It is easy to forget how much computers have changed. I worked on the first generation of PCs, when you typed cryptic words into the command line. Now you move the mouse or swipe the finger. In the Seventies and Eighties, we worried that the coldness of the machines would destroy our souls. Now we conduct our social lives online in a whirl of text, photos, emoticons and amateur video.
But as the Web has adapted to our needs, we have also adapted to the Web. According an article in The New York Times, engineers at Google have discovered that people will visit a Web site less often if it is slower than a close competitor. How much slower? 250 milliseconds. That is 250 thousandths of a second.
Impatience rules online. Four out of five users will click away if a video stalls while loading. Two professors studied the user experience over the timeshare computer networks in the 1960s and concluded then that a delay of more than 10 seconds hurt the user experience. Today, having adapted to what is possible, we expect a daily dose of miracles from the World Wide Web.
Adaption is at the heart of the next Institute for the Study of the Intelligent Community at Walsh University in the state of Ohio USA. It is a Catholic institution with nearly 3,000 students from 25 countries. While it now offers more than 50 undergraduate programs, it started out in 1960 with a practical purpose: to educate secondary-school teachers and business people in what it called “servant leadership” – leading in service to others. The University remains deeply involved in how we can best prepare the people to whom we entrust the education of our children.
Walsh President Richard Jusseaume (right in photo with ICF’s Louis Zacharilla) has worked with ICF to define objectives for the new Institute. The leading goal is to investigate new models of teacher training for those who will educate the next generation of knowledge workers. By connecting students and teachers around the world with best practices in teacher education, the Institute will work to transform the classroom and the way students are prepared for the global economy.
Keynoting at the announcement on February 29 was Mayor Dan Mathieson of Stratford, Ontario, Canada (left in photo), which agreed to become home of our first Institute in December of last year. The Stratford Institute will provide deep analysis of the process through which that community – where automotive and agriculture once dominated – is building an economy focused on digital media.
Both Institutes are now entering intensive development: setting milestones, negotiating financial commitments and developing research plans. They have one more thing in common as well: at heart, they are about how the Web adapts to us and we adapt to the Web. The questions they ask, and the answers they seek, will change over time. One thing that will not change is the focus on how the people, institutions and culture of a community can best adapt to the broadband economy.