PhD Thesis Defence and Acknowledgements

I don’t usually go personal in this blog, but this is a very special occasion:

On September 8th, 2009, at 18:00h, in Barcelona, I’m doing the defence of my PhD thesis Measuring digital development for policy-making: models, stages, characteristics and causes, which deals about the digital economy and whether governments should help in its development for it might have a positive impact on the real economy and on the society at large (say “aye” to everything).

Scholar orthodoxy does not allow me (yet) to upload here the original manuscript, though some teasers can be found at my notes on the seminar I did at the Catalan Government Department for the Information Society (Measuring digital development for policy-making: Models, stages, characteristics and causes. The role of the government) and the presentation I did to my colleagues of the i2TIC research group (Measuring digital development for policy-making: Models, stages, characteristics and causes. The role of the government) — same titles: the former with notes, the later with some more information.

Thus, so far there’s only room for waiting… and acknowledgements. This is how my PhD thesis begins:


Dedication

To the people that pushed, that pulled and that accompanied me on the way:

To my parents, Ismael and Mª del Pilar, for having always stayed behind me and pushing me ahead with the best of gifts ever: education.

To Pere Fabra Abat, for staying in front of me by committing to my project and making out of me a scholar.

To Mercè, for staying besides me by grace of a Benedettian deal; for letting me know, every day, that I could count “con usted / es tan lindo / saber que usted existe / uno se siente vivo”.


Acknowledgements

My first thoughts in this section necessarily go to Tim Kelly. I will never find the words to thank him for his time, the only thing in the world we (still) cannot buy, and I much regret the fact that I will have little chance to pay him back for all his personal dedication. Of all the things I owe to him, I will just mention confidence, almost blind confidence, when he accepted to supervise my dissertation. Confidence, almost as scarce as time.

This dissertation somehow has its roots planted in 2001, when I first took the path of ICT4D. Hanne Engelstad and Yolanda Franco, Joan Fuster and Carles Esquerré were there to join me in to build an audacious project that made of me a professional. Remei Camps joined shortly afterwards, followed by Mónica Choclán, and Josep Salvatella came in and out with most valuable advice. Thank you so much.

Joan Torrent, Francisco Lupiáñez, and Pilar Ficapal were crucial in the third part of the dissertation – and, personally, at many other stages. They deserve a lot of credit for many of the successes that might be in the quantitative part of the dissertation: I am glad I did follow their advice. Joan gave me extra advice in some formal aspects of the dissertation which I highly highly appreciate.

To Agustí Cerrillo, David Martínez, Miquel Peguera – especially for taking it very personal –, Diana Amigó and my other colleagues at the School of Law and Political Science of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya for endless and friendly support when I needed it most (i.e. throughout the whole process).

I owe big gratitude to the anonymous reviewers that sent feedback with most interesting suggestions about the original manuscript.

I am in debt to Tim Unwin (ICT4D Collective, Royal Holloway University of London) for – amongst other things – trying to build a discipline out of the blue and coming up with the Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium and for his commitment and support for novices in the field. The three editions (so far) of the symposium have been amazing learning places. Besides Tim, thanks go to other faculty that thought the project was interesting enough to take part in it: Erkki Sutinen, Khalid Rabayah, Seugnet Blignaut. A special thought goes to Gudrun Wicander, Florence Nameere Kivunike, Isabella Rega, Marcus Duveskog, Annika Andersson, Mathias Hatakka, Marije Geldof, David Hollow, Peter Rawsthorne, Paolo Brunello, Evelyn Kigozi Kahiigi, Ugo Vallauri, Clint Rogers, Mikko Vesisenaho and all other participants for making it possible and unselfishly sharing their knowledge and warmth.

I have enormous gratitude to John Palfrey, Jonathan Zittrain, Urs Gasser, Marcus Foth, Amar Ashar, Mike Best, Ethan Zuckerman and the rest of the faculty and participants in the Oxford Internet Institute Summer Doctoral Programme 2007, held at the Harvard University’s Berkman Center in July that year. There have been few times when I have worked so hard and even fewer times when it was so worthwhile.

I have a big sense of gratitude to Dennis McCauley (The Economist Intelligence Unit) and Irene Mia (World Economic Forum) for the time they spent with me and the patient answers to my questions on their respective indices.

A special thought goes to Amy K. Mahan. I’d really love it if you could have read these lines. Thank you so much for the information you sent and the warmth with which you sent it.

Justin Smith (Inside Facebook) and Linda Collard (Synovate) sent, respectively, valuable data on Facebook and Social Networking Site: I really appreciated that.

