Open communities of innovation pioneers: the Musigen case study                                                           ...
Open communities of innovation pioneers: the Musigen case studyAbstractWe call innovation pioneers the experts in a scient...
1. IntroductionThe new advances in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) developed newpowerful tools for exchangi...
In this scenario, it is possible to define a new concept of user: the innovation pioneers.Innovation pioneers are scientis...
2. Theoretical background: ICT and knowledge creation in open communities of     innovation pioneers2.1 The role of Commun...
More or less open communities are one of the manifestations of the Open Innovationphenomenon. Open Innovation has been def...
innovators and scientist are often involved in communities of individuals sharing theirinterests.2.2 Open communities of i...
− First, the underlying knowledge is complex; as a consequence it is more difficult to    transfer knowledge from an indiv...
Communities of innovation pioneers would strongly benefit from the possibility to becomemore “open”, that is, the possibil...
3. Provide innovation toolkits: as noted by Von Hippel (2005), more and more often    companies provide customers with too...
the time series, emerged from the evolutionary chaotic systems, which can be integrated withthe 3D visualization or tradit...
Figure 1: Musigen home page.The layout is organized on 3 columns: on the left and on the right for the access to the mainf...
The right column consists of 4 modules: (1) users login, (2) web TV, (3) mp3 player forreproduction of the best music prod...
- download and upload of documents, audio (new tacks realized by using the software of thecommunity), textbooks and softwa...
The community offers several tools useful for users in order to share knowledge related to thetopic. In fact, users can do...
Indeed, this kind of community benefits of the voluntary participation of experts from all overthe world and from the poss...
the same tools can represent a window for external actors to tap into the knowledge generatedbi innovation pioneers.Musige...
ReferencesBagozzi R.P. and U.M. Dholakia. 2002. “Intentional social action in virtual communities”.Journal of Interactive ...
Daft, R. L. and Lengel R. H. 1986. “Organizational information requirements, media richnessand structural design”. Managem...
Rizzuti C. , Bilotta E. and Pantano P. S. 2009. "A GA-Based Control Strategy to Create Musicwith a Chaotic System". In Gia...
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Open communities of innovation pioneers: the Musigen case study

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We call innovation pioneers the experts in a scientific or technical domain in the early stages
of its development. Advances in information technologies allow networks of organizations
and individuals to exchange ideas and knowledge. Not differently from what has happened in
communities of consumers with the emergence of the so called prosumers, ICT can support
communities of innovation pioneers.
However, the role of IT in this domain has not been studied extensively in the management
literature. Understanding the dynamics of communities of innovation pioneers, instead, can
provide companies with precious knowledge on future breakthrough innovations.
This paper means to deepen our understanding of communities of innovation pioneers and the
role of IT in supporting them.
To achieve this goal, we investigate the case of Musigen, a new web platform with the
purpose to support knowledge sharing in the generative music field.

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Open communities of innovation pioneers: the Musigen case study

  1. 1. Open communities of innovation pioneers: the Musigen case study     Author: GIUSEPPE NACCARATO - Email: giuseppe.naccarato@unical.it    Track: 25. ICT enabling Collaboration, Innovation and Knowledge Sharing: emerging “open” phenomena, organizational models and technological tools     Co-author(s): Vincenzo Corvello (University of Calabria) / Eleonora Pantano (University of Calabria) Access to this paper is restricted to registered delegates of the EURAM 2010 (European Academy of Management) Conference Back To The Future.
