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Search results for 'clay shirky'
3 February 2013

Nicholas Carr on taking Clay Shirky’s ‘cognitive surplus’ idea to its logical, fascistic extreme

bigdata

Max Levchin [one of the Silicon Valley elite—computer scientist, cofounder of PayPal, buddy of Peter Thiel, Yahoo director, restless entrepreneur, big thinker, venture capitalist, angel] gave the keynote Iat DLD13 in Munich recently, where he argues that “the next big wave of opportunities exists in centralized processing of data gathered from primarily analog systems” (think Über, neighborhood security, therapists, the human mind).

Yes, this approach has risks, but, he says, “as a species, we simply must take these risks, to continue advancing, to use all available resources to their maximum”. “The way to deal with risk is of course some form of insurance. Modeling loss from observed past events is hardly news, but dynamically changing the price of the service to reflect individual risk is a big deal. My expectation is that next decade we will see an explosion of insurance and insurance-like products and services — leveraging those very same network effects of data, providing truly dynamic resource pricing and allocation.”

In conclusion, Levchin believes “that in the next decades we will see huge number of inherently analog processes captured digitally. Opportunities to build businesses that process this data and improve lives will abound.”

The Big Brother consequences of this efficiency madhouse are obvious and Nicholas Carr couldn’t take it anymore:

“Levchin refers to “humans” as “analog resources,” a category we share with “cars, houses, etc.” The tragedy of analog resources is that they’re horribly underutilized. They spend a great deal of their time in idleness. Look out into the analog world, and you see a wasteland of inefficiency. But computers can fix that. If we can place sensors and other data-monitoring devices on all analog resources, including ourselves, then we can begin to track them, analyze them, and “rationalize their use.” […]

This is Clay Shirky’s “cognitive surplus” idea taken to its logical, fascistic extreme.” […]

This is the nightmare world of Big Data, where the moment-by-moment behavior of human beings — analog resources — is tracked by sensors and engineered by central authorities to create optimal statistical outcomes. We might dismiss it as a warped science fiction fantasy if it weren’t also the utopian dream of the Max Levchins of the world. They have lots of money and they smell even more. […]

It’s the ultimate win-win: you get filthy rich by purifying the tribe.”

Evgeny Morozov is worried as well about the marketing dangers of the Big Data craze.

So, asks GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram in his summary of the debate, “is the world of big data one in which information about us allows us to personalize services and benefit from that personalization, or is it one in which our data is used against us by companies and governments?”

“The common thread in both of these dystopian visions is a world in which our data is transmitted without our knowledge, and/or used against us in some way. Where Levchin seems to see an efficient exchange of data between user and service, one with benefits for both — and presumably a level (and secure) playing field in terms of who has access to it — Carr and Morozov see companies and governments misusing this data for their own nefarious purposes, while we remain powerless.

What makes it difficult to argue with either one is that we’ve already seen the building blocks of this potential future emerge, whether it’s Facebook playing fast and loose with the privacy settings of a billion people, or companies aggregating information and creating profiles of us and our activities and desires. What happens when the sensor-filled future that Levchin imagines becomes a reality? Who will be in control of all that information?”

21 August 2010

Clay Shirky’s digital populism

Cognitive Surplus
In this review of the book Over the holidays, I read Clay Shirky’s new book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age and found it quite wanting.

In an excellent review of the book, researcher and author Evgeny Morozov explains what is wrong with it and I support his analysis entirely.

“Shirky’s digital populism not only blinds him, McLuhan-style, to inconvenient facts, it blinds him to the immense complexities and competing values inherent in democratic societies. He says he is writing about Western democracies, but they are unrecognizable in his book, for they appear to have been sterilized completely of social conflict.

Shirky presents a world without nationalism, corruption, religion, extremism, terrorism. It is a world without any elections, and thus no need to worry about informed voters. Class, gender, and race make a few appearances, but not as venues of systemic oppression. They are just more testimony to the mainstream media’s elitism.”

Read review

8 July 2010

Video interviews with Dan Ariely and Clay Shirky

Big Think
Big Think is an online think tank, founded in 2007, that presents video interviews with major intellectuals from a wide range of fields.

Recent interviews that caught my attention are with Dan Ariely and Clay Shirky.

Dan Ariely [39:14]
Professor of Behavioral Economics, Duke University and author of “Predictably Irrational”
Dan Ariely is the author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions and is the James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University, where he holds appointments at the Fuqua School of Business, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and the department of Economics.
In addition, Dan is a visiting professor in MIT’s Program in Media Arts and Sciences. He is currently working on a new book titled Dining Without Crumbs: The Art of Eating Over the Sink.

Clay Shirky [38:16]
Professor of Interactive Telecommunications, New York University
Clay Shirky is a writer, consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies. He is an adjunct professor at New York University’s graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). His courses address, among other things, the interrelated effects of the topology of social networks and technological networks, how our networks shape culture and vice-versa. He has written and been interviewed extensively about the Internet since 1996. His columns and writings have appeared in Business 2.0, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Business Review and Wired.

