ICTlogy.net refurbished: focus on the personal research portal

More than six years after I set up this site, I’ve just made a dire change on its structure, which is but a change in its purpose, aim or focus.

The site began as a simple blog, and then went on growing by being added more content and sections: the ICT4D Wiki the ICT4D Bibliography, etc. At some point it started to feature information about myself and, especially, the writings and speeches that I was doing.

It is now time to turn it upside down, put the content on the back and the researcher to the forefront. (Almost) everything is still there, but as more people (a) get here through search engines and land directly on a specific page or (b) just subscribe and read content on their RSS feed readers, I thought the home page should be more a presentation of the whole site rather than the last blog post and which kept all other information cornered up to the header menu.

So, main changes:

  • New home page — If you’re reading this on your feed reader, I’ll be glad to know of your impressions on design and structure — with new design, and structured as a Personal Research Portal or, if you prefer it, as a Personal Learning Environment (PLE)
  • Drop of the ICT4D Calendar. When I set it up, I did it for myself (and most things here) to keep track of ICT4D events. It was difficult to gather that information there but it no longer is. The ICTD.at collective, Christian Kreutz, Pablo Arribas and I are experimenting with an ICT4D Calendar on Google Calendar (but we definitely don’t pour much intelligence in it), Mark Openner is doing a cool work with the Ethnos Project Calendar, the IPID discussion list is terrific, and the ICT4D community on Twitter is gorgeous. So, no need to do something other people are doing much better.
  • A new blog, SociedadRed, in Spanish. More information about the reasons to set up a second blog can be found in the first post in SociedadRed, but let us say that this blog — the ICTlogy ICT4D Blog — will remain a mostly scholar, professional, academic one, while SociedadRed, while still dealing mainly with the Information Society, will be more personal and framed in Spain.

By the way: I am sometimes enquired about the odds and ends of this site, how do I work with it, how I benefit from the huge amount of hours that I presumably spend with it, etc. Well, I have been invited to impart a keynote speech at the PLE Conference, which will take place in Barcelona the 8th and 9th of July 2010. Come and find out.

PS: Many many thanks go to Mercè Guillén: she deserves a good share of credit for the redefinition of the site and rearranging the mess it had become. Her advice is like watercolour: comes concentrated and in small drops, but once diluted you can paint a whole sea with it.

Network Society course (XII). Round Table

Notes from the course Network Society: Social Changes, Organizations and Citizens, Barcelona, 15-17 October, 2008.

(ideas and comments from the audience at random — bundled under subjects and attributed when possible: Q noting an unidentified participant)

Participation and Engagement

Carol Darr: The importance of enhanced participation by means of web 2.0 applications.

Enrique Dans: To reflect on how events can be taken to a new stage by overcoming geographical and chronological barriers, extending the debate beyond the four walls or the conference room, beyond the scheduled dates of the programme.

Ethan Zuckerman: Do not focus on technology, but on engagement and participation.

Q: The Internet, a discovery/invention or a technological approach to an existing background? Where’s the limit of the Network Society? Can we evolve into a connected network where is people — not computers — what we physically connect, and thus create a single entity?

Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubi: the possibility to report reality from within the reality, closer to it than mass media. And the challenge to connect the offline and the online worlds, avoiding to create two different agoras.

Felipe González Gil: the Network requires constant exposition and constant competitiveness. Is this a masculine model?

Felipe González Gil: if creativity, engagement, the person behind, is what really matters, what’s the difference between a pencil and a digital camera?

Ismael Peña-López: it is not about having computers connected, but people; it is not about having some people connected to their community, but to connect communities in the “global village”; and it is not about being connected to communicate with the World, but to be connected to policy-making, to decision-taking, to the ones that matter (to us) emotionally and economically.

Getting people on the Network Society

Carlos Domingo & Genís Roca: the need to fill this gap (between the online and the offline) with some stewards that bridge both worlds, by not staying back in the web 1.0, not leaping forward the web 2.0, but trying to shift towards a web 1.5. Genís Roca stresses the fact that it is economic crisis the ones that somehow “validate” new economic and ideological models. Carlos Domingo goes back to the “goodness” of crises to “clean” old structures.