  2. 2. Open communities of innovation pioneers: the Musigen case studyAbstractWe call innovation pioneers the experts in a scientific or technical domain in the early stagesof its development. Advances in information technologies allow networks of organizationsand individuals to exchange ideas and knowledge. Not differently from what has happened incommunities of consumers with the emergence of the so called prosumers, ICT can supportcommunities of innovation pioneers.However, the role of IT in this domain has not been studied extensively in the managementliterature. Understanding the dynamics of communities of innovation pioneers, instead, canprovide companies with precious knowledge on future breakthrough innovations.This paper means to deepen our understanding of communities of innovation pioneers and therole of IT in supporting them.To achieve this goal, we investigate the case of Musigen, a new web platform with thepurpose to support knowledge sharing in the generative music field.Keywords: virtual communities, prosumer, open innovation, lead users innovation, innovationpioneers, generative music. 1  
  3. 3. 1. IntroductionThe new advances in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) developed newpowerful tools for exchanging ideas and knowledge. Both scholars and practitionersfrequently point out the importance of knowledge sharing technologies as a mean to shareindividuals’ contributions in an efficient and effective way (Bertacchini, 2008, Febbraro et al.,2008; Sippings, 2007; van den Hooff & Huysman, 2009).In fact, the process of information exchanges among users on internet grew fast due to thesuccess of virtual spaces which facilitate the process itself. In particular, internet facilitates thecreation and the development of specialized knowledge through virtual communities (deValck et al., 2009). Hence, if compared to the offline groups, the virtual communitiesrepresent a high specialized knowledge tool, available to a large number of people accordingto his/her own preferences (ibid., 2009). Furthermore, these spaces attract users increasingly,due to its main characteristics: the voluntary participation, and their consequent intentionalsocial action (Bagozzi & Dholakia, 2002; Dholakia et al., 2004), the goal-oriented knowledgesharing (Koh et al., 2004), the flexible structure of the group, the users contributions toward acommon scope.In particular, companies can tap into the creativity of crowds to generate new ideas, solveproblems, develop new products. They can source innovation from other companies or fromthe users of their products. These open innovation processes involve knowledge domainscharacterized by a wide diffusion of the underlying knowledge. The phenomenon is part ofthe broader shift in innovation practices usually called Open innovation (Cheesbrough 2003).There are domains, however, in which the involved communities are smaller and theknowledge required to understand the studied problems is deeper: these are domains related toscientific or technical fields in the early stages of their development. 2  
  4. 4. In this scenario, it is possible to define a new concept of user: the innovation pioneers.Innovation pioneers are scientist or experts of a scientific domain in the early stages of itsdevelopment. Innovation pioneers try to organize in communities, but the dimensions of thesecommunities are usually smaller and their relations are more loosely coupled. Interactions andknowledge exchange in this conditions can be more difficult.ICT can support communities of innovation pioneers and reduce the barriers to theirinteraction. However these phenomena have not been widely studied in the literature. Otherstreams of literature, however, can be taken into account to generate insight in thephenomenon of communities of innovation pioneers.In some sense the innovation pioneer has the characteristics of the prosumer (a concept wherethe figure of consumer and producer of a good coalesce in the same person). The idea ofprosumer has been developed since the 80s (Kotler, 1986; Van Raaij, 1993 ), even if it waslinked at beginning to the production and consumption of real goods and, afterwards, to thedigital goods produced and accessed via internet (Bertacchini et al., 2008).Another concept which is in some features similar to the one considered in this paper is theconcept of lead users as described by Von Hippel (2005). In this case companies exploit thepossibility to intercept knowledge generated within communities of expert users in order toinnovate.We build on concepts taken from the literature on prosumers and on lead users to study theconcept of communities of scientific pioneers.Besides we present the Musigen system, a platform which has been developed in order tofacilitate and support knowledge exchanges among users in the generative music field, that is,the field which studies the creation of melodies based on algorithms played by computers. 3  