11 June 2010

Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus

Cognitive Surplus
Clay Shirky’s second book, The Cognitive Surplus, “picks up where his stellar debut, Here Comes Everybody left off,” writes Cory Doctorow in his Boing Boing book review, “explaining how the net’s lowered costs for group activity allow us to be creative and even generous in ways that we never anticipated and haven’t yet fully taken account of.”

“Shirky’s hypothesis is that a lot of the 20th century stuff we used to take for granted — most people didn’t want to create media, people didn’t value homemade and amateur productions, no one would pitch in to create something for others to enjoy unless they were being paid — weren’t immutable laws of nature, but accidents of history. The Internet has undone those accidents, by making it possible for more people to make and do cool stuff, especially together.”

Read book review

20 October 2009

Clay Shirky and Stephen Fry on the digital revolution

Digital revolution
The people behind Digital Revolution (working title), an open source documentary, due for transmission on BBC Two in 2010, that will take stock of 20 years of change brought about by the World Wide Web, have posted some more rushes online:

Clay Shirky interview – USA (rushes)
Clay Shirky teaches, consults and writes on the social and economic effects of the internet. The Digital Revolution Programme One team met and interviewed Clay to discuss the phenomenal changes that have occurred to the world since the advent of the web. He discusses the difficulties of attaching terms such as ‘democratisation’ to the web, and the reduction of ‘strong tie’ relationships, as ‘weak ties’ increase.

Stephen Fry interview – London (rushes)
Stephen Fry is a writer, comedian, actor and technology enthusiast – and a man very much online. Aleks Krotoski and the Digital Revolution team met and interviewed Stephen to discuss the web, the changes it has brought to the world, its benefits and its possible dangers.

With the Digital Revolution, the BBC intends to tell the story of the web in four one-hour programmes. Programme one — Power on the web — will illustrate the explosion of user-generated content on the web of the early to mid 2000s. Programme two — The fate of nations — looks at the relation between the web and the nation state. The cost of free is the title of programme three which asks if we are trading our privacy for a ‘free’ web. Finally programme four — The web and us — explores what impact the web is having on who we are.

1 June 2009

Clay Shirky on social media and the emotional dimension of news

Clay Shirky
Clay Shirky is this week’s guest on Nokia’s IdeasProject site. He talks about social media and the emotional dimension of news.

“Clay Shirky says that the lightning-quick dissemination of news events via social media has heightened the role of emotion. The instantaneous manner with which users of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are inclined to pick up, modify and share messages favors excitement over objectivity.”

Watch video

Related links:
Twitter meets mass hysteria
Free Will: How the internet Is changing us (video)

17 July 2008

Podcast: Hello everybody… Clay Shirky at Demos

Clay Shirky
Demos, the UK “think tank for everyday democracy”, hosted a conversation with Clay Shirky a few days ago.

He was in conversation with Demos Associate and School of Everything CEO Paul Miller, talking around the ideas thrown up by Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, his book about the social effects of technology (see also this PPF post).

According to the organisers, “it was a fascinating talk, covering the promises of new types of group communication, community policing, international relations, through to the ‘cognitive surplus‘ opened up by a generation who may be turning away from television.”

Podcast download page

1 May 2008

Clay Shirky’s talk about the cognitive surplus

Clay Shirky
Clay Shirky, author of the book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organising without Organisations (see also these posts), was one of the presenters at the Web 2.0 conference:

Mark Ury, chief experience architect for Blast Radius, was there and wrote about it on his blog “The Restless Mind”:

“His thesis is that in order to grapple with a particularly stressful stretch of time, society engages in some mind-numbing activity that, by consequence, creates a cognitive surplus. Eventually, this surplus overflows and new forms of value are created. He cites post-industrial revolution Londoners blanking out with gin, only to then build many of the modern institutions we cherish today, and post-WWII Americans sitting slack-jawed watching I Love Lucy and Gilligan’s Island, but now using the Internet to produce Wikipedia and, to a lesser order, lolcats.” […]

“What struck me as intriguing in all this wasn’t our cognitive surplus, though. It’s our surplus of interaction.” […]

“Interaction surplus, though, is new. From RSS to email, flickr to FunWalls, posts to pingbacks—we’ve never before had to deal with an abundance of two-way interaction. And unlike the subtle effect of compound interest, hooking more people up to the grid creates a personalized form of Metcalfe’s law, a signal to noise ratio that is overwhelming and, over time, numbing. Watching “connected consumers” tweet, IM, tag, upload, download and go viral is not much different than a Saturday night rave: a blur of consciousness, ephemera, and not a little dizziness.”

Watch presentation
Read presentation transcript

1 April 2008

WorldChanging interviews Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky
Last week I wrote about Clay Shirky’s new book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organising without Organisations. Now WorldChanging has published an extensive interview that Jon Lebkowski did with him:
Clay Shirky is an influential writer, consultant, and teacher focused on the Internet as a social platform. He’s one of the smartest thinkers I know about how people live, love, and work online. His new book, Here Comes Everybody:The Power of Organizing without Organizations, was just published by The Penguin Press. As an intro to Chapter 11, on “Promise, Tool, and Bargain,” he says “There is not recipe for the successful use of social tools. Instead, every working system is a mix of social and technological factors.” Clay and I had the following conversation early in March. We’ll follow up with an asynchronous conversation on the WELL for two weeks starting May 28.

