Whether to GoPro? Technology and creativity


I can buy technology, but i crave the experience. Does your learning technology facilitate experience?

You may have seen the GoPro range of cameras? Small, lightweight, waterproof and rugged, they’re aimed at the sports and outdoor market with a brand that shouts ‘action‘. They come with a range of clamps, clips, sticky patches and bindings that allow you to strap or fix them to just about anything, from your chest to a racing car, and can be controlled directly through buttons or remotely through a dedicated controller or your iPhone.

A mindset for mobile learningI’m thinking about buying one. The interesting thing? My decision is creative, not technological. In ‘Mindset for mobile learning‘, i argued that technology facilitates experience, but that it doesn’t guarantee it, and that we crave the experience. My argument was that ever fancier phones and elaborate mobile learning management systems will not deliver great mobile learning: only great learning design will do that, facilitated by the technology.

Similarly, great technology will not make me a great photographer, but it may facilitate me to take great pictures. And interestingly, GoPro do that by solving all the little problems that nobody else thinks of. For example: it’s waterproof by design, encased in a ruggedised crystal case with waterproof buttons and fixing spots. It’s seamlessly tied to WiFi, it’s entirely user serviceable, with replacement lenses and parts of the case being cheaply available and coming with a screwdriver, and it’s tied in with a whole a whole social community for support and advice.

For me, the GoPro story is a model of the Social Age. It’s affordable technology that facilitates experience. The pack of clamps to attach it to the kayak are pretty cheap, i don’t feel that i’m going to be ripped off for every little extra that i need to make it truly functional: indeed, it feels fully functional right out of the box.

But the real reason why i see it as a product of the Social Age: because i found it through a recommendation (thanks Patrick) and because when i think about it, i think about the creative output i can achieve, not the specifications.

I guess that’s the panacea of all advertising, that the consumer envisages themselves in a fantasy world made real by your product, but in this case i think it’s right: traditional photography has been about SLRs, ISO and F stops, graduating to Megapixels RAW formats. But when we experience photography, we experience a picture of Aunt Mabel, or maybe that waterfall you saw on holiday. Or perhaps a Christmas party. Our experience of photography is in it’s role of narrating our history, facilitating our storytelling, not bit rates and optics.

The Social Age is about our ability to create meaning out of knowledge, to narrate our story, to learn and to share that learning. Technology that is social allows us to do that easily. It lets us deliver the experience.

Whenever we use technology in learning, to schedule training, to capture results, to assess, to entertain, to challenge, to record, we should always ask what it’s doing: is it there to facilitate the experience, or is it there because it does the job. Is it adding value or facilitating mediocrity? If it’s the latter, you’d better think about how to change things, because technology along won’t make your organisation agile, won’t allow you to unleash the creativity and innovation you need to survive, the creativity you need to thrive. We need the experience, the experience of learning, narrating and sharing. Social behaviours for the social age, facilitated by social technologies.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Agile, Community, Creative, Culture, Design, Functional Design, Learning, Learning Technology, Mobile Learning, Social Learning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Whether to GoPro? Technology and creativity

  1. I love mine. But only really use it for funky adventure photos and video. Not as a day to day camera.

    • julianstodd says:

      I guess that as the technology for photography becomes ubiquitous (i have three ‘cameras’ on me as i speak, we will see small, cheap, specialist gadgets becoming more common. It’s less about one SLR and £3k of lenses, more about agile technology to suit my immediate needs…

  2. Steve says:

    The Hero is a fantastic camera but it’s not without limitations. A couple of things you’ll want to consider:

    – The battery life isn’t great. You’ll want to buy an extra pack.
    – The WiFi connection is nice as well. Being able to preview the camera through an iPhone is really nice especially when you’re mounting it to a POV mount. Be aware, though, that there is a slight delay in the image update.

    I know a guy that built a custom mount for one of these on his vest. He runs it whenever he goes on volunteer patrol. When he returns from patrol, he will slice out the stuff he thinks will make a great example or might be helpful for others and posts for his fellow volunteers.

    I recently bought JVC’s version of an action camera. The image quality is similar. It’s cheaper and a bit smaller. But it’s not meant to be user serviced. The waterproof housing is built in. The downside for me is the battery life is worse by far than the Go Pro.

    Good luck. I think an always on camera is a great way to capture and share moments that go far beyond a textual description.

    • julianstodd says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Steve – i have been trained into dealing with poor batter life by my iPhone… but a batter pack may well be on the list!

      Agreed – images are worth a thousand words 🙂

  3. tanyalau says:

    Nice write up Julian, sounds like a nice product, intentionally designed. I like how you’ve explicitly linked social & mobile too – def agree that mobile tools help facilitate spontaneous creativity, experience capture & sharing ( camera & video in mobile phones the best demo of this). This product takes it to the next level – extreme adventures captured on video are just screaming out to be shared!

    share them?!

    • julianstodd says:

      Tools that support us in narrating our learning are truly social. I found that the YouTube videos i did around learning had really high uptake – we love the conversational, informal tone of voice

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