In some ways putting out a magazine is a little like producing a play. We have our own scenery (our graphic design), a cast (our editors, writers, and graphic artists), and a script that we work from (the editorial focus of the magazine).
Right now it feels as if we’re working hard here behind the curtain at 201 Vassar Street on the edge of the MIT campus to make sure that our production is ready to open on time, with everything polished and in place.
The new scenery (the graphic design that David Herbick of Civilization magazine has been working so hard on) is almost complete. We’ve seen several rounds of preliminary designs from David for feature stories and the new departments, and we’re all very pleased. The new design will be open, clean, contemporary, and highly readable-an excellent combination of cutting-edge style and the substance you expect from MIT.
The new cast is arriving now. Almost every Monday brings the arrival of a talented new player to our offices. By the time the first issue of the “new” TR is published, the cast and crew will be complete. The script that we’re all working from-the magazine’s new editorial structure-has gone through several rewrites and is just about ready for the public. The new arrivals are walking about backstage memorizing their lines and cueing one another if they forget.
A word or two about the script that we’ll be working from. In response to my previous “First Line” column, in which I began talking about the new editorial focus of the magazine, I received some responses from one or two readers who were upset about the change. That’s perfectly understandable. Change in familiar objects is inevitably disturbing, and TR has been not only familiar but of consistently high quality. Therefore, the concern is something that we sympathize with.
Yet there is one specific kind of concern that I would like to allay because I think it’s unwarranted. That is the concern that Technology Review, in its new incarnation, will become a magazine that is, as some of you put it, “boosterish” about technology and that therefore fails to appreciate the implications and context of innovation. That isn’t the case. Our new focus on innovation doesn’t by any means imply that we will be talking only about the latest innovations and how they work. We will be discussing those issues, of course. We think they’re important. But that isn’t all we’ll be talking about. Far from it. Our concept of innovation ranges widely to include the entire context of technology-personal, organizational, social, cultural, economic, global.
In fact, some of the most interesting thinkers about innovation today argue that it isn’t possible to separate technology and human organization in any straightforward way. The most important examples of innovation, they argue, always combine hardware (and, today, software) with a specific kind of human context. And Technology Review will be very sensitive to the human context. We’ll be asking what kinds of organizations are capable of innovation and which are not. We’ll be looking critically at the effects of innovation on society and culture. In our articles we will never forget that technology is a human activity and not a disembodied abstraction.
Indeed, without giving too much away, I would like to tell you that the very first cover story from the “new” TR (the May/June issue) will very much focus on the context of innovation: what corporations and society as a whole must do to remain successful during periods like the present that are marked by rapid innovation, economic globalization, and great volatility. I hope you’ll find this exclusive piece a rich prologue to our efforts.
In addition to these changes in scripting, we are, as I mentioned above, going through changes in our cast of players. And I’d like to take this time and space to acknowledge and thank a group of seven people who have given a great deal of themselves to Technology Review during their tenure here. That group includes: Art Director Kathy Sayre, Senior Designers Nancy Cahners and Lori Nollet-Damon, Senior Editors Laura van Dam and Faith Hruby, MIT News Editor Susan Lewis, and Office Manager Peggy Shea. The high quality of Technology Review-along with its many awards and honors over the years-is due in large measure to the work of this group. We are grateful to them and we wish them well as they move on to new scripts and new scenery.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, take your seats. The curtain is about to go up on a new and vital production of an old favorite: Technology Review.