From Now On
The Educational Technology Journal

 Vol 11|No 1|September|2001

Considering Context

How well did the new structure fit into the pre-existing context? How should the design of the second and third sections be influenced by the look of the first section. Even after plans have been drawn, there is still room for change as the real structure emerges.

© 2001, J. McKenzie, click on picture for full size.

One of the biggest failures of builders, architects, planners, thinkers and innovators is the neglect of context. Installation of new equipment, new buildings, new programs and new ideas can falter and fall short of expectations when abstractions are converted too rapidly into action plans and actual implementations that conflict with local conditions in ways not foreseen by the authors and thinkers.

Ivory towers, think tanks and incubators are all vulnerable to this trap. Removed from real conditions, the thinker may spin out the threads of dreams in ways that seem plausible and attractive in the conception phase but shrivel in the light of day.

Frequent, periodic reality testing is the antidote. New ideas must be subjected to pilot testing, peer review and examination in context.

Was the new arbor too tall? Should the next sections be just as tall? Would they block the view? Should they be shorter? Should the ladder section be eliminated? And how would it look once the grape vines rose to the top?

Some of this testing can occur in real space. Some might require imagination and simulation.

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Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie.

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