Read interview

5 June 2010

Does the Internet make us smarter or dumber?

Smarter or dumber?
Clay Shirky and Nicholas Carr post contrasting video’s in the Saturday Essay of the Wall Street Journal

Amid the silly videos and spam are the roots of a new reading and writing culture, says Clay Shirky.

“The case for digitally-driven stupidity assumes we’ll fail to integrate digital freedoms into society as well as we integrated literacy. This assumption in turn rests on three beliefs: that the recent past was a glorious and irreplaceable high-water mark of intellectual attainment; that the present is only characterized by the silly stuff and not by the noble experiments; and that this generation of young people will fail to invent cultural norms that do for the Internet’s abundance what the intellectuals of the 17th century did for print culture. There are likewise three reasons to think that the Internet will fuel the intellectual achievements of 21st-century society.”

The cognitive effects are measurable: We’re turning into shallow thinkers, says Nicholas Carr.

“A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the Net, with its constant distractions and interruptions, is […] turning us into scattered and superficial thinkers.

The picture emerging from the research is deeply troubling, at least to anyone who values the depth, rather than just the velocity, of human thought. People who read text studded with links, the studies show, comprehend less than those who read traditional linear text. People who watch busy multimedia presentations remember less than those who take in information in a more sedate and focused manner. People who are continually distracted by emails, alerts and other messages understand less than those who are able to concentrate. And people who juggle many tasks are less creative and less productive than those who do one thing at a time.”

Personally, I am much more convinced by Shirky’s argument. Also I find Shirky’s thinking more concrete and actionable than Nicholas Carr’s, whose gloomy and conservative analysis can only lead, it seems to me, to a completely impossible conclusion: to shut down the web and move back to books.

>> See also these reviews on Carr’s book by The New York Times and Business Week

2 April 2010

The impact of the Internet on institutions in the future

Imagining the Internet
The latest Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project report is out: “The Impact of the Internet on Institutions in the Future” surveys 895 tech experts on the way that technology will change institutions (government, business, nonprofits, schools) in the next ten years.

Technology experts and stakeholders say the internet will drive more change in businesses and government agencies by 2020, making them more responsive and efficient. But there are powerful bureaucratic forces that will push back against such transformation and probably draw out the timeline. Expect continuing tension in disruptive times.

Respondents included Clay Shirky, Esther Dyson, Doc Searls, Nicholas Carr, Susan Crawford, David Clark, Jamais Cascio, Peter Norvig, Craig Newmark, Hal Varian, Howard Rheingold, Andreas Kluth, Jeff Jarvis, Andy Oram, Kevin Werbach, David Sifry, Dan Gillmor, Marc Rotenberg, Stowe Boyd, John Pike, Andrew Nachison, Anthony Townsend, Ethan Zuckerman, Tom Wolzien, Stephen Downes, Rebecca MacKinnon, Jim Warren, Sandra Brahman, Barry Wellman, Seth Finkelstein, Jerry Berman, Tiffany Shlain, and Stewart Baker.

Consult survey

8 February 2010

Microsoft Research Social Computing Symposium 2010

Microsoft Research Social Computing Symposium
For the past four years, Microsoft Research (MSR) has sponsored a symposium on social computing that “brings together academic and industry researchers, developers, writers, and influential commentators in order to open new lines of communication among previously disconnected groups.”

The theme of the 2010 symposium, held at ITP at NYU, was “The city as platform”, which revolved around various sub-topic such as urban informatics, the city as a social technology, pervasive games and government infrastructure/data.

Participants included Genevieve Bell, Julian Bleecker, Ben Cerveny, Tom Coates, Anil Dash, Russell Davies, Alexandra Deschamps-SonsinoAdam Greenfield, Liz Goodman, Usman Haque, Tom IgoeNatalie Jeremijenko, Steven Johnson, Matt Jones, Jennifer Magnolfi, Mike Migurski, Nicolas Nova, Ray Ozzie, Clay Shirky, Kevin Slavin, Molly Steenson, Linda Stone, Alice Taylor, Anthony Townsend, Duncan Wilson and many more.

You can read elaborate and well-written symposium reports by Nicolas Nova (LIFT Lab) and Dan Hill (City of Sound / ARUP).

By the way, do also check Dan Hill’s urbanistic take on the iPad.

27 October 2009

Irene Cassarino: A reflection on energy efficiency and behaviour

Energy and behaviour
Irene Cassarino, an Experientia collaborator, reports on the First European Conference on Energy Efficiency and Behaviour, which took place in Maastricht last week:

What role do objects play in our life and culture? It depends on their embedded scripts. Like actors on-stage, they tell us a story, influence our feelings, enrich our knowledge and at the end play a social and even political role in our society, somewhat like movies and plays do. They share the power to influence our behaviours with other individuals, their socio-cultural context, and routines, in a dialogical way. Too abstract?

