to articulate interactions, lift the flow of information, expand the frequency of interactions and exacerbate contagion properties of such networks (Christakis & Fowler, 2009). The impact of this phenomenon has led to the creation of a myriad of outlets for content sharing and human expression. The explosion of this massively distributed sharing of content and ideas may turn out to be the greatest driver of creativity and innovation of the 21st century.

On the other hand this integration can be frightening because it can lead to misunderstandings or destructive behaviors such us flaming3. Worse, it can lead to unproductive speculations that humans will merge with computers4 and consequently delineate biology as outdated, the end of human history as we know it. These technologies have also been predicted to facilitate communication at a dizzying speed, trade knowledge of our cultures and band memories and resources in never before seen ways. The information these systems churn are overwhelming and has been blamed for being the leading producer of information anxiety (Wurman, 1989). To be clear, the scope of this chapter is not about making destructive speculations, as we disagree with the naysayers. Our focus leans more on opportunities and challenges more closely and reasonably marked.

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