To Ben Compaine (Boston University), Mike Jensen (IT Consultant) and Phillippa Biggs (International Telecommunication Union) and Divakar Goswami (LIRNEasia): thanks for the dialogue.

To María Rosalía Vicente Cuervo (Universidad de Oviedo): thanks for your own dissertation and kindness.

Very very… very special words to Alison Gillwald, Charley Lewis, Christoph Stork, Khaled Fourati, Alex Comninos, Steve Esselaaar and all the people at the LINK Center: your work rocks. Everybody should recognise about its value and, most important, its relevance and the difficulty of doing it in the most challenging continent. You deserve my deepest admiration.

I deeply admire George Sciadas for his work represents a turning point in the debate about e-Readiness and the measuring of the Information Society. I also do want to thank you for writing back after the confusion: that was really kind.

Richard Heeks (Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester) deserves my deepest admiration too for also contributing to build a discipline out of the blue and, indeed, for sharing the making of it online.

Teresa Peters and people behind Bridges.org have my deepest recognition for, in my opinion, having drawn the blueprints of e-Readiness.

Manuel Acevedo, ICT4D Consultant and another brother in arms at the PhD programme, is able to mix cleverness and kindness in unprecedented ways. Thanks for Madrid, Sevilla, Bonn, Gijón and those still to come.

To the Italian cluster: Paolo Massa (Scientific and Technological Research Centre of Bruno Kessler Foundation), Marco Zennaro, Enrique Canessa and Carlo Fonda (Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics): Thanks for just being great.

John Daly (Development Gateway) edited one of the first – if not the first one – ICT4D blogs I ever read, always coming up with interesting news and insights. I am also in debt to other ICT4D and Information Society experts who shared their knowledge through their blogs (and other digital platforms): Christian Kreutz; Mikhail Doroshevich; Florian Sturm, Martin Konzet and all the people at ICT4D.at, Jon Camfield, Ricard Ruiz de Querol, Tryggvi Thayer, Enrique Dans, Jaume Albaigès and Olga Berrios.

Same as above, but at the institutional level: LIRNEasia, i4d journal, TIER, CIS Washington, PEW Internet Project: please do keep on publishing your stuff.

The ivory tower wouldn’t have crashed down without the friendship of the Spanish ICT4D and NPTECH community, to whom I owe the unquestionable honour to be always kept in their minds José Antonio “Tito” Niño (Spanish Red Cross); Agustí Pérez Foguet and Enginyeria Sense Fronteres Catalunya; Yolanda Rueda, Adrien Mangin and the people at Fundación Cibervoluntarios; Paco Prieto, Jimena Pascual, Josema Alonso and the people at Fundación CTIC; Jordi Duran, Ramon Bartomeus & the people at iWith.org; Frederic Cusí, Cesk Gasulla and the people at Fundación Esplai; Xavi Capdevila and Guillermo Rojo at Fundació FIAS; Valentín Villarroel and Ingeniería Sin Fronteras Madrid; Carlota Franco, Mar Vallecillos, Elena Acín, Paloma Ortega, Marta Reina, Marisol García, Paloma Fundación Chandra; Mai Escobar and Fundación Bip-Bip; Àlex Garcia-Albà and Alexandra Haglund-Petitbó at Agència Catalana de Cooperació al Desenvolupament; Rafael Ruipérez Palmero at AECI Colombia; Gemma Xarles at the Escuela Virtual para América Latina y el Caribe.

Robert Guerra (formerly ICANN and TakingITGlobal, now Freedom House) and Michael Trucano (infoDev at The World Bank): thanks for counting me in.

I want to thank Karin Deutsch Karlekar and Sarah Cook for letting me participate in the reviewing of the questionnaire for the first edition of the Freedom on the Net report. That was a thrilling thing to be in from the start.

A thank you, and a big kudos to the organizers and participants of the Web2fordev conference in Rome, for making of it a milestone in several senses.

I owe César Córcoles (School of Computer Science and Multimedia Studies, UOC) an explanation (or an apology) about communicating vessels and non-reciprocity (or imbalance, to be fair) in knowledge exchange. Stop it, so I can pay you back.

Enric Senabre, a brother in arms at the PhD Programme, might be surprised to find himself here. This is the price you pay for humbleness.