Hal Wilhite from the University of Oslo and keynote speaker at the First European Conference on Energy Efficiency and Behaviour in Maastricht a week ago (20-22 October 2009), shared with attendees the defining story of the refrigerator in India: keeping leftover food used to be associated, in India, with stupidity. What the refrigerator as a functional object was suggesting to Indians was not enough to overwrite their routines and beliefs, so at first, they refused it. Then the refrigerator kept ‘saying’: it’s good to store raw food in a cool environment before cooking. With this new message, customs in Indian houses changed to include storing of raw food in the refrigerator, and slowly but firmly, the habits and beliefs of local people changed to eventually include storing cooked food as well. A side note – people using refrigerators also increased the country’s CO2 emission by 20%.

This story is quite simple, but it does give an idea of how complex it is to design tools, services and practices to trigger behavioural change in people’s lives. This is particularly true in respect to energy saving. Behavioural research in energy saving was born as a discipline 20 years ago in the university departments of environmental psychology, and a lot of experiences and case studies have been collected so far, but despite this, the issue is still widely debated and suffers from a lack of interdisciplinary cross-fertilisation.

Some objects, for instance, are introduced to market with an explicit script (the refrigerator to store raw food) and with potential scripts to change people’s attitudes (refrigerator to store cooked food). Scripts have to be taken into account and leveraged by designers in a positive way, but few designers have been ready to participate in the dialogue.

From supply to demand management

All speakers acknowledged that the climate change challenge is addressed so far with a strong emphasis on the supply side (as much energy as we want, but greenly produced and smartly distributed), while there is barely no systematic approach on the demand management front. A considerable amount of research has been done though by universities and research centres, especially in the household sector, while few efforts have been devoted to studying behavioural change in business organisations.

Many conceptual approaches and methodologies have been presented: this is not a signal of disciplinary confusion at all, because -– as Charles Vlek from the Groningen University pointed out — the more they are combined and tailored, in specific interventions, the more effective they become. Paul Stern from the US Research Council reworded this recommendation as the “full court press” approach. The audience waited with anticipation for his scientific estimations on opportunities for emission reduction in 5 to 10 years, but he was unfortunately unable to share much about his paper because it was under embargo from his editor.

Irmeli Mikkone from Motiva, Finland, presented the European Energy Network programme (EnR), a voluntary organisation that since 1992 has gathered 22 members from the whole of Europe, operating in 8 different working groups (from behavioural change, to labelling and eco-design, monitoring tools and common databases).

Methodological challenges

A common issue in several research papers was that results on energy use and percentages of reductions were just calculated –- that is deduced from information collected by users themselves and delivered to the researcher through questionnaires. This was criticised as a highly unreliable methodology. Although it is understandable from the point of view of budget constraints, the use of energy smart meters in research could be a valuable alternative. Similar issues refer to the fact that people often volunteered in these studies, while a professional recruitment system –- which also implies financial reward for participants –- would have led to more reliable results.

Discrepancies between attitudes and behaviours also introduce bias into research: meaning that it is not enough to ask people to what extent they support the environment and related policies. The change in their actual behaviour is the issue, and this holds true also for government and administrations. As Shane Fudge from the University of Surrey noticed, although the UK government has a strong strategy for behavioural change (the Enable, Encourage, Exemplify, Engage diamond), actual results are quite disappointing: emissions of CO2 continue to increase, as well as the rate of car use and air travels.

Leveraging people

“I want to change but I don’t want to be changed by others!”; the challenge is to leverage people’s intrinsic motivations, a member of the audience pointed out. How to do it? According to Gerjo Kok from the Department of Psychology and Neurosciences at Maastricht University -– in order to plan a successful intervention to foster behavioural change, the designer should concentrate on assessing needs, defining specific programme objectives (in terms, for instance, of target groups, performance objectives and desired energy saving behaviour), and choosing the right mix of methodologies, applications, development channels and continuous evaluation of programme steps.

Sible Schoone, Director of the Climate Campaign Office (Heir, Netherlands), shifted the attention to the importance of involving the consumer in climate policy: as a citizen (moral/knowledge level), as a neighbour (social level), and eventually as a customer (price/quality/easy-to-get level). Communication initiatives at citizen level involve celebrities, events and free publicity, while if you want to involve the consumer at a social level it is better to organise local events like the climate street party (competition over streets in taking energy saving measures, ending with a big party with celebrities). At customer level, it’s worth mentioning tikkie terug -– the most successful consumer campaign of the year in the Netherlands, which offered people advice and tips on energy friendly and saving behaviours via TV.

“Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new tools, but when it adopts new behaviours”
Clay Shirky

Employing this famous quotation, Karen Ehrhardt Martinez from ACEEE –- the American Council for Energy Efficient Economy –- reminded the audience that technologies are tools. Interventions must not be biased by technologies: people are the centre. Just by adopting easy to apply energy saving behaviours and measures, she calculated that it’s possible to potentially reduce carbon emissions by 9%. For big countries like United States, it is a huge amount. In order to underline the relevance of the motivational factor with respect to the enabling technologies, she recalled the episode in a US town, where people were told that the power infrastructure was partially broken. Citizens achieved a 30% reduction in 6 weeks and after having ‘repaired’ the problem, they maintained a 10% reduction!