  5. 5. 2. Theoretical background: ICT and knowledge creation in open communities of innovation pioneers2.1 The role of Communities in knowledge creation and innovation processesCommunities have a critical role in supporting knowledge exchange. Knowledge managementliterature in particular, has extensively studied communities supporting intellectual activitiesof individuals. Communities have been studied at different levels and given different specificnames: Communities of Practice (Brown and Duguid, 2000); Occupational communities (VanMaanen, Barley, 1984), Communities of Knowing (Boland and Tenkasi, 1995), Communitiesof Practitioners (Blackler, 1995) and Microcommunity of Knowledge (von Krogh, Ichijo andNonaka, 2000). All have been described as an organizational subsets strongly influencingknowledge creation and knowledge exchange processes. While some of these social entitiesare defined as existing within one organization, others transcend organizational boundaries.Lave and Wenger’s original definition of Community of Practice is “a set of relations amongpersons, activities, and world, over time and in relation with other tangential and overlappingcommunities of practice” and “the term community imply necessarily co-presence, a welldefined identifiable group, or socially visible boundaries. It does imply participation in anactivity system about which participants share understandings concerning what they are doingand what that means in their lives and for their communities” (Lave and Wenger, 1991, p. 98).Several streams of literature in different fields point out the emergence of communities whichare labeled as “open” since anyone can enter the community or exit it at any time withoutbeing asked particular explicit requirements. Open source software is the most commonexample. 4  
  6. 6. More or less open communities are one of the manifestations of the Open Innovationphenomenon. Open Innovation has been defined as “a new knowledge landscape”(Chesbrough 2003) characterized by a growing use of external knowledge in innovationprocesses and, at the same time, a tendency towards the external commercialization of acompany’s own technology (OECD 2008; Lichtentahler and Ernst 2008; Carlsson et al.2009). In particular companies exploit the creativity and the problem solving capabilities ofindividuals outside the firm. Web-based intermediaries likee Ninesigma, Innocentive orYourencore specialized in providing access to broad networks of scientists, researchers andprofessionals which are potentially able to solve new technological problems proposed bycompanies (Tapscott & Williams 2007; Chesbrough 2006; Fredberg et al. 2008; Lichtenthaler& Ernst 2008, OECD 2008). While in the beginning of their activity Innocentive and the otherintermediaries only provided a point of contact between companies and innovators, now theyare all trying to build communities of innovators. This is probably a consequence of the factthat intermediaries acknowledge the relevance of the community dimension for innovationprocesses.Another stream of literature in which the relevance of communities for innovation processesis often stressed is the lead user innovation theory (Von Hippel 2005). Von Hippel observedhow users with a strong interest in a product and good technical competences (i.e. lead users)are able to modify the same product and introduce significant innovations. Such lead users arenot isolated but exchange knowledge within communities. Being recognized as competent bya community is also one of the strongest incentives to users’ innovations.Hence, knowledge intensive processes take advantage of the existence of communitiessupporting the learning processes of involved actors. The more knowledge intensive theprocess the more useful the support of a community. Innovation processes and scientificresearch are probably the most knowledge intensive processes. As a consequence both 5  
  7. 7. innovators and scientist are often involved in communities of individuals sharing theirinterests.2.2 Open communities of innovation pioneersAll the examples cited so far involve knowledge domains characterized by the diffusion ofknowledge among large communities. Both in the case of open innovation intermediaries andin the case of lead users innovation, companies exploit the possibility to tap into knowledgegenerated within large communities of interest.There are domains, instead, in which the involved communities are smaller and theknowledge required to understand the studied problems is deeper. We call these groups“communities of innovation pioneers”. This is the situation characterizing the work ofscientists and experts in scientific or technical fields in the early stages of their development.Cybernetics in the forties, Complexity theory in the seventies, Grid computing twenty yearsago are examples of scientific domains showing these features. For several years computernetworks were understood and used by few individuals with deep technical competences.All these disciplines or technical domains have deep influence on our lives from a technical,economical and/or cultural point of view. The small communities which studied these topic inthe early stages of their development strongly contributed to their success. Understandinghow communities of innovation pioneers work and how they can be supported can speed upinnovation processes, influencing positively the economic and technical progress ofcompanies and societies.Supporting communities in these fields, however, is probably more complex than in others forseveral reasons: 6  
