A journalist acquaintance asked me about the relationship between journalism and product development in the context of Sketching in Hardware. I wrote him an email that (somewhat densely) summarized much of my current thinking about the relationship between cheap hardware, open standards, vernacular technology creation, social research and Sketching in Hardware (whew!). It probably makes no sense out of context, but I liked it enough that I thought documenting it on the blog would be worthwhile. Here it is:
Cheap, fast computation and increasingly open standardized interfaces encourage abstracting away from low-level operations to higher-level functional modules. This, in turn, opens the possibility for non-specialists to envision and create electronic devices, which in turn means that people who have domain-specific knowledge can now contemplate creating their own devices.
Thus, from my perspective, we're shifting from centralized, technology-centered product development to a more distributed, user-centered model. From supply-driven to demand-driven product development. As journalists--and, really, all forms of social researcher--are on the demand-side, it's a natural fit that they should play a larger role in the development of products. Sketching in Hardware becomes an approach to creating lightweight prototypes by nonspecialists so that they can better understand the role that technology can play in specific social situations.