Two recent books You Are Not A Gadget and Program or Be Programmed raise a common call to action: we must not be complacent about who designs and how they design technology experiences. Lanier (among other points) cautions about lock-in and encourages designers to create novel alternatives, not just mash-ups or pulls from Facebook, Twitter, etc. Rushkoff points to the few who can actually respond to Lanier's challenge, drawing a contrast to spoken and written languages like English -- for the first time the majority does not know how to write programming, they can only read/listen.
Agreeing with many of those ideas, I'm also optimistic after attending events like last night's NYTech Meetup. Curated by Evan Korth, the theme was about building an inventive tech community, and specifically how to deepen ties to academia (something I've recently been working towards), where there is some pure space for experimentation. Some projects that caught my eye (coming from both young hackers as well as professors) offer different interfaces and ways of architecting information:
Zooburst! (NYU): augmented reality pop-up books
The Ghost (NYU): dynamic user-programmable MIDI controller in guitar form
Touch Tone Tanks (Brown): multi-player game projected onto walls that uses conference number and mobile phones as controllers to move and shoot
WordsEye (Columbia): text to 3D image storytelling tool
SMS AppStore for the developing world (NYU): creating 140 byte constrained apps, for medical records and other needs, servicing low-end mobile devices
Squidball (NYU): motion capture games for crowds
Not showcased last night, but circling back to the topic of technological progress, codecomputerlove made this "pong game" awhile back, half in html5 and half in Flash, which visualizes that debate in a very literal way.