Julià Minguillón and Josep Maria Duart, (UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning – the both of them – and RUSC Review of ICTs and Education – the latter), Agustí Cerrillo (Master in e-Administration) and Rosa Borge (Master in e-Governance) have a curious way of helping people out by giving them more work. It’s insane, but it’s fun, especially when it is related to one’s own research interests.

Mercè wants to appear in the acknowledgements section too – despite already appearing in the dedication which I tell her is better –, so here you are.

There is some supporting people that I might have forgotten: exhaustion plays havoc on memory. My humblest apologies to those who consider having earned for themselves being cited amongst these lines.

À Evite A.: “Perdono tutti e a tutti chiedo perdono. Va bene? Non fate troppi pettegolezzi”.

Live-blogging and conference reviews

I just got an e-mail form Michel Bauwens — whom I met at the I+C+i. Liberty, equality and P2P conference (Part I, Part II) — suggesting that I should collect under a single page all my conference reviews, which, as some of you might know, is my favourite sport whenever I attend (or chair…) any kind of event.

Well, here they are:

As it is stated in that page:

Be aware that these are not proceedings, not objective reports of what was said, or not even faithful lists of topics covered at those events.
On the contrary, these are personal notes, taken on the run and filtered by (a) what I understood, (b) what I was interested in, (c) what I did not know and was worth noting down and (d) what I was able to type at that time.

Some (presumably many…) conferences might be missing, as I’m just collecting in this page the ones for which I created pull-down menus, which are the ones with several sessions. In other words, one-single-session events are not (yet) in the collection of Conference Reviews.

Nevertheless, the list already climbs up to 228 articles coming from 24 conferences, which represent almost 30% of the total or articles in this blog. I maybe should be doing this on a pro-basis and forget about doing research and teaching ;)

Digital Competences (VIII). Cristóbal Cobo: e-Competences in the European Framework: literacies in the XXIst Century

Notes from the course Competencias digitales: conocimientos, habilidades y actitudes para la Sociedad Red (Digital competences: Knowledge, skills and attitudes for the Network Society), organized by the CUIMPB, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on July 16th and 17h, 2009. More notes on this event: competencias_digitales_cuimpb_2009.

e-Competences in the European Framework: literacies in the XXIst Century
Cristóbal Cobo

Europe is doing pretty well (in relationship with the rest of the World) in broadband adoption and Internet users. But… what do people do with broadband in the Internet? For instance, the Chinese blogosphere (with much lower Internet adoption) is larger than the US and EU blogospheres combined.

Social networking sites have become platforms where to informally develop digital skills.

Digital skills might be related with the educational level, but there is contradictory data to validate this statement. Indeed, we quite often find no relationship at all. What is nevertheless clear is that the digital divide and the e-competences divide have much in common with other development divides.

There’s been a huge concern to bring equipment inside schools, to bring computers and connectivity into the classrooms. The question being: are them students learning more? In general, we do not find any evidence between more access and usage of ICTs and higher performance in education. And not only this, but also ICTs haven’t brought any change at the methodological level, any pedagogical innovation. If any relationship was found, it is between performance at school and access and usage at home.

Indeed, beyond a specific threshold, more ICT availability does not imply higher ICT usage… but, quite often, just the contrary.

e-Competences are meta competences: a compendium of several competences, including their own framework: a long-term agenda, stakeholder partnerships, research and development.

Though youngsters show an apparent ease and familiarity with computers, the impact of ICTs in youngsters has been overrated.

e-Awareness as the most important of e-competences:

  • understand the importance of e-competences
  • promote a constant update of such competences
  • promote a professional use or application of them
  • promote the acquisition of such abilities

e-Inclusion: the Information Society does not work if we only support the ones that had the best chances to be educated, to have a good job, etc. And a good starting point is de-elitize the advanced ICT users.

Some proposals for e-competences acquisition:

  • Uniformity vs. consistency
  • Constant updating
  • Do not reduce them to ICT usage
  • Validate informal e-skills
  • Incentives

Some final thoughs

  • The impact of ICTs in education has not been the one expected
  • Integration of ICTs in education demands deep changes
  • The potential of ICTs to develop a continuous learning is huge

Proposals for policies in e-competences

  • Integral adoption of ICTs in education, including innovative pedagogy, teacher training, new learning environments, etc.;
  • Use ICTs to enrich informal learning spaces, contextual learning, collaborative learning, blended learning, innovative and continuous learning;
  • Forget about instrumental standards, but go in the direction of building principles and standards based on actualization and recognition, related with digital citizenship
  • Move towards e-maturity: find the proper application for ICTs. ICTs are not for everything and everyone and everywhere. And unlink e-competences with the number of computers and usage time.

