A viable approach to increasing STEM starts with empathy
How a Google Technologist Understands the Best Visualizations
Google's Michael Jones is an anthropological technologist. The man behind Google Earth, who took the stage at today's Innovation Summit for a Disruptor Session about Visualizing the Globe, is entirely grounded in the deeper questions of what matters most to people, and human desires and drives are what have guided his technological design process.
While in the past governments and soldiers had been able to view the world on big computers exclusively available to them, when Jones first imagined the technology behind Google Earth he pictured a mother using it to see if her hotel was really on the beach, or a grown man zooming in on the site of his first kiss.
That intensely human connection of person to place is what motivated -- and continued to motivate -- Jones. "Every human shares our planet. That's our home, " Jones said.
Jones' creation does just that, though he might not take credit for it. Jones talked about Google Earth as a democratic tool. He never doubted that the user -- the local-- would be the person who would perfect the product.
"It went from the four of us in my dining room to a billion people using Google Earth," he says with a humble frankness. He wishes government would work similarly. "What if someone watching state of union has good idea to solve problem X? And Obama said 'Do you have a good idea? Please write to me.'"
Storytelling is also crucial -- to humans, to business, to maps, and to Jones. During his talk, the mild-mannered technologist used a map to tell a pacifist's story about war in a brief video presentation during his talk. He narrated as a virtual map of Kabul came across screens set up around the room. Small yellow spirals dotted the map. The spirals, he explained, represented coalition soldiers killed in action. The camera zoomed out to reveal an entire country full of little spirals, signifying lives lost in the war. When clicked, each spiral sprouted the biography of the soldier it represented. "For each of these 3,000 people, you can see their stories," he said.
Jones appreciates stories, and on a recent trip to China, asked a young woman who had been the leading high school student in Beijing to tell him hers. "What had it been like to be such a stellar student?" Her response? "I don't remember."
That's exactly what Jones is combating. He wants people to be aware of where they are, not only on the globe, but also in their own lives.
- A love of all things innovation is what first drew Laura to Ashoka, where she works to identify and connect leading social entrepreneurs--innovators applying new solutions to some of the oldest and most entrenched societal problems. She also serves as managing editor of Ashoka's StartEmpathy, the forthcoming online home of a movement focusing on educational innovation. Before coming to Ashoka, Laura worked as Communications Director of a mobile health technology start up building products to bring primary care into the 21st century.
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