  8. 8. − First, the underlying knowledge is complex; as a consequence it is more difficult to transfer knowledge from an individual to another. Also the interactions among individuals are made more difficult by the complexity of the discussed topics;− Second, the knowledge is new and needs validation; each involved individual, as a consequence, experiences a strong need for support from his/her colleagues;− Third the communities are small and geographically dispersed. As a consequence bringing the members together is more difficult than in other cases.− Fourth, usually these communities are characterized by loose relations and, at the same time, a high degree of closeness; that is members are not linked by strong ties but it is not easy to join the community.Researchers meet and communicate with each other seldom. Communities usually gather atscientific conferences. These meetings have a critical role in allowing cooperation betweendistant individuals. However they are held periodically, usually once a year, and this stronglylimits the interaction among innovators. As a consequence researchers mainly work alone andexchange results only with a small co-located community, sharing their results with distantcolleagues only seldom. The overall result is that the relations among individuals and theexchange of knowledge are not intense.Besides communities of innovation pioneers are often not much visible. They specialize infields which are not likely to generate economic returns soon, so they suffer a lack of fundsfor promotion.As a consequence these communities are rather closed. New members are included seldom.Since the knowledge required to participate in the community is complex, frequent contactswith newcomers would be needed in order to involve them in the knowledge creationprocesses. 7  
  9. 9. Communities of innovation pioneers would strongly benefit from the possibility to becomemore “open”, that is, the possibility to become more visible, to involve more easily newmembers and to have more frequent interactions among members.ICT and in particular the internet now offer the possibility to make communities of innovationpioneers more open.2.3 ICT to support open communities of innovation pioneersThe potential usefulness of new ICTs for communities of innovation pioneers is evident. ICTallows to increase the visibility of these communities, makes remote interactions morefrequent and richer (Daft and Lengel, 1986), makes knowledge diffusion easier.There are several modes to support open communities of innovation pioneers through ICT:1. Accelerate knowledge transfer through easier and richer interactions: this is the most intuitive form of support ICT can provide to communities. The internet can be the agora for scientific and technical discussions among members. There is a fairly broad literature on tools supporting the creation of knowledge bases and on knowledge transfer. In fact these two aspects can be considered the central functions of a KMS (e.g. Robey et al. 2000). Building searchable databases or preparing documents and tutorials (in other words “packaging” the related knowledge) can support the members of a community;2. Create a common knowledge base: communities can use ICT tools to collect, organize and package knowledge related to each specific domain to be provided to the in order to speed up the development of a common, domain-specific knowledge base. Collaborative tools as document sharing, forums, blogs and wikis can also be used in order to create a common knowledge base, in particular with respect to more unstructured issues. Web 2.0 technologies, in particular, provide possibilities to cooperate and exchange knowledge (McAfee, 2006); 8  
  10. 10. 3. Provide innovation toolkits: as noted by Von Hippel (2005), more and more often companies provide customers with tools to modify and innovate their products. Adopting this strategy is easier when the product is intangible and, as a consequence, the tools can be transferred via the internet. Similarly, communities of innovation pioneers can provide their members with tools to experiment with concepts and simulate situations;4. Increase visibility and making access easier: a website or participation in other web-based communities can make communities more visible. One of the main consequences of the increased visibility is the possibility to bring together a larger number of members previously not aware of each other;5. Maintaining identity: communities are not just groups with a practical purpose. They are social entities which share an identity. ICT can support identity formation and maintenance by providing a milieu for relational exchanges among members.There are still few examples of web-based tools aimed at supporting open communities ofinnovation pioneers. The discussion of a web-portal created with this purpose is the aim of thenext section.3. The Musigen case studyGenerative music is a new topic in the scientific community, strictly linked to the use ofchaotic systems to generate music (Bilotta et al., 2007; Rizzuti et al., 2009). Generativemusic, in fact, is based on an algorithm for the generation of numerical sequences and aprocess for codifying these sequences in music patterns (ibid., 2007).Generative Music aims to explore the use of acoustic representation for the study ofevolutionary systems, in order to gain further information on their behaviour. In thisperspective, the purpose of the research is to develop new acoustic representative method of 9  