[click here to enlarge]

Q&A

Q: The abolition of censorship and other restrictive practices, will it help in e-competences adoption? A: Yes, it would help, but we also have to forget about a 1:1 relationship between people and computers, or that ICTs are going to bring solutions to each and every problem (like lack of democracy). But, yes, of course, it is a necessary condition (not sufficient) that governments become e-aware.

Jordi Palau: sure the new generation of Web 2.0 technologies won’t help education? They’ll help, but the change, the real change, is at another level.

More information

Course on Digital Competences (2009)

Digital Competences (VII). Gerard Vélez and Laura Rosillo: La Caixa, from e-Learning to collective intelligence

Notes from the course Competencias digitales: conocimientos, habilidades y actitudes para la Sociedad Red (Digital competences: Knowledge, skills and attitudes for the Network Society), organized by the CUIMPB, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on July 16th and 17h, 2009. More notes on this event: competencias_digitales_cuimpb_2009.

La Caixa: from e-learning to collective intelligence
Gerard Vélez and Laura Rosillo

The Virtaula project was born in 1999 at La Caixa [one of the largest banks in Spain] as an e-learning platform to train the employees. But the framework has deeply changed: the Internet has moved form the Internet of enterprises to the Internet of people, becoming more social. The Internet becomes multichannel, user-generated, social networks based, etc.

The institution has also evolved and been restructured, from a hierarchic institution to a matrix-based management.

The new Virtaula implies savings in the field of collaborative work: meetings, work groups, professional development, training, etc.

Virtaula was born as an e-learning platform to reach 25,000 employees, all over Spain, without no boundaries of time or space, giving a quick response, in few time. It was intended also to transmit corporate values (especially to new employees) and to transmit corporate procedures. Training paths were followed by each and everyone, and these paths were generic and non-transversal.

The new focus is to give answers and solve problems that the needs of the business, of every day work, require. The idea now is to reinvent e-learning based on internal bi-directional communication. The new training design it not generic but segmented, needs-focused, applied, practical.

There’s been a shift from 100% employees following formal training courses to 40% employees following formal training courses. But employees keep on logging onto Virtaula looking for informal learning and knowledge sharing among peers. These open spaces are built on demand: besides formal training, the rest of the platform and the rest of training initiatives work on demand and to answer the needs and requirements stated by the employees.

Of course, a minimum of commitment is asked for: behind any demand made to Virtaula some requisites need to be matched: fora responsibles, online mentors, etc. that usually come from the same group of people that asked for a new virtual space.

The organization of virtual groups replicates the natural organization of groups within the firm, as it has been proved that it is also the natural unit of knowledge sharing. These units work as a top-down channel for information diffusion, and also as a bottom-up and peer-to-peer platform for knowledge sharing. In these units, the blog has been acknowledged to be the king tool.

Virtaula is full of “solutions” uploaded by the employees to give answer to the situations they find in their daily work, and everyone benefits from contributing to the knowledge platform, being trust in their peers the main value.

What has changed is not (only) the platform, but what people do in it. In Virtaula 1.0 people enrolled in a course, followed training paths, took part in fora by formal (organization- and hierarchy-based collectives), accessed materials and asked a tutor. In Virtaula 2.0, everyone manages their own training, generates content, write blogs and upload videos, lead and mentor virtual spaces, gather around interests (not organization charts), manage information and build their own networks.

Main changes from Virtaula 1.0 to Virtaula 2.0

  • Spectators became the starring characters. Knowledge shifted from being shared to being built;
  • And learning moves from autonomous learning to collaborative learning;
  • From consumers to prosumers;
  • Expanded authority: it’s better a shared collaborative document, than copies from the original; we have to compete outside, not inside (the firm)

In Virtaula 1.0 trainers were “real” trainers and were asked to answer the students back, mark them and lead a specific group. The new paradigm is that everyone can be a trainer provided they’re willing to lead a topic. People are now agitators, ambassadors, producers, turn tacit into explicit knowledge, share and collaborate, etc. And they are all volunteering to do it.

Main digital skills worked with the employees

  • Know how to search (e.g. Google)
  • Know how to read (e.g. Google Reader)
  • Know how to store (e.g. Delicious)
  • That should lead the employees to be able to publish whatever on Virtaula

Q&A

Mercè Guillén: why is it that the Virtaula platform has so little corporate imaging? Laura Rosillo: It’s made on purpose. The idea was that Virtaula were not an intranet but the Internet. On the other hand, the purpose was that it should not be a corporate space, but a place for the employees, for the people. La Caixa already has an intranet, and Virtaula should be detached form it.

