Heading home from Tokyo this morning. It's been a pretty amazing week. While did a lot of touristy things I'll document in another post, I had three experiences with technology that made me think. Ouch.
Vending machines here are ubiquitous and wonderfully easy to use since any currency under the value of Y10,000 ($10) is a coin. I loved that coffee was readily available, but I was surprised when I found this can of was served hot instead of cold. How nice and how practical. Such a simple twist to the very old technology of the vending machine. Made me wonder how many old devices could surprise us with new uses if we just thought a little differently about them?
I've never seen a more connected city. My guess is 90% of the people I saw on the streets and subways were plugged into some device - 100% of those under age 30 - with many using two devices simultaneously. For a society that is reserved anyway, I never saw anyone strike up a conversation with a fellow passenger. Well, except for me when I sometimes in panic mode asked for directions. I've never felt so keenly the fear that technology is isolating rather than socializing.
These are the controls for my "Tokyo toilet." The icons are fairly self-descriptive. While I am sure my 7-year old grandson would find great fun with such a contraption, I don't know how many would sell in the US. My guess is that two things may explain why they are so popular here. (I did not see a toilet that did not offer these features.) First, culture. The Japanese value cleanliness and personal hygiene and have for centuries. But they also face a challenge: the lack of physical space. This is a small country geographically but has a very large population which results extremely small rooms that make the most of any space. Even vertically - many door frames are only 6 feet high and I have the bumps on my head to prove it.
To me this is an interesting way to look at any technology implementation. First look at the culture of your school and then examine its challenges. Any technology that does not consider both is doomed to failure.