ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Innovating For (and From) the Fringe

Posted by Plish on January 21, 2012

One of my favorite TV shows is Fringe.  It’s tale of parallel universes and the FBI’s, Fringe Division team, and their fight against inter-dimensional, and/or high technology crime.

The whole concept of the fringe, is a loaded one.  It is the place where the familiar feathers into unfamiliarity; where rules change and people must innovate and use technology creatively, simply to survive.  It’s the place of exile, the place of wonder and mystery.  Fringes are fragile – they fray.  They give the appearance of solidness but only until one touches them.  Then, they become ethereal webs that elicit unsure steps of probing instead of the surefooted steps of conviction.

The TV show depicts these fringe events as truly out of the ordinary.

The truth is, fringe events are around us everywhere.  When I buy a drink for someone at a bar and hand it off, that moment when I’m letting go and the person is receiving, is a type of fringe event.  When I click on a link and wait for the next screen to reveal itself, that is a fringe moment.  These exchanges of objects, states and information, facilitated by the interaction of two people (or at least a person and an object), are fringe moments.

Oh sure, they’re not rips in the space-time continuum, but they are moments when everything hangs in a balance of ‘what-ifs?’.

They are also moments ripe for creative innovation.  They are the moments when improv actors can create brilliance or grey.  They are the moments when health care providers can seamlessly transfer information and improve healthcare, or they can be moments of confusion – planting the seeds for future accidents.

In order to innovate in the fringe, it requires that we understand, and design for, what each person, or object is expecting to give and get.  There are two universes present on either side of the fringe event, each with its own rules. The operating laws of these universes need to be accurately ascertained in order to design appropriately and creatively.  Oh sure, we can assume what each party wants, but to really create magic, we need to know the local laws of interaction and provide an environment for synergy.

If we commit ourselves to the study of the moment – if we seek to understand the objects, interactions and suppositions that brought about that moment – we innovate from the fringe and in so doing, for the people and objects creating the fringe moment.   We become crafters of portals – doorways through which experience and objects pass.

Let’s not take this task lightly.  Whether professional or amateur:

We really do have it in our power to shape experiences in the universe. 

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