Q: Have you thought about using already existing social networking sites for other purposes? Gerard Vélez: yes, and the work done in Virtaula should empower the employees to “colonize” other parts of the Internet.

Q: What’s the participation level? Is people aware that this way of working will have any impact on profits? Gerard Vélez: out of 25,000 employees, 15,000 have accessed the platform, 6,000 are in work groups and 1,000 are highly active users. And people do it because it has a positive impact on their daily work.

More information

Course on Digital Competences (2009)

Digital Competences (VI). Joan Torrent: Electronic skill-biased technological change (e-SBTC), enterprise and work

Notes from the course Competencias digitales: conocimientos, habilidades y actitudes para la Sociedad Red (Digital competences: Knowledge, skills and attitudes for the Network Society), organized by the CUIMPB, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on July 16th and 17h, 2009. More notes on this event: competencias_digitales_cuimpb_2009.

Electronic skill-biased technological change (e-SBTC), enterprise and work
Joan Torrent

The Knowledge Economy

From the industrial economy to the knowledge economy: Digitization and technological revolution, Globalization, and change in the structures of demand.

Globalization is the last stage of capitalism, understood as the maximization of profit in the market. Capitalism is led by an expanding trend, and always move towards no limits of time or space. And the difference between internationalization and globalization is the time factor.

The fluxes of information and knowledge will be the groundings for development in the next decades: for the first time in History, we’ve got now technology that helps human beings in their mental work, vs. other technologies (steam engine, combustion engine, etc.) that were applied to — and were substites for — manual work. Thus why now knowledge is becoming the booster of wealth, the asset upon which creation of wealth is leveraged. Though knowledge is not new in the production equation, it is new in a sense of magnitude and intensity, leading to changes in productivity, competitiveness, etc.

Implications of this new economic sphere that is the Knowledge Society:

  • Complementary effect: technology has an impact when used to achieve goals in a specific framework, but it has not an impact in itself — though it is the core for economic transformation. But technology biases skills: depending on the technology used, skills will be different: the skills required for working in an assembling line are different from the ones required for working with computers.
  • Synergistic effect: impact on competitiveness, productivity, salaries, etc. But only if there is an effect of co-innovation, of complementarity amongst organizational change, technology and skills.
  • Substitution effect: substitution of manual or mental work by technology
  • Expansion effect or spillovers: network effect or network spillovers among the infrastructure (Technology) with the structure (Economy) and the superstructure (Society). The inclusion of ICTs has affected all aspects of life, changing the Economy and the Society, and not only production itself. The Knowledge Society is a new economic paradigm and a Third Industrial Revolution.

Kinds of knowledge

  • Know what: observable knowledge, non-rival, ability of exclusion, high increasing returns, decreasing marginal utility, lock-in
  • Know why: observable knowledge, non-rival, medium ability of exclusion, high increasing returns, decreasing marginal utility, lock-in, network spillovers
  • Know how: tacit knowledge, low exclusion, medium increasing returns, decreasing marginal utility, low barriers of exit, network spillovers
  • Know who: tacit knowledge, low exclusion, medium increasing returns, decreasing marginal utility, low barriers of exit, network spillovers

The struggle of firms to turn tacit knowledge into observable knowledge will lead to the class war of the XXIst century.

Knowledge economy and enterprise

On a network for enterprises, there’s a process of decentralization, specially of external decentralization: e.g. providers are externalized. In the knowledge economy, also internal decentralization is made possible, leading to the networked enterprise.

And in the case of work, we also witness a transition towards the networked work: ICTs as substitutes of mental skills, production on-demand and differentiated, non-manual knowledge and work, continuous training and corporate training (i.e. There is no knowledge society without a learning society), innovation, flexible salary, self-programmable (i.e. learn how to unlearn), the networked enterprise as the new framework and networked organization, more commitment than the one agreed by contract (i.e. You cannot leave your brain at your workplace), individual relationship with the enterprise, flexibility as value (i.e. flexisecurity), health hazards related with mental illnesses (stress, burnout, mobbing, etc.).

Digital sills

Skills depending on routine vs. non-routine tasks; and depending also on analytical tasks & manual taks.