Ricard Ruiz de Querol: two different kind of unconnected people. The disconnected ones at the bottom, because they lack infrastructures or how to afford them; the disconnected ones at the top, because they lack the awareness to do it.

Doris Obermair: asking Yochai Benkler whether the problem of ICT usage was a generation related one, he answered that no, that as far as we’re running comfortable lives, there is no need to change. Only if we face a crisis we’ve got incentives to change our status quo.

Marc López: there are more people connected (to the Internet) than we might think. The question is how to reach/find them.

Q: we should set aside all the web 2.0 jargon so to avoid creating the geek vs. non-geek worlds.

Antoni Gutierrez-Rubi: to achieve the change, we have to act at the grassroots level, but also directly at the policy-making and decision-taking level.

Net Neutrality

Xavi Capdevila: the importance to get people connected, but not depending on firms, platforms, what they say or what they think or what they do.

Research and analysis on the Network Society

Tom Steinberg: two can types of research can be done. (1) Do things and reflect ex post, (2) wait until we come out with a universal truth. We should focus on hands on research, identify the benefits (and the drawbacks) and diffuse them to other communities so that projects can be replicated, adapted or just created from the experience of others.

Ethan Zuckerman: the difference between what will happen and what has happened (or is happening). Wondering about the future is great, but understanding the past and the present might even be better.

Elena Sanz: The need of a multidisciplinary approach to debate and try to understand the challenges of the Network Society.

Jaume Gatell: The Net, by providing so much knowledge to everyone, has enabled more and better communication between people. This also empowers people to engage in the analysis of what the Network Society implies. And it also implies a cultural change so necessary to be aware of the changes and how to look at them.

More info

Sunstein, C. R. (2001). Republic.com. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Network Society: Social Changes, Organizations and Citizens (2008)

Network Society course (XI). Ethan Zuckerman: Innovation in the Network Society (II)

Notes from the course Network Society: Social Changes, Organizations and Citizens, Barcelona, 15-17 October, 2008.

How do social change organizations innovate?
Ethan Zuckerman, Harvard Berkman Center

Social organizations do not innovate, do it badly, or just do it slowly. Quite usually, the assumption is to be unrealistic about the power of technology to enable social change.

Facing a blank canvas gives you the idea that everything is possible. But good art is about constraint. And if you don’t know your constraints, figure them out.

  • Innovation comes from constraint

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail saying does not apply to innovation: innovation is about hacking the hammer and making it better.

Von Hipple (see “more info” below): Lead user theory: users innovate all over the time.

Learning from extreme uses, hostile environments. Africa is a good place to test technology, as the environment is roughest. What works in Africa, works everywhere (AfriGadget, about African innovation).

Some examples of innovation from constraints: the Zeer Pot, the Solar Stove. The problem sometimes is not innovation in processes, but innovation in culture. Then innovation has to be reinvented, hence the solar stove becomes the Jiko:

  • Don’t fight culture
  • Embrace market mechanisms
  • Innovate on existing platforms

Innovation is using the ordinary in extraordinary ways: the Malawi Windmill. Innovation is about hacking existing technology. And the technology that now is spread on Africa is mobile phones: technological innovation in Africa will necessarily be related with hacking mobile phones. Mobile phones have already changed the way sub-Saharan Africans see and do things: TradeNet, to get agricultural information; M-Pesa, to transfer money and make payments; Ushahidi, crowdsourcing crisis information; reporting the 2008 Zimbabwe presidential election to report electoral rigging.

Incremental infrastructure: e.g. a mobile phone antenna that also is a vertical axis power windmill.

  • Problems are not always obvious from afar
  • What you have matters more that what you lack
  • Infrastructure can beget infrastructure

Ethan Zuckerman’s ICT4D Innovation test
  1. Does the innovation comes from constraint?
  2. Does it fight culture?
  3. Does it embrace market mechanisms?
  4. Does it innovate on existing platforms?
  5. Does it come from close observation of the target environment?
  6. Does it focus more on what you have more that what you lack?
  7. Is it based on a “infrastructure begets infrastructure” basis?

Example 1: the OLPC project fails on 1, 3, 5, 6 and maybe 7, only passing on 2 and 4.

