Pipelines & Grids vs Rooftop power

Regarding a recent EDUCAUSE post shared with me: http://er.educause.edu/articles/2016/9/the-innovation-pipeline-managing-new-technologies

The Innovation Pipeline: Managing New Technologies 

Author: Lisa Keohane, Published: Monday, September 19, 2016
Key Takeaways: Babson College has initiated a process called the Innovation Pipeline that helps address the challenge of evaluating technology and ensures faculty involvement along the way. The Innovation Pipeline is both a process and a fully developed web-based portal that clarifies how technology decisions are made that impact the curriculum at Babson. At the end of the pipeline process, communicating the results of the evaluation and all the information surrounding the new campus tool requires a clear marketing and communication plan.


from http://billingsgazette.com/business/tribal-chairman-calls-for-peaceful-dakota-access-pipeline-protest/article_d181dfff-dc29-57cd-b7d2-748a16979f50.html

This is really interesting to me, and even the framing of it is telling. Just as the petroleum industry uses pipelines (and lobbying pressure) to control their preferred form of energy, this seems to describe a process for big, centralized tools — tools that require significant investment, training, documentation, rollout strategies, etc. Some might argue that given the amount of control and infrastructure pipelines and grids require, there’s little that is “innovative” — or even accepting of non-standard behavior about them.

This is certainly relevant in a hierarchical and centralized campus infrastructure mindset. Controlling pipelines and controlling power grids can be efficient, but require significant investment, so design and control are important.

But then there’s rooftop solar, local wind power, etc.

The pipeline metaphor and process described begs the question of what models need to be developed for the imminent future, where cloud-based apps and services are out of the control of a centralized campus infrastructure. Will campuses suppress them as power utilities are doing to rooftop solar? Or will campuses embrace them for the DIYers who don’t need much support, and learn from their nimbleness?

Higher Ed IT currently sees examples of both sides with Office 365 and Google Apps: Sway appears one day; people use it; campus IT doesn’t really support it, but doesn’t make a big deal about it. On the other hand, if/when IT suppresses/disables it because they aren’t ready to support it (or don’t want it to compete with the campus-blessed system — e.g. Gmail), they cause many students and colleagues unneeded extra work in finding workarounds.

It seems that the “best of both worlds” would be to come up with a third option that provides significant support for “pipeline”/grid tools, but also encourages and provides lightweight (community-based!) support for “local” tools that take some of the pressure off the pipeline/grid.

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