Disturbing the Circle: The Search for "Deeper" Data
Type "innovation" into any search engine and you are bound to encounter a litany of recurring names, companies, images, and adjectives associated with the word. "Innovation" is the art of the new, or at least some unfamiliar old. It sings of collaboration, but leaves room for the lone wolves, those pioneers of whom we are all very familiar. "Innovation" is invention. It's creativity. Modification. Disruption. Revolution. "Innovation" is a process. It's a technology. It's a deliberate business strategy. It's an unintended consequence. "Innovation" is Edison. It's the transistor. It's Apple. And, according to a few careful observers, "innovation" is the act of "innovating." Good. Now that we have that settled.
Amid all the confusion, contradiction, and circularity, "innovation" is nevertheless happening, all around us, from classrooms and laboratories to the factory floor and your neighbor's garage. What, then, is "innovation?" What does the concept attempt to describe, exactly? How are we to accommodate such a diversity of meaning without our concept of "innovation" becoming incoherent, stale, and meaningless?This is exactly what our team of students sought to accomplish with Mapping Innovation @ VT: by disturbing the troublesome circularity of "innovation" discourses, our team was able to probe deeper than the convenient platitudes and popular buzzwords allow. We wondered what "innovation" meant to individuals at Virginia Tech (VT) and beyond, in their own words and according to their own experiences. Here are some of the ways we attempted to accomplish these goals.