Addressing the gap between research and practice

C.F.J. Feenstra was representing the Changing Behaviour Programme (CBP), a demand side management programme of the EnR (see above). Such and similar programmes are led by governments, NGOs and utilities, but most of times they are not successful due to the gap between theory and practices. The aim of the CBP is to close the gap that lies between researchers and practitioners.

Is it possible, for instance, to develop a standard toolkit for similar programmes? Steps in this direction are: creation of a public database (so far there are 27 programmes), collection of case studies, close collaboration with local practitioners as cultural mediators, identification of guidelines, identification of pilot projects to implement those guidelines (6, so far). Finally, results of pilot projects will be exploited to create the toolkit.

Identified success factors, so far, are: good understanding of the context (target groups, intermediaries) and taking advantage of ongoing similar projects (to be considered as allies and not at all as competitors since they make people more open to welcome/accept/join similar initiatives).

Examples on the ground

The aim of Sustainable Everyday, a private agency from Belgium represented by Francois Jégou, is to design affordances of embedded user scripts toward 4 kind of appliances: lighting systems, heating thermostats, washing machines and PCs.

The process went through 4 entertaining steps: casting (recruitment) of a group of friendly users; happy hours (guided tours) in user’s homes, with card games; co-design sessions in homes and design studio, with maps and “play-mobiles”, and delivery and installation of new products (prototypes) in homes.

Each member of the family was involved and design guidelines emerging from the project are: (1) provide semi-manual interfaces; (2) reset default principles, e.g.: the washing machine with preset functions easily accessible at every washing cycle; (3) favour eco-conscious artefacts and energy smart meters.

In short

These are just few notes from a much richer conference programme (more detailed notes can be requested at info at experientia dot com). Next time, the organisers will maybe manage to publish abstracts and/or presentations from the many parallel sessions, if not streaming videos! Let’s see.

The First European Conference on Energy Efficiency and Behaviour has been an initial opportunity for psychologists and sociologists to step out of their disciplinary bubble and open themselves to the debate with practitioners and operators. We were there, indeed, and it was extremely useful for us.

Unfortunately operators came mostly from public agencies, consumer associations and utilities, while designers, architects and engineers were not well represented. But this was just the first time for Europe: we are sure that next time we will find more colleagues there.

Next appointment? The Behaviour, Energy and Climate Change Conference, 15-18 Nov. 2009, Washington DC — save the date! And for those not being able to attend, there is good news: most of the presentations there will be webcast live on the conference website.

25 August 2009

Ideas for thought from the Symposium for the Future

Symposium for the Future
The New Media Consortium is hosting a Symposium for the Future October 27-29 that will explore actual and potential applications of technology that could impact issues of global importance over the next five years and beyond.

To generate dialog and discussion around the topic, and to help prospective proposal writers to frame their ideas about the conference themes, the organisers invited danah boyd (Microsoft Research and the Berkman Center, Harvard), Gardner Campbell (Baylor University), and Holly Willis (The Institute for Multimedia Literacy, USC), all people who have thought quite a bit about ideas behind this symposium, to craft a series of essays from three distinct perspectives on the topic.

It is easy to fall in love with technology (alternate link)
by danah boyd, researcher at Microsoft Research New England and Fellow at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society

“There are also no such things as “digital natives.” Just because many of today’s youth are growing up in a society dripping with technology does not mean that they inherently know how to use it. They don’t. Most of you have a better sense of how to get information from Google than the average youth. Most of you know how to navigate privacy settings of a social media tool better than the average teen. Understanding technology requires learning.”

The stars our destination (alternate link)
by Gardner Campbell, director of the Academy for Teaching and Learning at Baylor University

“Though I know these marvelous information and communication technologies we live with every day are fraught sixteen ways from Sunday, I believe they are also a kind of poem we have written together, a film we have made together, a medium that has enabled what Clay Shirky identifies as “the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race” (Here Comes Everybody). That increase happened because we wanted it to, because we have not yet found the boundaries of our ambitions for connection and expression.”

Tactics and haptics and a future that’s now
by Holly Willis, director of academic programs at the University of Southern California‘s Institute for Multimedia Literacy

“We need to take seriously the significance of a vision of the future, not so much with regard to fantastic scenarios – the stuff of science fiction, which as we know, does play an important role in envisioning the future – but instead in terms of tangible, real-world realities. Why? Because when we talk about “the future” these days, we’re no longer thinking about a long, gently winding road disappearing into a distant horizon, but instead a window (or screen?) pushed up close against our noses. The temporal horizon has shrunk, and the future, as Bruce Sterling said recently at Reboot, is really about a transition happening right now.”

23 June 2009

Technology is for revolution (and repression)

Apple Big Brother 1984
Far from being a tool for oppression, as often portrayed in old science fiction, technology has become a means of liberation, argues the Financial Times.

“Technology gets a bad rap in the old media. In books and films, it is often the machinery used by governments to crush individuality. […]

A funny thing happened on the way to the digital dystopia. Far from being a tool for repression, the internet has become a means by which people shake off state censorship.

The internet has pushed governments in undemocratic and semi-democratic countries on to the defensive. They used to be able to control the flow of information on televison or in newspapers with relative ease. The ability of anyone with a mobile phone or a video camera to broadcast at will has confounded them.”

