It’s all glass.

MFA, Boston, June 2011.

I haven’t posted much this past year. Not because I haven’t thought about the topics that I usually post on. I have. But posting used to fill a need for me – it allowed me to process some of my ideas and share my experiences while traveling. This year, I haven’t needed to write a post in order to process ideas. I’ve had enough people in my masters program and throughout my life to fill this role, and enough papers that required me to write it all down.

So I stopped. And I felt ok about that. But now I’ve realized that by stopping posting, I’ve also stopped most of my photography. And I’ve lost my outlet for sharing my images. So in an effort to remember to carry my camera with me, I am now going to start posting again. Sometimes on thoughts/reflections/learnings, but mostly on my photography.

Here’s the first image. A stairwell in my college.

I like maps. I especially like old maps. And I spend a lot of time in Africa. Combine all of these things, and you get this:

Mapping Africa

A very interesting BBC audio slide show that shows how old maps can chronicle the the history of the continent. Check it out.

When I spent a couple years traveling through Africa, I often posted on the content of what I saw/learned/experienced. It was easy; every day I noticed or learned something new about the culture in which I was living or the field in which I was working.

Since starting my masters program in the UK, I have also learned something new every day. This knowledge is, I believe, equally as valuable as field experience, but it comes in a very different form that has been harder to distill into blog posts. Now that I have one and a half semesters behind me, though, I hope to focus more on the content of what I’m learning about technology and development, both in and out of lectures.

The focus of my learnings has shifted from on-the-ground observations (while traveling) to techniques and strategies for managing technology in a development context. To do this, I’m first learning about strategies used to manage technologies in industries in the West.

One of the first things I learned was Mike Gregory’s framework for the technology management process, which breaks down the process into five steps:

1. Identification: scan the market and competitors for potential product ideas
2. Selection: pick a technology based on competitive/market analyses, etc.
3. Acquisition: turn that technology into a product (R&D, manufacturing)
4. Exploitation: develop and sell that product (to bring in revenue)
5. Protection: ensure ownership and protect the trade secret

It’s not necessarily linear, nor is it necessarily circular, and there’s lots of feedback loops happening along the way. But it’s a simple way to break down the technology management process, and it’s something every successful technology company has done at some point.

In my experience, organizations working with appropriate technologies in Africa focus on identification and selection. Sometimes they get to acquisition. Few, if any, get to exploitation. My theory is that because most of these organizations are donor-dependent rather than revenue-dependent, they don’t really have to.

I’m glad that my white balance was set wrong on my camera for this photo.