Example 2: Kiva passes on 1-4, fails on 5, and not sure whether it passes or fails on 6-7

Example 3: Gobal Voices passes on 1, 4 and 7; fails on 5-6; not sure about 2-3.

Social innovation never comes from a blank canvas. Comes from understanding the needs of all parties. Caveat: sometimes constraints leverage innovation, but are also a limitation for an innovation to go beyond itself.

Q&A

Ricard Ruiz de Querol: How to adapt the innovation based on constraints scheme to e.g. the digital divide in Spain? A: We should be aware whether there is a real digital divide or just a geeky will (unselfish, indeed) for everyone to be a digital native, when those people maybe already got what they needed. So, pushing people towards forced uses might be dysfunctional.

Carlos Domingo: But do we always have to bend to culture and stick to the past? A: It depends whether you’re talking short run or long run. In the long run, you want to figure out how to make culture smoothly evolve; in the short run, fighting culture just will enact an opposition reaction.

Personal reflections

Innovation as a darwinist evolution: no mutations, but adaptive non-disruptive changes based on what best performs on a specific environment.

More info

Von Hippel, E. (2005). Democratizing Innovation. Cambridge: MIT Press

Network Society: Social Changes, Organizations and Citizens (2008)

Network Society course (X). Carlos Domingo: Innovation in the Network Society (I)

Notes from the course Network Society: Social Changes, Organizations and Citizens, Barcelona, 15-17 October, 2008.

Geek Is Good
Carlos Domingo, Telefónica I+D

Malcom Gladwell:

  • Connectors
  • Mavens: know everything’s that happening
  • Salesmen

The difference between the geek and the connected geek: for the first time in my life, more people greeted me for my birthday on social networking sites than “offline”. Being connected is becoming a must and a differential thing too.

Big companies, understanding this, are hiring connected geeks so that they bring in new knowledge and, most important, new knowledge sharing practices.

From greed is good to geek is good

The (libertarian) philosophy of the Internet, cutting down transaction costs in open networks, is increasingly been considered as an interesting way to move forward (and beyond the crisis) and reshape the organizations’ architectures.

  • Share everything
  • Conversation
  • Co-Creation & Crowdsourcing
  • Innovation Networks
  • Organization

These five axes of change driven by the “geeks inside”.

Share everything

All assets digitized, open and free to use.

This is made possible in an easy way by using web 2.0 applications that enable open sharing.

Traditional project repositories are good, but the problem is that they normally hold so much information that it makes it difficult to catch, at a glance, a general idea of a specific project. Multimedia or rich media applications (e.g. video based) allow quick information to be shared and spread and, above all, to catch the attention of the reader.

Conversation

The importance of finding tools to communicate in an informal, horizontal, unstructured way: how to recreate the virtual coffee machine.

One strategy is having each one creating and updating their own content and, then, in a centralized way, harvest the relevant or appropriate information for a specific purpose and collect it according to one’s goals. E.g. people maintain their own blogs, nanoblogs, etc. and a “central” page gets the information from selected RSS depending on categories, tags…

Other ways of doing so is gathering people around a specific quasi-corporate tool: Yammer. The point is that many tools already exist and can be implemented instantly: there is no need to wait for its implementation, not even to do costly benchmarks and/or code corporate applications. And the tool and the environment implicitly shapes the tone of the debate (“what are you doing” — Twitter — vs. “what are you working on” — Yammer).

Co-Creation & Crowdsourcing

Leveraging the “sharing all” and the “conversation” levels.

Open MovilForum or other networks the like allow sharing work in process with other developers or users/customers (in this case for mobile phone applications).

Idea marketplaces work well inside firms as they allow employees to share their ideas, discuss about them and, when an idea is acknowledged as a good one, to receive funds to develop the idea. If people are already using other tools (blogs, twitter), the conversation trespasses the boundaries of a specific platform to permeate the organization at all levels.