  11. 11. the time series, emerged from the evolutionary chaotic systems, which can be integrated withthe 3D visualization or traditional techniques of analysis.Secondly, Generative Music aims to investigate the way of use of dynamic systems emergingfrom researches on complexity and chaos in art and music context.It is a topic which requires specialist knowledge in mathematics and music andcomplementary knowledge in informatics. Furthermore, as a scientific field, it is characterizedby a small community of dispersed experts. To achieve this task, the Musigen system hasbeen developed in order to facilitate and support the knowledge among users in the generativemusic field.3.1 The Musigen architecture and functioningMusigen has been realized by using the open source software Joomla!. The system is basedon the Linux operative system, Apache web server, MySQL database server and the languageof programming PHP.To date, Musigen (Figure 1) consists of a collection of information, documents, digitalmaterials and tools related the topic of generative music. The tools for creation of this kind ofmusic has been realized by ESG (University of Calabria) and are available for users, who canuse and support their development for creation of music. 10  
  12. 12. Figure 1: Musigen home page.The layout is organized on 3 columns: on the left and on the right for the access to the mainfunctionalities, the central one shows the contents.On the right 3 menu are available: the principal menu, the didactics module and the resources.The first one consists of an informative part accessible to each users, related to the project,news, FAQ, etc., based on a section with texts and images and an interactive one forregistered users.The didactics module provides information related generative music, mathematicalsymmetries in music and physics, new musical instruments, 3D immersive environments,generative art.Furthermore, users can upload their contributions and their evaluation and comments aboutthe contents available.In addition, there is a module dedicated to the survey, capable to provide a constant feedbackwith the users, about software or initiatives proposed on the community. 11  
  13. 13. The right column consists of 4 modules: (1) users login, (2) web TV, (3) mp3 player forreproduction of the best music produced by users, (4) management of statistics and researchin the web site.Concerning the research of contents, a new component has been ad hoc realized, capable tomanage the information retrieval process, which supports the management of texts and theirautomatic index, as well as the efficient ranking tools, useful for the presentations of resultson the basis of their importance related the users’ requests.3.2 Community interaction characteristicsAccording to de Valck et al. (2009), we assume that the members of this community displaydifferent interaction profiles on the basis of their own interest versus the topic of thecommunity. Furthermore, we can suppose that most of these members have some experienceswith the generative music. In particular, they joined to the community with the aim toincrease their knowledge in the topic. They, therefore, can be academics or hobbyists.In particular, there are 3 different level of access to the site: (1) administrator, (2) registereduser, (3) general user.(1) Administrator. This kind of user can access to all section of the site, even if the ones forback-end for the managing of the Content Management System.(2) Registered user. He/she can access to the function on the front-end.(3) General user. He/she can access to public contents and to the functionalities which doesn’tneed an identification of user for the access (insert username and password).Furthermore, the users can interact with the systems by the following main actions:- upload texts (news, articles, didactical contents) related to the topic of the community. Eachcontribution will be evaluated by a scientific committee; 12  
  14. 14. - download and upload of documents, audio (new tacks realized by using the software of thecommunity), textbooks and software;- recommend links to be added to the system;- participation to the forum, where share opinions and open new discussions in a new way andthrough a user-friendly interface;- watch web TV, and in particular, the videos provided by the other members of thecommunity or by the scientific committee. Furthermore, in the same section it is possible toparticipate to the chat and, as consequence, share instant messages with multi-user modalitydirectly on the web TV virtual screen.Figure 2 summarizes users’ interaction characteristics with the system4. DiscussionCurrent advances in technologies offer new tools for share knowledge in a global perspective,as well as to create new communities of experts and hobbyists. In particular, two aspects ofthe studied system are relevant from a theoretical standpoint: (1) supporting of knowledgesharing among experts and (2) the promotion of niche researches in a global perspective.(1) Supporting knowledge sharing among experts. Figure2: Users’ interaction characteristics. 13  