The reflective article also cites Clay Shirky.

Read full story

13 May 2009

Us Now

Us Now
Watch this excellent 1 hour documentary film about the power of mass collaboration, government and the internet.

“In his student flat in Colchester, Jack Howe is staring intently into his computer screen. He is picking the team for Ebbsfleet United’s FA Trophy Semi-Final match against Aldershot . Around the world 35,000 other fans are doing the same thing, because together, they own and manage the football club. If distributed networks of people can run complex organisations such as football clubs, what else can they do?

Us Now takes a look at how this type of participation could transform the way that countries are governed. It tells the stories of the online networks whose radical self-organising structures threaten to change the fabric of government forever.

Us Now follows the fate of Ebbsfleet United, a football club owned and run by its fans; Zopa, a bank in which everyone is the manager; and Couch Surfing, a vast online network whose members share their homes with strangers.

The founding principles of these projects — transparency, self-selection, open participation — are coming closer and closer to the mainstream of our social and political lives. Us Now describes this transition and confronts politicians George Osborne and Ed Milliband with the possibilities for participative government as described by Don Tapscott and Clay Shirky amongst others.”

CONTRIBUTORS: Don Tapscott, Ed Miliband, William Heath, Martin Sticksl, Lee Bryant, Tom Steinberg, Charles Leadbeater, George Osborne, Saul Albert, Mikey Weinkove, Sunny Hundal, Sophia Parker, JP Rangaswami, Paul Miller, Becky Hogge, Matthew Taylor, MT Rainy, Giles Andrews, Clay Shirky, Paul Miller, Sane Kelly, Liam Daish

Us Now project website
Us Now blog
Us Now video (Vimeo)

13 March 2009

What Matters at McKinsey

What Matters
Consulting firm McKinsey has just launched a new website, called What Matters, that is an extensive collection of essays and interviews with opinion formers around the world. The content is categorized into ten big topics: Biotechnology, Climate Change, Credit Crisis, Energy, Geopolitics, Globalization, Health care, Innovation, Internet, Organization.

“We began last summer by asking researchers, academics, journalists, policy makers and executives to address ten big questions, whose answers will shape our collective future. In each case, we asked our essayists to take a long view and tackle tomorrow’s trends rather than today’s headlines.

We published those essays in a print collection, also titled What Matters. But our goal was always to translate that vision to the Web, to create a place where we could continue to frame the important questions and gather a wide array of thinkers, including some from McKinsey, to address them. In addition, we wanted a place where our readers could bring their considerable wisdom to bear on these crucial issues.”

Essayists are many, including Yochai Benkler, Don Tapscott, Jeffrey Sachs, Clay Shirky, Don Tapscott and John Thackara.

(via Tim Brown)

31 January 2009

35 Picnic conference videos

PICNIC
On Vimeo you can find no less than 35 videos of the Picnic conference. They are great.

My personal favourites (quite a few):

Jim Stolze: The virtual happiness project
“Virtual Happiness” is a research project that aims to provide insights on the relationship between internet usage and happiness.
– Jim Stolze specializes in new thinking on digital communication.

Matt Hanson: Celebrating Collaborative Creativity
Matt Hanson, a filmmaker, working on the open-source movie project A Swarm of Angels

Panel Discussion: Celebrating Collaborative Creativity
In this fast paced session, several examples of collaborative creativity are under review- what processes and business models appear? What changes will occur in the movie, music, ppublishing and advertising industry?
Moderator: Laurent Haug, entrepreneur and co-founder Liftlab
– Matt Hanson, a filmaker, working on the open-source movie project A Swarm of Angels
– Ton Roosendaal, founder of Blender, an open-source, cross-platform suite of tools for 3D creation
– Katarina Skoberne is the co-founder and managing director of OpenAd.net, ‘The biggest Creative Department’
– Pim Betist, a music lover and founder of Sellaband, an audience supported business model for bands.
– Eileen Gittens, founder and CEO of Blurb, has built a creative publishing platform that makes it easy for anyone to design, publish, share and sell real bookstore-quality books

Ben Cerveny: Can you see what I know?
Artists, scientists and designers are exploring a new world of software aesthetics and developing new languages for interactive and visual expression. How can we make information intuitively meaningful?
– Ben Cerveny is a strategic and conceptual advisor to Stamen, specialists in creative visualization. He is highly regarded experience designer and conceptual strategist.

Stefan Agamanolis: Dueling with Distance
Based on his work at MIT and Distance Lab, Stefan Agamanolis reports on hot trends in communication and connectedness that are doing battle with distance in unexpected ways, ranging from sports games you play over a distance to telephones crossed with flotation tanks.
– Stefan Agamanolis is the Chief Executive and Research director of Distance Lab

Matt Jones: The Emerging Real-Time Social Web
Matt Jones is a creative director and user experience designer who worked a Sapient and the BBC before founding travel service Dopplr

Jyri Engestrom: The Emerging Real-Time Social Web
Jyri Engestrom is a social scientist as well as the founder of the Finnish mobile presence service Jaiku, which was acquired by Google in 2007; his subsequent move to Silicon Valley resulted in his renewed attention to social processes in new media platforms.