Innovation Networks

Acknowledging that the R+D department is not the only source of innovation: manage the know how and the know who. This can be done in different ways:

  • Venture capital, to invest in ideas coming from outside of the firm, to know their thinkings, to benefit from their discoveries, to provide insight to their processes.
  • Startups and SMEs, supporting them to create an innovation constellation around you.
  • Large Corporations, co-operating with them, sharing different points of view from different realities to create a new shared hybrid output.
Organization

How to permeate innovative processes within the enterprise? How to organize?

Self-management being the optimum. But it is complex as it requires maturity from the employees to work independently, without hierarchies, to trust their own criterion, to incorporate failure as a normal thing in the essay and error process, ask for forgiveness (in case of failure) rather than asking (always) for permission (i.e. be proactive). A cultural change:

  • Preoccupation with failure
  • Reluctance to simplify
  • Sensitivity to operation
  • Commitment to resilience
  • Deference to expertise

Ambassadors for innovation are drivers of this cultural change. Learn how to manage effective chaos.

Digital Natives, Digital Divides

[see “more info” below]

Managing digital natives with digital aliens or digital immigrants is delicate. Digital immigrants and aliens have to incorporate the discourse of digital natives, understand it and respect it, which is not easy. On the other hand, the opposite has also to be done so that the new generations do not step over the existing structures and people.

These differences in training, perceptions and behaviour generates digital divides difficult to be bridged. But that need to before they become chasms.

Q&A

Jordi Assens: has been crowdsourcing been implemented not at the consultation level but at the decision-taking level? A: Slowly. One of the things that can be done is the creation of in-company start-ups so that good ideas have their own independent development. But influencing the high-level of decision-taking is still a pending issue. But that leaders are present in the conversation is, to say the least, a good step forward.

Q: Can you send ideas to a firm from the “outside”? Will it be accepted? A: It normally depends on the industry and how this industry normally works. If a specific industry is more used to sharing ideas and working together with other firms is the norm (e.g. telcos) it is more probable that new sharing and crowdsourcing philosophies would be easily adopted.

Q: How to let the society at large know about the participative processes (and benefit from it)? A: Create a “participatory brand” sometimes enters in conflict with the “official” brand of a firm. It is just one more thing of the whole bunch of aspects that have to be dealt with in new innovation processes.

Jordi Graells: How to measure the impact? A: At the employee level, satisfaction surveys are run. At the corporate level, costs should go down, as an increase of efficiency is actively sought.

Enrique Dans: How to overcome all institutional barriers? How to endure and not to burn out the innovation ambassadors? A: Some institutional support is, of course, essential. Motivation and a motivated team/environment. Identify the people willing to adopt change, and the people willing to fight change.

Ethan Zuckerman: Collaborative mechanisms vs. market-like or stock exchange-like mechanisms inside the firm, which is best? A: Market-like or stock exchange-like mechanisms are more complex (and costly) to implement, but hopefully there’ll be appearing new tools easier to set up and adopt.

Q: Why in-company start-ups? A: Flexibility, independence, market-like environment.

Q: How to incentive engagement through patent fostering? A: It does work, besides the criticism that patents get precisely for “closing” knowledge. But, sometimes, owning this knowledge is the only way to carry on with your own idea or project.

Fernando Santamaria: Where do we put this new innovation department in the organization chart? What’s its weight? Budget? A: Up to the top. It is crucial that the R+D department has direct access to the top decision-takers so that it is understood and also has visibility.

More info

Carlos Domingo (2008) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants and the News Generations

Network Society: Social Changes, Organizations and Citizens (2008)

Network Society course (IX). Gumersindo Lafuente: Communication in the Network Society (III)

Notes from the course Network Society: Social Changes, Organizations and Citizens, Barcelona, 15-17 October, 2008.

Communication in the Network Society
Gumersindo Lafuente, Soitu

Rigour is at stake, but, luckily, and for the first time, the audience can watch and enforce rigour.

Technology, for the first time, shapes and modifies the behaviour of the audience. The new scenario needs to be mastered by the journalist to do their work properly.

Revolution: the digital thing is not a new media, but a disruption, a shift of paradigm, a point of inflexion.

Leadership: In all this (r)evolution, leaders are required. A bad practice is that mainstream offline media are absorbing online departments, thus killing innovation and leadership. Indeed, it could well be the other way. Nowadays, the Net has already become the agora of influence, of fresh news, of flexibility, of freedom (of press), the way to recover the essence and commitment with the readers of the original journalism.

Monopoly: media and journalists have, forever, lost the monopoly of information. And this includes politicians, that have given the “friendly” media the radio or TV spectrum or the required licenses to operate.

We’re no-ones: The main discoveries of the web have neither been made by journalists, nor regarded as good or interesting discoveries. Yet, they are having a present and will have a future impact on journalists, media and journalism at large.

Front page: Front pages are (were) a solution to technological constraints. Now, each piece of news has to be treated as a front cover, as it can perfectly be an entry point depending on a link, a web search, etc.

Personalization: Advertising has already understood it. Journalists still have a long way to cover towards personalization, to offer the audience something personal, personalized surprises.

Link: Not only adding up a URL to a specific word, but finding original content, creating context, relating different things and putting them together.

Opportunity: The benefits overweight the risks, the good uses the criminal uses. Let’s trust and let the opportunity disclose.

Mobility: Ubiquity. Information will know no geographical constraints, neither on origin nor on destiny.

Q&A

Q: Front pages might not apply but… is there still a sense on having a “home” page? A: The home page acts as a brand. People browse through search engines, feed readers and direct links. The home page can be used to offer the casual reader to offer him something more so that he wants to come back. Internet enables not having a fixed front page, nor a categorized one.

Moisès Panisello: How to share? What models? Anyone can create? A: Depending on your point of view: contents or cost. Regardless of the point of view, it is not the technology — the mere ability to be able to write/publish or take photos or video — what matters, but the know how and expertise of the “artist”. Thus said, while it is true that everyone could do anything (e.g. the journalist write the article and take the photos and edit them and…) it is not that true that they should do everything because it is likely that they will not be the best ones in everything.

Ricard Ruiz de Querol: Have there been great changes in the journalism arena? A: While in the US it has already happened, in Spain there has not yet been a revolution where e.g. a blog has become mainstream and an acknowledged and reputed informer. It is nevertheless true that there is a “rumour” that is producing some “noise”.

Felipe González Gil: should blogs be regulated? A: Blogs should be free. One of their strengths is their chaotic nature, either for good and for bad. The audience will choose what’s relevant and who’s a good reporter, a journalist or a blogger, depending on their own criterion, their own specific needs at a specific time, etc.

Q: Can journalists collaborate in different media and different channels? A: In Spain, in the last years, the policy has been confrontation. Indeed, the strategy was to build a comprehensive media conglomerate (press, TV, radio, publisher, etc.) to avoid collaboration and, even more, to crowd out the channel from enemy media. The Internet should break this and try and find value anywhere, instead of retaining it at all costs, an endeavour difficult to maintain. It is networks of people speaking that makes possible the rise of communities, the spread of viral news, etc.

Fernando Santamaría: How to ensure loyalty of new waves of journalists and audiences, that believe in flexibility, in swapping channels and media? A: There’s room for each and everyone. On one hand, if a medium has rigour and knows how to evidence it, there’s no reason why to think they won’t find a cluster. On the other hand, these new generations will bring with them changes and new perspectives, not only as audience or freelance journalists, but as part of the structures of the firms of the future: again, there is no reason why to think that things are never going to change (or perish).

Enrique Dans: Where’s the advertising red line not to cross? A: Ads should not be intrusive and making it difficult to have a fair user experience. Format and relevance (context) play an important role, more than raw huge amounts of visitors (that might not be relevant to your goals… or you to their needs).

Network Society: Social Changes, Organizations and Citizens (2008)

Network Society course (VIII). Andrew Rasiej: Communication in the Network Society (II)

Notes from the course Network Society: Social Changes, Organizations and Citizens, Barcelona, 15-17 October, 2008.

Communication in the Network Society (II)
Andrew Rasiej, Personal Democracy Forum

In 2001, the response of US senators about the impact of the Internet on politics was:

  • Until we do not get rid off pornography, senators will avoid the Internet
  • I’m getting 10,000 e-mails a day: how can I stop it?

What has since changed?

Howard Dean was created on and from the Internet… even if he knew nothing about the Internet. He just let people act on their own.

Blogs are very important, but they are just a part of the puzzle. The Internet brought Howard Dean community, but it did not fetched him with money. So he lost the election.

In 2006, the Internet did neither elect any candidate, but it did actually defeated candidates and put them out of the race, by spreading bad news (footage, content, etc.) through the Internet that compromised some candidates.

In 2008, the Internet has become (more or less) pervasive, everyone blogs or tapes, but, most important, friends are on the Net, and they sent, on a friendship/trust basis, political content and messages. And conversations take place, even easier than ever: My father would have never picked up the phone and commented a piece of news or a video about Obama with any of his friend, but he does send the piece of news itself to a friend… or to 50 of them. That video has been now seen by more than 7,000,000 people, even if it’s more than 7 minutes long.

Digital identity and content creation

A lot of content now found on the Internet is created by politicians or their partisans, and more important, it points not to the mainstream media, but the their own web pages, thus closing the circle.

If politicians claim being willing to engage in a conversation, with the citizenry, with their electors, and there is no blog, no website, no fora… no anything, people, voters, get disappointed. People detect ethos, dynamics, authenticity.

vs.

The Net is merciless on what it detects is fake, as the the blogs were going crazy quote on the (last) video, something a 25 y.o. would never say.

The good and bad thing of working closely with the Internet is that it creates a community, a community that might support, but also might complain and even ask for answers on specific actions of his leader. The good new is that this feedback from the leader can now come too, so that a conversation is actually created.

Politics and technology

Two schools

  • To exert more top-down control on the agenda, the message… people, were people do what they’re told, delegating their decisions to others (e.g. MoveOn)
  • To engage in more and better participation (e.g. Tom Steinberg‘s)

Data will still grow exponentially and search functions will be improved, being the result of it all transparency.

Digital literacy is not only the ability to understand digital media messages, but the ability to create them: videracy as the ability to be “video literate” both as a receiver and as a creator and broadcaster/emitter. Geotagging, uploading, etc. is the wave of times.

In the age of the end of the economy of scarcity, and turning over the age of the economy of abundance, it makes no more sense to present candidates that can take decisions in 60 seconds. We want politicians that can take their time, to document themselves, to ask for advice, to benefit from the abundant data, information, knowledge that is at (anybody’s) reach.

In this landscape of abundance, where the possibility to create is so huge, where’s the need for organizations? [see below, Shirky]

Civic action is different from politics, and is now enhanced by technology. We should understand civic action to understand the potential impact that’s about to come.

Q&A

Ricard Ruiz de Querol: is there really such a need for digital literacy? Why not “network literacy”? A: We cannot, nowadays, imagine a world without text? It is quite safe to picture a future where video will be omnipresent. But, of course, same with networks. Hopefully, the resolution of fear (of networks) will sooner or later come.

Enrique Dans: What’s the real importance of political networks? A: People feel some sense of ownership on these networks (e.g. my.BarackObama.com). We do not know the positive effect and, most important, how to leverage their power. But we do know what negative impacts are if you don’t take into account such networks and virtual communities.

Ismael Peña-López: Is (new) content the currency of the Net? Is creating new content the price we have to pay to be someone on the Net? A: As content becomes more complex, the issue of the digital divide becomes more relevant. What’s happening on digital training or digital capacity building? On one hand, we have 24×7 online services that serve ubiquituously on any kind of platform; on the other hand, the educational system only works 15% of the time of the year, on a specific place. So, we have to rebuilt some things from scratch, and not only at the digital level, but an a very basic level. Indeed, we’re very likely not to be understanding at all what’s happening, what all this content creation possibilities will bring, what all this connectivity will cause. So we’d better start as soon as possible to try and understand it, to put it in everybody’s hands, to let people participate in democracy.

Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubi: If you build it they will come? If content is good, no need to foster its diffusion? A: Best ideas will spread amongst nodes, and will get appropriate support. Actually, the wisdom of the crowds not necessarily will become the tyranny of the crowds.

Marc López: What’s the future of politicians in this landscape? A: The politician that does not connect to the network, in the language of the network, in an authentic way, will wither and die.

More info

Clay Shirky (2008) Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

Network Society: Social Changes, Organizations and Citizens (2008)