  15. 15. The community offers several tools useful for users in order to share knowledge related to thetopic. In fact, users can download/upload software, papers, digital contents, as well as discussin the forum or comment the texts, watch videos and listen to audio related to the generativemusic.In this way, experts participate to the creation and diffusion of knowledge in the field, addingtheir personal contributions, as well as general users interested in generative music can beinformed on the news on the topic and provide their opinion. In particular, users (both expertsand hobbiests) can exploit the digital space to meet each other and change opinions,comments, links and chat, as well as to suggest new elements important for a deeperunderstanding of the topic.Therefore, users can exploit the scientific research products uploaded on the web site,download, modify and upload the new product, in order to create new knowledge on the topic.These information can support experts in production and promotion of new knowledge on thegenerative music field. These can consists of an improving of scientific publications, creationof networks for international projects and so on.(2) Promotion of niche researches in a global perspective.The topic of generative music is an interesting topic for scientific community, but the expertsare geographically dispersed. The proposed community can support them to bring themtogether in an easy and fast way. In fact, it supports the cooperation between distant subjects,as well as support the exchange of results with the other members of the community in aglobal perspective, due to the possibility to share knowledge with distant colleagues veryfrequently. In this way the exchange of knowledge can become very intense and promote thediffusion of the research on the topic. 14  
  16. 16. Indeed, this kind of community benefits of the voluntary participation of experts from all overthe world and from the possibility to involve more persons. In this way, every individual,from all over the world, with an interest in the topic can become a member and participate tothe building of new knowledge Hence, the community becomes more visible, and can havemore frequent interactions among members. In fact, the community become an internationalnetwork which involves participants from all over the words and offers a common virtualspace where interact and collaborate, by overcoming the boundaries of time and space.6. ConclusionsCommunities of innovation pioneers are one of the less studied manifestation of openinnovation phenomena. The reason for this lack of attention lies in several features of thesesocial groups. Two are particularly important:1. They are small in number and loosely coupled. As a consequence they are not much visible;2. It is not clear whether a community is going to produce economic returns and, even when this happens, the returns are expected only in the long term.Nonetheless these communities can be a source of breakthrough innovation. Societies andcompanies able to understand their processes and to absorb the knowledge they are able togenerate could, in the future, obtain a strong competitive advantage. Since the capacity toabsorb knowledge, in fact, is linked to the knowledge already possessed in a specific domain(Cohen and Levinthal, 1990), it is clear that being able to understand communities ofinnovation pioneers can help economic actors to be ahead of their competitors of severalyears.ICT can play a critical role in this process. ICT based tools can support the communities,allowing innovation pioneers to interact effectively and to involve more participants. Besides 15  
  17. 17. the same tools can represent a window for external actors to tap into the knowledge generatedbi innovation pioneers.Musigen is a first attempt at creating this kind of systems. The system is still in its earlystages but its creators expect it to grow rapidly and become a prototype for communitiesscientists and experts at the leading edge. The same principles applied in this case to the fieldof generative musc could be applied to several other fields.3. Limitation and future worksThe results of this study can affect also the edutainment sector, due to the analysis of severalentertaining tools for the diffusion of educational contents.Although this study offers important issues, there are limitations that should be taken intoaccount.In fact, studies involved only the experts/hobbiests of a specific topic. Moreover, in othersimilar sites devoted to the diffusion of other scientific topics the characteristics of users’interaction can be different.Furthermore, it is possible to investigate the influence of web-site similar to musigen on thelearning process, and if it is more efficient for particular topics.Moreover, new entertaining tools will be added to musigen. These will be related to musicproduction and software development. In fact, the software available on the site will beaccessed by new plug-in which allow “far” users to play music together in a common 3Dinteractive environments. In fact, new software will be developed to give users the possibilityto interact in real-time by exploiting different modules. 16  
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