I want to begin with a question:What do two preeminent physicists and the father of html (hypertext markup language) possibly have to do with a beaver? All four are platform builders. They built things that other people — or, in the case of beavers — other species can use and, most important, build on.
What do I mean by a platform?The term “platform” can be used in two ways. In biological terms, platforms, such as beaver dams and coral reefs, provide the building blocks for dense ecosystems. For example, beaver dams not only enhance the life of beavers but also provide habitats or foraging opportunities for a number of species:Wild ducksGeeseKingfishersSwallows (to name a few) Among computer techies, a platform is a computerized system on which other developers can add hardware devices and software applications for particular purposes.
Extension PlatformsExtension educators can point to their own rather impressive history of platform building and stacking. In fact, these educators were platform builders more than a century before this definition was conceived. Efforts to contain an especially virulent cotton plant pest, known as the boll weevil, in the Deep South is an example of a platform that gave rise to many platforms: crops entomology, crop dusting, crops scouting, to name only a few — is one example. Other platforms that were built off the U.S. Extension platform include the U.S. Farm Bureau System, public health education, applied home economics, 4-H, the U.S. Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service), and community resource development.
What’s Missing Today?We have been building platforms, highly generative platforms, throughout our history. The problem is that the kinds of platforms we have built and continue to build are not open and generative enough to meeting the building codes of the 21st century. Why? Because we live in an age in which people are not only better educated but also better equipped to empower themselves and to build their own platforms without the assistance of highly credentialed educators. We’re being called upon to build new platforms that are generative and convenient enough to appeal to more sophisticated users.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/4049950966/http://www.flickr.com/photos/rorycellan/3916832626/
It’s great news that Extension educators are adopting social media at a faster rate. But the times are calling on us to do something even more important: to cultivate a new mindset. We’ve got to learn how to combine our traditional outreach methods with social media techniques to assure that our platforms are the most open, generative and convenient as possible. But we’ve also got to understand how these new platforms will transform our client from consumers into prosumers — in other words, people who are actively engaged in the design and planning of our educational products.http://www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/2675323741/
Our New Charge: Transitioning from Programs to PlatformsIn the past, a number of factors forced us to deliver our products in linear ways. Right now, we’re still defined by how well we deliver our programs rather than by how well we develop ecosystems. In the future, we will be valued less for the programs we deliver, more for the platforms and ecosystems we build and participate in. The more open and generative these platforms and ecosystems are, the better.Extension helped build a global scientific farming model that has fed billions over the past century using older platforms. The human infrastructure we provided within the last century has facilitated the sharing of knowledge in much the same way that railroads and multi-lane highways have facility the delivery of manufactured goods from place to place. The good news is that there is a stronger emphasis than ever on building technological infrastructure to secure the most optimal levels of creativity and innovation. The bad news is that we no longer will be a critical component of this infrastructure unless we find a way to build more open, generative platforms.Simply put, surviving in the 21st century will require our developing a more open-ended approach to outreach. We shouldn’t find that imperative all that threatening: historically speaking, we are simply being called upon to close the circle, to return to our roots.One critical need we will serve will be helping our audiences deal with the vast tidal waves of words, symbols and data pouring out of their laptops, iPads and smartphones minute by minute, hour by hour. One of the most prized skills in the future will be the ability to collect vast amounts of information and assemble it into forms that they can use — the reason why our learning to be aggregators and curators will be an important part of platform and ecosystem building in the future.
flickr.com/photos/yel02/216662431/Become defined by how wecontribute to ecosystems—platforms—through sharing,serendipitous insights, diversity ofinformation, & innovative thinking.
In the flow Willing to failValue in waste Borrowing from others
flickr.com/photos/torley/1902535767/Jim Langcuster @ExtensionGuylangcjc@aces.eduAnne Mims Adrian @email@example.com
Much of this presentation was inspired byWhere Good Ideas Come From by Stephen JohnsonThe Connected Company by Dave Gray and ThomasVander WalPublication and Video on Platformshttps://store.aces.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ProductID=16954