  • Enterprises that transform the competences base + organization on a flexible way of production and work + and development of work relationships that increase commitment = higher productivity.
  • New practices in human resources management + new organizational systems + intensive use of ICTs = higher productivity.
  • Delegation of responsibilities + lower levels of hierarchy + intensive use of ICTs + human resources management that leads to higher commitment + fostering innovation = higher productivity

Enterprises that are networked are more knowledge intensive, are more innovative, have higher skilled workers, etc. and, in general, are more competitive and have better work conditions.

Workers from the knowledge industry have higher wages; workers that have knowledge-intensive jobs have higher wages; workers that are in the knowledge industry and have knowledge-intensive jobs are the best remunerated.

Conclusion: we have to evolve towards a change in the competences of both workers and enterprises. And accompanied with investment in technology and a deep organizational change.

But the reality shows that most people are unskilled and, ever worst, do not follow continuous training paths, as do their highly skilled peers. Thus, the gap between the unskilled (or less skilled) and the highly skilled increases.

Q&A

Q: how is it that in this days of crisis we don’t see a debate towards knowledge? A: in a situation of crisis (and always) governments have to capitalize the economy, increase its amount of capital. But politically, this is not that easy; there are some economic trends (e.g. the building industry in Spain) that are difficult to stop; and there are some costs in the shift (e.g. several thousands of workers that are going to lose their jobs) that, politically, are unbearable.

More information

Course on Digital Competences (2009)

Digital Competences (V). Howard Rheingold: Participatory Media and Participatory Pedagogy

Notes from the course Competencias digitales: conocimientos, habilidades y actitudes para la Sociedad Red (Digital competences: Knowledge, skills and attitudes for the Network Society), organized by the CUIMPB, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on July 16th and 17h, 2009. More notes on this event: competencias_digitales_cuimpb_2009.

Participatory Media and Participatory Pedagogy
Howard Rheingold

It’s better to talk about literacy (or literacies) than skills, are skills are bound to the individual, and literacies have a social component: skill + community. There’s a social component to knowledge tied to the new media we’re witnessing.

For instance, we can buy a book online, but the fact that you can not only access the “objective” information that it’s online about the book, but also the opinions of others, this enriches the information. And the consumer more and more needs a context, a frame. And this frame heavily relies on reputation.

Thus, education also needs a context, a frame. Again — and especially in education — it is about reputation, and about the social factor.

Tools like Friendfeed just do that, letting people to follow people and know what they do. With social bookmarking and the help of tags, searching is more clever. You can browse several platforms following a tag. Searching through tags is a way of exploring another one’s knowledge database, see their rationale and, most specially, the collective rationale behind a specific thing, a specific concept, a specific tag.

All in all, these are several and alternative ways of storing, sharing and retrieving knowledge. And the good thing is that you can combine these several platforms.

Q&A

Ismael Peña-López: how big can the trusted network be? A: It depends on granularity and how much you trust who. You have to learn how to build your own filtering practices, how to attach different degrees of trust to people or platforms or feeds or tags. Indeed, you can have several networks you trust differently, depending on their composition. And the skills required to manage digital technologies can be learnt and developed.

Ismael Peña-López: where to begin with, for the newcomer, in network building? A: In a near future, family — parents — should encourage and train their kids to build their online identities and their own network, whatever it is and whatever the topic. It is likely, though, that at this stage it’s easier to begin with professional networks. In the end, it’s about creating trust around some interests one might have. To begin to create your network of trust, you should observe and find who’s building attractive knowledge.

Carlos Albaladejo: social media and communities of trust, is it for digerati? has it gone mainstream without anyone noticing? A: I don’t think it’s about digerati at all. The production of online content has boosted in the last years. Of course, there still is a lot of people unconnected or not wanting to connect at all. But the number of smartphones is climbing up, and these are phones intended to lots of uses beyond voice. On the other hand, and for the same reason, the digital divide is (in general terms) no more about access to technology, but about people being skilled enough to use it. So there is an increasing divide between the people that can use (and use) these technologies and those who don’t. We’re most likely seeing social media e.g. for political engagement in its early stages, but the trend seems to be that adoption will increase in quality and quantity.

Q: how will educational institutions use social media for education? A: Institutions are always slow in adopting new technology and, especially, new methodologies. We should begin to educate parents. And educate in what is accurate (information) and what is false. But we have to rethink about the whole educational process.

Q: how do we deal with information overload? A: We have to train our attention. Information overload is an information problem, but also an attention problem, and our attention — just like any other skill — needs to be trained, to learn what to do with the information that keeps coming, to learn what information needs to be managed immediately and which one can be just overridden. And along with training attention, we have to build attention filters.

More information

Course on Digital Competences (2009)