Conversation the Emerging Real-Time Social Web
With ubiquitous internet connections and a surge of connected mobile services, slices of reality can be saved that people could not capture before. Saving and sharing our presence, we can feel those of others as well. We are on the verge of a reality with ‘social peripheral vision’, in which ambient friendships flourish and life stories and life’s details are stored, shared and searchable.
– Matt Jones is a creative director and user experience designer who worked a Sapient and the BBC before founding travel service Dopplr
– Philip Rosedale is founder of the 3D online world Second Life and a pioneer in virtual worlds
– Addy Feuerstein is the co-founder and CEO of AllofMe, a service that allows you to create digital personal timelines form digital assests such as pictures, videos, and blogs.
– Jyri Engestrom is a social scientist as well as the founder of the Finnish mobile presence service Jaiku, which was acquired by Google in 2007

Younghee Jung: Design as a Collaborative process
New interactions develop into new design practices; new processes induce new forms of creativity. How can creators involve the peopele they want to create for in their work?
– Younghee Jung, a senior design manager at Nokia, shows how users are imagining new products.

Bill Moggridge: Design as a Collaborative Process
New interactions develop into new design practices; new processes induce new forms of creativity. How can creators invovle the people they want to create for in their work?
– Bill Moggridge is founder of IDEO, one of the most successful design firms in the world and of the first to integrate the design of software and hardware into the practice of industrial design.

Ethan Zuckerman: Surprising Africa
A presentation on vibrant and fast-moving tecnological and creative developments in cities and rural areas across Africa, from mobile naking to new communication patterns.
– Ethan Zuckerman, the co-founder of Global Voices, a research fellow at the Berkman Center, and a prodigious blogger interested in hte impact of technology on the developing world.

Conversation with Ethan Zuckerman, Helen Omwando and Binyavanga Wainaina: Surprising Africa
An update on vibrant and fast-moving technological and creative developments in cities and rural areas across Africa, from mobile banking to new communication patterns.
– Ethan Zuckerman, the co-founder of Global Voices, a research fellow at the Berkman Center, and a prodigious blogger interested in the impact of technology on the developing world
– Helen Omwando, head of market intelligence for Royal Philips Electronics
– Binyavanga Wainaina, Kenyan author and journalist

Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
A revelatory examination of how the spread of new forms of social interaction enabled by technology is changing the way humans form groups and exict within them. Our age’s new technologies of social networking are evolving- and causing us to evolve into new groups doing new things in new ways.
– Clay Shirky is a leading Internet thinker, the author of Here Comes Everybody, and a sharp analyst of social media developments.

Wolfgang Wagener and Jared Blumenfeld: Eco Map
What can we do with an open source collaboration platform that enables citizens and business to see collective results of their actions?
– Wolfgang Wagener, Director, Sustainable Cities Connected Urban Development, CISCO and Jared Blumenfeld, Director, Department of the Environment, City and County of San Francisco

Euro Beinat: The Visible City
What if we could view an entire city from above, as if from an airplane – and see not only the buildings and squares but also all the human beings populating it, oudoors and indoors?
– Euro Beinat, professor of location awareness at Salzburg University, CEO if Geodan Mobile Solutions, and founder of the Senseable Future Foundation

Stan Williams: Tracking our World
CeNSE: The Central Nervous System for the Earth is based on the believe that nanotechnology has the potential to revolutionise human interaction with the Earth as profoundly as the Internet has revolutionised personal and business interaction.
– Stan Williams, HP senior fellow; director, HP Information and Quantum Systems Lab

Adam Greenfield: The Long Here, the Big Now, and other tales of the networked city
Future urban life will thrive on new modes of perception and experience, based on real-time data and feedback. What will the networked city feel like to its users? How will it transform our sense of the metropolitan?
– Adam Greenfield , head of design direction for Nokia and author of Everyware

Charles Leadbeater – We Think: The Power of Mass Creativity
The conflict between the rising surge of mass collaboration and the attempts to retain top-down control will be one of the defining battles of our time. An exploration of what this means for our culture, the way we work, government, science and business.
– Charles Leadbeater, thinker, famed policy advisor to former UK prime Minister Tony Blair, and author of We Think, a groundbreaking analysis of a changing world

Charles Leadbeater in conversation with Clay Shirky
The conflict between the rising surge of mass collaboration and the attempts to retain top-down control will be one of the defining battles of our time. An exploration of what this means for our culture, the way we work, government, science and business.
– Charles Leadbeater, thinker, famed policy advisor to former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and author of We Think, a groundbreaking analysis of a changing world,
– Clay Shirky, leading Internet thinker

(via Laurent Haug)

24 January 2009

The Publius Project

PubliusProject
The Publius Project is an initiative of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, with the cryptic byline: “a collection of essays and conversations about constitutional moments on the Net”.

“The project brings together a distinguished collection of Internet observers, scholars, innovators, entrepreneurs, activists, technologists and still other experts, to write short essays, to foster an on-going public dialogue, and to create a durable record of how the rules of cyberspace are being formed, potentially impacting their future incarnation. […]

Through this series of essays, we hope to generate a discussion among global stakeholders and netizens regarding rule-making and governance on the net, and in the process, to envision the net of the future. We will cast fundamental questions that will intrigue both experts and laypeople, by asking who should (or shouldn’t) control cyberspace? Can it be governed? Who decides?

Through this process, we will consider how best to protect our common resources, how to balance individual freedoms with community rights, public action with private activity, national security with personal expression, intellectual property protections with open access. In echoing historical dilemmas, we will ask how cyberspace stimulates innovative thinking regarding authority and rules and how those ideas might shape the future “constitutions” of the net.”

Ethan Zuckerman, who also contributed one of the essays, provides some more background:

“John Palfrey’s thinking in launching Publius was to recognize that the emergence of American constitutional democracy didn’t occur in a single moment of crystalline brilliance. It was the product of years of argument, conversation and deliberation, through media like the Federalist papers. Palfrey argues that we’re going through a long, complex constitutional moment as regards the internet, constructing the laws and norms that will govern how we interact with one another through the infrastructure of the internet. As such, Publius is an invitation to post arguments, to ask for the Internet to behave one way or another and make the case for one’s point of view.”

Here are my preferred essays:

The Polyglot Internet
Essay by Ethan Zuckerman on the need for focused efforts to make translation cheaper, easier and far more common to enable global discussions

One Missed Call?
Essay by Ken Banks on refocusing our attention on the social mobile long tail

The Latent Community in Every Webpage
Essay by Clay Shirky on the increased ability of otherwise uncoordinated groups to achieve their shared goals

26 September 2008

Experientia’s Jan-Christoph Zoels at Picnic /2

PICNIC
Experientia’s senior partner Jan-Christoph Zoels is this week at the Picnic conference in Amsterdam and is sending regular updates. Here is his second one, covering the Thursday morning sessions:

Group actions just got easier!Clay Shirky jump-started the second day of PICNIC 08 with stories about the problems and challenges of social media. In each story he showed how social dilemmas or needs facilitate new ways of sharing, collaborating and social action. Sharing of social objects such as images, tools and questions enables the starting of a discussion leading to a gathering of an interested community with a trail of conversation. Group rules on Flickr ‘Black & White Maniacs‘ address the social dilemma of getting attention by asking people to comment on to previous photos in the act of posting their own, therefore spreading the opportunity of getting seen and acknowledged throughout the community of practice.

In a second example Shirky documented the re-emergence of simple tools to facilitate fast uptake, sharing and synchronization with others. Limited features and clear rules of engagement (no shouting – visual text changes) help to divide the attention across the bulletin board members.

His discussion of the Pluto page on Wikipedia showcased the powers of collaboration of reciprocal sharing and syncing in creating exhaustive content with extensive links. 5000 edits by over 2200 users showed the distribution of a long tail curve demonstrating an ecosystem where everybody can participate on the level they desire. The Galileo page on the other side has still the trappings of a five hundred years flame war resulting in the disabling of editing capabilities.

Lastly he demanded an extension of the power of social media to not only show how we think but to also cover how we can act. Harnessing collective actions require a built-in acknowledgement of the assembled insights and opinions and resulting new group structures.

100% of user on online dating sites lieGenevieve Bell, a leading anthropologist at Intel’s Digital Home Group, spoke about the complicated daily constructions of truth and lies in personal life on and off the web. How to resolve our daily Secrets & Lies in new engaging social media where the devices and media keep trails forever. The uncoordinated intentions of individuals and their revealing devices will lead to tensions between cultural practices and ideas about secrets and lies and ICT applications. This poses complicated questions for e-Gov, national security and reputation indices.

Mike Fries, president of Liberty Global, discussed O3B Networks – the other three billion initiative – of Google, HSBC and Liberty Global in bringing high-speed satellite telecommunication access to underserved populations in emerging markets. His Future of Television conversation focussed on the delivery of more tailored and personalised content supported by advertisements, changing viewer behaviours of random access to digital TV and time shifting viewing habits.

Michael Tchao, the manager of Nike Techlab, spoke in his Tools, Things and Toys presentation about how to use information to inspire runners and convert physical activities into digital connect and communities. The Nike+ collaboration with Apple focussed on supporting runner motivation in designing sexy tools, engaging interfaces, synched running cycles and community challenges. The Nike+ HumanRace initiative used web tools to connect individual aspirations with local running communities to organize a series of worldwide races on 31.8.08.

Nabaztag co-inventor Rafi Haladjian (blog) presented his search from connecting rabbits to connecting everything else. What will be the effortless, spontaneous information providers of the future? How will they enable limited attention bandwidth? In extending his hold on emotive objects he showcased the new and very cute Naonoztags. The newest Ztamps and Mirror by Violet is a passive RFID reader and sensors enabling fast connections between tangible object and web-based information. Examples shown were links between drug packages and your personal health site, direct access to news sites or personal photo collections.

For more Picnic reporting, check also Bruno Giussani, Hubert Guillaud (writing proficiently in French), Ethan Zuckerman, and Ernst-Jan Pfauth and Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten.