Citilabs paper-jci final


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Analysis of the first years of Citilab, a first European citizen laboratory

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Citilabs paper-jci final

  1. 1. ← The Citilab of Cornella de Llobregat, ← A case study on living labsAbstractDuring the past decades, connecting communities to the digital networks has been a critical concern forgroups of researchers and social activists. In 2003 the first World Congress on Information Societydeclared the fight against “digital divide” a global priority. In 2010 around 2 billion people are online ofa total global population of around 7 billion. (Internet Stats, 2010). Still a long way to go.The more communities and people are connected the more are interested not only in “using” more or lesseffectively ICT but also “producing” it, specially in the form of applications, services, content, new socialrelations, new things,... In the 90s we said “access” and in the next decade “effective use” (Gurstein, M.2003), the last years the new motto has been “to participate”. Increasingly, people want to participate inthe online world even in the innovation process in itself. Decades ago we talked about “onlinecommunities” . Now we are beginning to talk about “living labs”, a generic term beginning to definenew environments gathering the participation of people, companies, universities and publicadministrations in open innovation processes. In particular, in this article we will analyze the specific caseof Citilab in Cornella de Llobregat, a young living lab, launched by people historically connected to thecommunity networking movement in one side internet and computing research in the other. During twoyears this experiment has developed an collaborative environment where local, coming from citizens,local companies or local administration’s demands have driven innovation projects. A place where anetwork society is trying to evolve into a lab-society.Key words: living labs, citizen labs, PPPP, next generation community networks, 1. Community networks, social networks, living labs, citizen labs. 1.1. To the GCNP colleagues.After the series of global conferences on community networking that took place in Barcelona (2000),Buenos Aires (2001) and Montreal (2002) a group of researchers and online activists started to thinkabout the next steps. After gathering a good amount of the best international experiences on communitynetworking and community technology centers or telecenters, some kind of lack of perspective emerged
  2. 2. in the movement. “Now what?”. “Connecting people to the Net is all about?”. Garth Graham, a majoractivist from Canadian community networking, even proclaimed the “end of community networks”(Graham, 2005). The “effective use” concept helped to articulate a group of community researchersgathered around this Journal of Community Informatics that has done a valuable contribution to continuethe best experiences and insights for the better use of ICT into the communities.One of us being an anthropologist by training but working in a technological university (UPC) and atechnological research center (i2cat Foundation), and the other a researcher in computing and artificialintelligence, we were interested in a different way: how could be possible to transfer the innovativeculture of technologists into the minds of the community activists and plain citizens?. Our interest wasnot in “communities” in general, but in a particular kind of it: the innovative communities, in theprocesses of cultural innovation. The traditional model of social scientists working with technology hasconsidered for years that technology is “only a tool” serving the “needs” of the community. The goal wasthe community and the means, the technology. In the 90s a group of anthropologists from University ofBarcelona (Rojo, A. 1995, Serra, 1992) developed a fieldwork research project at CMU discovering howa technological community built during decades a set of core cultural values around the innovation anddesign. Could it be possible to transfer this culture of innovation to local communities? One of theproblems of community networking movement was their blindness to consider that one of the “needs” ofpeople is also the need for innovation, of being innovative actors of their own future. As the traditionalanthropological research, communities were considered a “fact”, instead of a “deed”, a reality to beanalyzed and, in the best case, “to be served”. In this last case, the use of applied social sciences methodstrying to cope with the changes in communities were not enough. Applied anthropology has been used tofacilitate cultural change from traditional communities to the modern societies. But the problem now it ishow to evolve from both kind of communities to a new one, called knowledge society that nobody knowswhat is it about exactly. In the core values of community networks innovation didn’t appear as a corevalue of the movement. A key point was missed: communities and people also do innovate. Someanthropologists even considered innovation as the driver of the cultural change (Barnett, H. 1953). In2000 Prof. Toru Ishida from University of Kyoto organized a Seminar on Digital Cities where the idea ofa next generation of community networks as “innovative knowledge networks” emerged (Serra, 2000). In2002 the citilab concept was born preparing a proposal for the municipality of Cornella. In 2004, in thefirst number of the Journal of Community Informatics the Canadian Research Alliance for CommunityInnovation and Networking was announced (Clement, A, et al. 2004). The connection betweencommunity networking and innovation was starting.2. A new generation with different values. Just after the last CN Congress in Montreal in 2002, what we saw was an explosion of the Web 2.0,showing a new Internet trend towards participation. Instead of “surfing”, the initial metaphor of anInternet for navigation and discovery, “bloging” portrayed an Internet for publishing your own thoughts.Big difference. Finally, companies My Space and particularly Facebook has open up social networkingtools to the people . From the old community networking point of view, people connected each otherthanks to a commercial social network package is not a “real” community network. Of course Facebook is
  3. 3. not The Well. But this company is facilitating a social networking platform to 500 million people aroundthe world. Quality versus quantity, but the same goal: sharing thoughts and friends. The first onesexpending time in an non-for-profit way. The second ones making money. In the 80s people fromFIDONet, a global voluntary computer network made by volunteers, didn’t consider Internet as the rightchoice for connecting computers and people because it came from the military. But the true thing is thatInternet extended the capacity of be online to billions of people. Now Facebook and other “socialnetworking” environments are extending the capacity of people in connecting each other beyond thebetter dreams of old community networkers. This paired with the online group collaboration of the“makers” around Open Source software and hardware projects, give a completely different perspective tocommunities.From a sociological viewpoint, community networks were a product of the baby boomer generation ofactivists (people born between 1943 and 1964. People educated in the counterculture in the 60s and 70swilling to “put technology at the service of the people”, by the way, an old motto of President MaoZedong. The current social networks are the product of a brand new generation, the Millennial or NetGeneration (Strauss and Howe, 1991) , born between 1982 and the first years of 2000. They are takingand exploiting the ideas of community networks from a completely different perspective: as a “friends offriends” structures. They consider themselves as individuals before than members of a community. Thereare ego networks It is interesting how this idea of social networks as friend of friends structures was forthe first time discovered by the School of Manchester that started the social networks analysis in the 40sand 50s studying the urban structure of African cities. (J.C. Mitchells, 1969, Boissevain, 1968,1974) .Now companies like Facebook have taken advantage of this concepts changing the way Internet isevolving. Digital social networks are confirming the network society hypothesis as the basis of theinformation era. (Castells, 1998).An interesting thing of Facebook and other commercial environments has been to open up the closedworld of civic networks to companies. Traditional community networkers were reluctant to accepting thecommercial world as a partner. Individualistic and competitive mind was considered a threat againstcommunitarian one. But now companies are open more and more to cooperate, to share, to cope with“social responsibility” issues. Companies are also citizens. Even the local authorities, keeping stillfiercely the official representation of the citizenship in a city, are more open to collaborative agreementswith grassroots ciberactivist organizations in the Web 2.0 world. Finally, academic computer scienceresearchers even thinking in visionary Future Internet plans, recognized that the real future is in listeningthe users and creating with them new services and content. In fact, as S. Finquelievich demonstrated incountries like Argentina, commercial cybercafés has played a more important role of promotingcommunity use of the Internet that traditional community telecenters. (Finquelievich, S, Prince, A 2007) Facebook is not the end of history, but simply a new chapter. In parallel to the paramount success ofthe digital social networks, a new structures are emerging: the people not only wants “to participate”, butthey want to innovate. There are not only communities or individuals. There are also companies, publicinstitutions, NGOs,... all together. “Open innovation”, “living labs”, “citilabs”, are different names for athis new process and structures.
  4. 4. 1.3. “Democratizing innovation”.Talking about innovation and living labs we are talking about new knowledge-based structures. From asocio-cultural system perspective, what is happening is that Internet is already having an impact not onlyin the technical infrastructures of current societies, or in their socio-economic structures, but also in itsknowledge systems, specially with the system of production of research and innovation. An open networktechnology like Internet is facilitating to open up of the sancta sanctorum of the modern societies: thescience and technology system, the system that produces and reproduces the values of the modernworld, . This system organized mainly around the research universities, the national governments andthe big corporations is now entering in an new period trying to adapt itself to what has been called “thedemocratization of innovation” (von Hippel, 2005).One of the more interesting cases to analyze this process is what is happening in the relatively young andfragile European R&D system. After repeated analysis indicating that Europe is loosing ground ininnovation in relation with USA and Asia-Pacific, the Aho Report (2006) confirmed the need of an urgentreform. Some steps has been approved like the creation of the EIIT, European Institute for Innovation andTechnology, but conserving the essential of the all framework. But one of the most novel initiatives,coming bottom up, has been the setting up of an European movement of living labs. Started in theNordic countries, in 2006, the Finnish Presidency of the European Union, facilitate the publicannouncement of the European living labs movement.. Previous European research projects like Corelabs(2006) were instrumental to gathering the group of innovators (Veli Pekka Niitamo from Nokia, RobertoSantoro from ESOCENET, Alvaro Oliveira from Alfamicro, and others...) In four years, EnoLL hascredited 200 local and regional open innovation structures made by entrepreneurs, researchers, localpoliticians and citizens interesting in participating in the renewing the old European innovation system.Even the fathers of the classical Triple Helix model, asked themselves if the “public” was the fourthhelix. (Leyderdorff and Hezkovizt, 2002).This new situation have favored the establishment of the Citilab, a first citizen lab inaugurated inNovember 2007. Former seminal ideas and experiments have inspired this project as the Dutch ScienceShops movement of the 70s, the community technology centers in the 80s leaded by Antonia Stone fromPlaying to Win, the “collaboratories” as virtual laboratories (Wulf, 1989), the community networks inthe 90s. (T. Schuler, 1996, de Cindio, 2000) or current “collaborative innovative networks” or COINS(Gloor, P. 2004, Fernandez Hermana, 2008) The goal of this new experiment has been trying to do is tobring and to foster explicitly the innovation culture to citizens in a local community of 80.000inhabitants in the Barcelona metropolitan area. 20 years ago talking about citizens meant working onconcepts about democracy, civic intelligence, but no companies, not profit, not competitiveness. The lastdecade, talking about social networking meant making business, starting companies, ego networkswithout too much community dimension . Now what living labs movement tries to open up a newcollaborative model where public, private and individual interests come together and are inspired by acommon innovation culture. 2. The case of Citilab of Cornella.
  5. 5. 2.1. From a Textile Factory to a Citizen Lab.Citilab is a new facility in the city of Cornella de Llobregat, Barcelona. This new formally open inNovember 2007 center is organized as a non-for-profit foundation called Fundacion por la Promocion dela Sociedad del Conocimiento. The president of the Board is the major of the municipality and arepresentation of full body of companies and social actors in the city, including members of the secondaryschools are also members. The university is also represented by the UPC. The current executive directoris Vicenç Badenes, old founding member of CornellaNet, the community network of Cornella and during20 years, local officer in the City Hall, currently on leave.Citilab is a research project on citizen labs, as new kind of community organizations compromised inpromoting technological and social innovation in the community.In summer 2010, Citilab has 4.500 individual members, identified with an small card like in a publiclibrary. They pay 3 euros per year to have the right to participate in the general activities of the institution,including the basic activities of a telecenter (free access to Internet, basic digital literacy courses, freeattendance to talks and general activities). Beyond these activities, Citilabers can also participate ininnovative projects of the institution. Yearly there is a set of projects that are approved by the Board thatare open to the users.Citilab is located in an old textile factory, built in 1897 in Art Nouveau style. This factory was called CanSuris and it is located in the popular neighborhood of FontSanta-Fatjo in the municipality of Cornella deLlobregat, in the metropolitan Barcelona. In the 60s this factory stopped producing textile, becoming anabandoned symbol of the traditional industrial culture of this city. The Art Nouveu factories were asymbol of the Catalan entrepreneurs that launched the industrial revolution in the region in the XIXcentury converting Catalunya in the “Fabrica de España”. (The Factory of Spain). In the second haft ofthe XX century, this productivity spirit was recovered by a young working class that made Cornella, thecapital of the new democratic labor movement that accelerated the end of the Franquism. These workingclass, coming from the rural South of Spain in its majority, produced a lively period of social activismthat was ending in the 90s. As a result some local politicians tried to formulate some new ways to adaptthe city to the new digital era. CornellaNet and Citilab has been two moments of this process. In 1996 a group of activists started CornellaNet, a voluntary NGO promoting Community networkingin the city . With the help of BCNet, the Barcelona Community Network and others Cns in Catalonia,CornellaNet made an initial effort to gather the Internet pioneers in the city and organizing the firstliteracy courses in the Orfeó Catalonia in the Padró, a popular neighborhood in Cornella. CornellaNet wasalso critical to raise the initial funding to organizing the First Global Congress on CommunityNetworking in November 2000 in Barcelona. 2.2. The beginnings of the Citilab project.In June 11th 2002 a group of researchers (R. Sanguesa, H. Milla, A. Serra), headed by the architect VicentGuallart, presented to the municipality of Cornella the document with the “Proposal of uses and servicesof a center of innovation between the university and the city for the knowledge society”. The namesuggested for this center was Citilab. The City Hall approved the proposal and created the non-for-profit
  6. 6. Foundation based in a public-private-people partnership. Including several public institutions andcompanies (Generalitat de Catalunya, Fundació Catalana per a la Recerca, Siemens, ...), the Universityand also the citizen sector represented in this case by the school system represented by the director of theEsteve Terrades, a vocational training center.This step of a local municipality adopting a new competence (innovation) and new structure (Public-private partnership) is in itself a novelty. Municipalities, at least in Spain, are very stressed institutionstrying to find solutions anxiously to daily life of their citizens and lacking the financial resources to doit. Historically urbanism is the traditional more important competence of the cities. Cornella as the rest ofdemocratic municipalities have made an enormous effort in the last 30 years of putting in order the urbanstructure of cities after the years of “desarrollismo” in the 60s and 70s. At the same time, during theseyears, Spanish municipalities adopted the “economic development” policies, via creating industrial areasor local building companies. But in the 90s and specially after the economic downturn in 2008 these twomajor competences are not enough. More and more municipalities are beginning to understand that theyhave to participate in setting up innovation activities, policies and finally institutions. Cornella did it in2002 with Citilab. The municipality provided a piece of land, a building, and also accepted the creation ofa new institution with an bizarre name.A second novel aspect was the new structure. Municipalities are small administrations with a lot ofproblems to solve. Their culture, specially in small and medium cities, is trust nobody, because they feelthat t nobody help them enough. Apparently, the major is a very open public figure, but in reality he feelalone and hopeless. With Citilab a new culture of formal cooperation and sharing with the private sectorand the public is trying to open up. In the community networks it was almost impossible to share thisopen culture between cities and citizens, at least in Barcelona. CornellaNet was a purely citizen basedstructure. Citilab inherit this civic spirit but added a private-public partnership. Citizens and city seemedfinally working together, not without conflicts. This is still one of the major issues in the digital era. 2.3. The Physical Facility. Citilab is located in a old factory officially catalogued as cultural heritage piece by the municipality.During five years an slow and very careful process of architectonic rehabilitation was needed. During thistime, architect and builders ruled. The results have been spectacular. One of the first projects started in2008 after the official inauguration, Seniorlab, was dedicated to recovering the history of the site. Theformer last workers of the factory in the group remembered that this factory was plenty of workingwomen, as the rest of textile factories. They were pleased by the physical transformation of the facilityand agreed to the new uses. In some way, Citilab go back to the importance of physical spaces in the tradition of telecenters.People like to meet each other, if possible close to their homes. Citilab have the looking of a commonhouse, using extensively wood as a building material, avoiding cold materials and grey colors typical ofthe office environment.This brick and mortar environment is also connected digitally in new ways. In the first place, Citilab isconnected to the academic networks. In the 90s, when only Universities have Internet access the pioneers
  7. 7. community networks like National Capital Freenet in Ottawa helped the communities to connect betweenthem via university facilities. During last decades Universities have made enormous changes in Internetcapacity, but this new Internet (Internet2, Next Generation Internet, ...) have not connected thecommunities anymore. In particular, in Europe GEANT III is the current European backbone connectingnational networks with dark fiber and capacities at least at 10Gbps, allowing the transfers of a real highdefinition interactive and real time Internet. Citilab has been may be the first citizen based institutionconnected since 2007 at 1Gbps to i2cat and RedIRis, allowing their members to develop applications andnetworks with Universities and research institutions. The Cultural Ring for example, a broadband networktesting and sharing cultural productions in interactive HD between cultural centers locally andinternationally is one of the projects developed with this infrastructure. In the second place, Citilab has a commercial Internet provider, Orange (France Telecom) thatconnects the center to the “utility” Internet that is used for routine applications and services. Citilab isstrongly interested in collaborating with telecom companies in developing joint projects in areas ofcommon interest. Finally a citizen-based wireless network, Guifinet, (Meinrath, 2008) the biggest in Europe has also anode in Citilab, experimenting with digital infrastructures built by the own citizens. It is possible to combine in a citizen laboratory different kind of networking infrastructure: academic,commercial and citizen-based infrastructure and testing that the Internet of the future will need the opencooperation of such diverge kind of actors. 2.4. The people.The overwhelming majority of the Citilab members come from the City of Cornella. Prof. JordiColobrans from the Department of Sociology at the Universitat de Barcelona is analyzing the Citilabdynamics starting with its constituency. In April 2010, Citilab has approximately 4.500 members from atotal population of Cornella of 86.519 inhabitants following the 2008 INE data. The 85% of them areliving in Cornella and neighbors cities. The rest came from other 75 Catalan cities. In relation withnationalities, 80% of people was born in the different Spanish autonomous communities. The rest in 42different countries from all over the world. In relation with gender is quite balanced, although male ismajority. 24% of the members have tertiary education. Finally, if we analyze the age pyramid the groupsmore represented in Citilab are between 6 to 21 years old, adults between 31 and 51 and the seniors olderthan 51. The age group less represented is in between 21 and 31. (Colobrans, 2010)Citilab was conceived adding new layers of complexity to the traditional structure of a telecenter. Thebasic question that Citilab staff ask to the newcomers is “What do you want to do? If you know it , youcan do it here yourself. If you cannot, we can help you”. The idea is inviting people to develop projectsmore than sitting down in front a teacher getting courses. But this is not an easy task.In the recent paper presented by Jordi Colobrans to the Spanish Congress of Sociology about the case ofCitilab describes: “ Until now, the access to technology and training is what the people love the most. Ina survey ended mid February 2010, the majority of members identified citilab with the facility and the
  8. 8. technology access. A minor part with training and a small group with the labs. In other words, themajority of members ...are not aware of the hypothetical scope of the project. They use the access totechnology, the take advantage of the offering of training and , only a few are engaged in changes, may bebecause the mechanism allowing this collaboration is still in a maturing process. Still there is noinstitutional process to promote it as part of the culture of the centre”. (Colobrans, 2010) All the fantasies imaging that people has a kind of “ innovation gene” disappear when you seerepeatedly that majority of people wants what their education has trained to wish. This fight between thebasic activities of a telecenter , like free internet access, basic literacy, having a coffee and a conversation,and entering in the more demanding culture of projects, goals, deadlines, deliverables and fundraising ison the way.Nevertheless some steps closing the gap are on the way. Two simultaneous projects Seniorlab (Serra,2008) and Digital Horchard (Torres, R. 2009) ) using pedagogical methodologies like PBS Project BasedLearning and PLE, Personal Learning Environment have facilitated the bridging of the learning culturewith the innovation culture. . These two projects has been started initially groups of seniors and secondaryteachers, both from the city of Cornella, and now has been open up to the rest of the Citilab users. If wewant that extend the innovation to people, and people wants learning, we can make courses as projectsand projects as courses. At the same time, the work of Citilab staff in devising methods to let peer to peerself learning groups is beginning to have some results (Sangüesa et. Al 2010), (Dominguez,P Sangüesa,Ret al 2010) 2.5. “Huerto digital” and “ Relatos Digitales”: to learn and to innovate.One of the first social groups invited to participate in the Citilab was the teacher’s community ofCornella. The city has no public or private university in his territory. It has only primary and secondaryschools, one of them, the IES Esteve Terrades, the vocational center of reference in Catalonia in the areaof ICT training. Through an agreement between the i2cat Foundation and Citilab, it was started a jointcluster of e-learning joint projects. The first step was visiting one by one all the high school centers in thecity gathering through focus groups interviews the worries and concern of the teachers community. Ourapproach has been to work closely with teachers in order to facilitate personally how to incorporate ICTinto the curricula. R. Torres and his team set up at Citilab a Digital Orchard lab. Inspired in the MediaZoo facility at the Lancaster University, this project during two years has created a PLE for allowing theteachers using Web 2.0 tools to discover that Internet can be not an enemy but a strong allied. At thebeginning was the listen to them: what is their matter, what are their teacher interests, what kind ofproblems have in the classroom, what they expect from ICT, ….Listen again and again each of them. Firstthey discovered interesting materials and tools for working between them and with their students. Then,they are arriving to start some educational projects in their matters. Finally, they got official accreditationfrom the Department of Education, because Citilab signed an agreement with the department that isinteresting in this new way of “training” their teachers in ICT. This project is not solving the educationproblem but it is a first step in starting an innovative collaboration between the educational system andthe local community through a new institution of innovation.
  9. 9. Another complementary project, this time focusing in students also in secondary schools is RelatosDigitales, Digital Stories. Conducted by Prof. Jose Luis Rodriguez, from the Faculty of Pedagogy ofUniversity of Barcelona, this project has explored the use of ICT and storytelling methodologies with agroup of conflictive students for recovering their interest in learning process. Spain has a critical problemwith its educational system. This project was based in new didactical approaches based in a student-centerand project-based model where the student learns creating it own pedagogical materials (Rodriguez, J.L,and Scofet, Ana, 2006) With Portugal, Spain has the highest rate of drop out in Europe. Around 30% ofpeople in age 18-24 has not completed the secondary education, mandatory in this country. If weconsider that we are talking about the Net generation, this presents an interesting problem. The results hasbeen “spectacular” as one of their school professors declared. These students, most of them immigrants,have worked with an intense dedication to write, learn social media applications and services, produceand edit their own personal stories, some of them really tough. 2.6 “Sense Tinta”: Peer to peer self-learning groupsOne of the most interesting areas of Citilab is the first floor, where typically people of all ages come inand use the computers just for accessing the Internet and socializing. This is a legitimate use but, again, itjust stresses the access aspect of the users involvement. The staff of Citilab developed a differentapproach for the users of this first floor facilities that started with a series of group activities around theconcept “0123” where people started with no knowledge about how to use technologies and ended upcombining different technologies to advance in their use of digital environments. However this approachwas still heir to the “training course” mindset. So, by the mid-2009 the group of Citilab staff involved ineducation, felt that with this approach people just moved from the “access” perspective to the “use”perspective. Something else was needed in order to people actually start innovating. A whole newapproach was devised in order to break this block. It combined two things: firstly, a user-centric approachand, secondly, a project-based approach. Design techniques were used to elicit the real interest of peoplein changing things in their lives. That was the start of a co design of new projects between citizens andCitilab staff in response to these needs. The projects had to respond to some interest or need not just of asingle individual citizen but of a group of citizens. In the first phase of this activity co design process themost important things were to know what people knew and what they wanted to do, no technologicalaspect to that at all. That is, the elicitation techniques used were centered on the common interests, needsand abilities of a group. The facilitators of the groups proceeded then into step by step training in therelevant technologies but not just these but also the co design and collaboration patterns that are typical ofgroup innovation processes. Step by step the facilitators took good care to support the learning of eachand everyone on the group but also step by step they gave support to mutual knowledge transfer, i.e.,teaching and learning from the citizens that were going faster or learning a complementary ability towardsthose that where lagging behind or just had another set of skills, in the process effectively creating a Peerto Peer learning environment. The details can be seen in (Domínguez, 2010).As an example, one group decided that they wanted to create a new communication platform, a magazine,about their subjects of interest. The result is “Sense Tinta” (“Without ink”,
  10. 10. It is worth remarking that most of the meetings of the collaboratorsare currently held online with just a few face to face meetings at Citilab, a remarkable feat for a group thathad no computer or internet training at all six month earlier. One can say they have not created an ex-novo innovation, in the sense of a technological or business breakthrough. However the editors of“SenseTinta” are true innovators, since they have created a new social media communication platformthat integrate text, video and image (well beyond their usual concept of “magazine”) and new socialpatterns and uses by combining off-the shelf 2.0 technology and new skills into a significant product. Thatproduct is relevant to them and changes their lives turning them into active contributors to the 2.0phenomenon.The continuation of these projects probably will led the group in the direction to cooperate with othergroups within Citilab. For example, a significant possibility has been spotted that could be the connectionbetween those editors interested in “home tinkering” (bricolage) and those other “citilabers” active inother, more technically-oriented, groups of citizens at Citilab interested in open hardware Arduinoprojects. This would be very much in the spirit of the emergent process of design that leads the generaladaptive cooperation pattern of Citilab, inspired in processes of emergent models such as “SER”(Seeding-Evolutionary Growth -Reseeding, (Fischer & Ostwald, 2002) 2.7. Can seniors also innovate?Seniorlab is another project of Citilab trying to change the cultural pattern we have about elders in ourcurrent society. Initially called Yayolab (“yayo” is a Catalan word for elder associated mentally with a oldman black dressed with a black beret and an traditional stick), it was the initial group of people withgathered that proposed to change the name. “We are not “yayos”, they said in the first meeting in January2008. They preferred the term “seniorlab” as a better description of the group. This term was suggestedby Maria J. Buxó, professor of cultural anthropology of the University of Barcelona.Seniorlab started thanks to the collaboration with another local initiative called Universitat de la GentGran, (“University of Seniors”). Created in 2006 as the first Spanish university created by the own seniorsin Cornella, this university introduced for the first time a User Center Design approach. The topics andcourses were designed following the interests of the seniors instead of being created by the universityprofessors. The initial group of seniors came from this university, currently belonging to the UNED, theSpanish official distance education.During two years a group of researchers, social scientists and seniors have developed a quite broad set ofprojects coming from the traditional Personal Memories ones the more technology one likeConnectAlzheimer, a system of caring using videoconferencing and learning tools, developed by the localAssociation of Relatives of Alzheimer Patients in collaboration with i2cat Foundation. In Seniorlab wehave used beyond the PBS approach other applied anthropology methodologies like “action research” y“participatory design”, both oriented to generate knowledge on social change (Davydd J. Greenwoodand Morten Levin, Introduction to Action Research: Social Research for Social Change, 2 nd ed. (ThousandOaks, CA: Sage, 2007). Carlos Bezos, applied anthropologist, director of Value Creation and a disciple ofD. Greenwood, has help us to develop the project
  11. 11. One of the more interesting aspects we have discovered is the persistent capacity of neotenia between theseniors. (Bezos et al. 2010). By “neoteny”, scientists understand the process of keeping young charactersin the adult age . This character of some biological species, described for the first time by evolutionistbiologist Jay Gould [Gould, Jay 1977] , has been recently studied by Charlton B.G. In his paper aboutPsychological Neoteny. By this terms he understand “the widely-observed phenomenon that adults inmodernizing liberal democracies increasingly retain many of the attitudes and behaviors traditionallyassociated with youth” (Charlton B.G, 2007) . The Seniorlab project shows that when seniors areengaged in innovative projects they extend these neotenic characteristics. Working in projects has helpedsenior participants to start some formal and informal research. Doing projects help them start againlooking into the future, even if they search on their memories. They become more confidents. “Nobodytold me before that I could develop a project by myself”, commented a senior. As a result, seniorsactivate a neoteny process . They become more excited, happy, anxious also. Seniorlab has proven that aswe talk about long life learning, this process could also be a long life innovating process. Instead of beingafraid seeing ageing as equivalent of decadence we can be in an moment just the contrary, a momentwere, for the first time in history of sapiens, more and more people can develop creative activities duringits mature years after being completed the necessary demands of the struggle for life. A real time offreedom and wisdom. 2.8. Net media skills and the new generation.One of the big differences we have detected between the baby-boomer generation and the millennial oneis in relation with the use of audiovisual language. Old generation is a looking-at-TV generation. Someof them even have taken control on the broadcasting business but without changing the model: few peopleproducing audiovisual stuff for a mass audience of spectators. But now the combination of Internet andcheap audiovisual technology is allowing to the young generation to express itself through this differentmedia generating a different communication model: may people communicate to many people using theaudiovisual language. Citilab is exploring how this new netmedia language can be learn and extended tothe citizens as the literacy on reading and writing skills was developed five centuries ago. Laia Sanchez,assistance professor at the Communication School at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and AlexSerra, sound engineer, are conducting the social media lab at Citilab. 2.8.1.MusicLabA local team of musicians, Sergio Ramos and Santi Sanchez from Sant Boi de Llobregat, a city close toCornella, detected a problem: young people were willing to learn music but their local professors are notprofessional musicians. And the same time, professional musicians don’t teach. Results: school music’shave a great levels of students’ drop out, Could Citilab help them to develop a system where professionalmusicians, professors of local schools of music and its students could learn each other? Musiclab has bornin 2009 to explore these possibilities. Music has been since 1999, thanks to Shawn Fanning a member ofthe Millennial generation and inventor of Naspter, the first area of convergence between Internet and theaudiovisual. Young generation has grown with Internet music, first downloading, then playing on Youtubeand finally willing to compose themselves. But training is lagging behind. Musiclab has developed during
  12. 12. academic year 2009-2010 a training experiment. Using audiovisuals and videoconference tools the teamhas developed different pedagogical sessions between professional musicians, professors of school musicand students. Because of the low bandwidth that music school had, they have to use tools like MicrosoftXP videoconferencing package connecting Citilab with five local schools of music in different cities inCatalonia. In parallel, a Web 2.0 environment using Ning and other collaborative tools have been set up associal networking tools. The first results are quite positive. Next course, the Anella Cultural, CulturalRing, a network connecting major cultural institutions in Catalonia with local public theaters is offeringfor next course MusicLab as an experimental service to be test with other music schools. If we want totest the creative cities hypothesis (R. Florida dixit), we need to set in place a new educational system fortraining the new vocations, the creative young professionals and citizens with a higher levels of musicskills. 2.8.2 Football players and media editors.Laia Sanchez, director of the Social Media lab, envisioned another possible project. Close to the Citilab isthe football field of the local team Fontsanta Fatjo. Football in Barcelona is a local passion. Sports inTV3, the Catalan broadcasting system, are very popular but only few sports and fewer sport teams canappear in the news. But now, with the audiovisual Internet, why not to offer local sport groups thepossibility of producing their own programmes themselves? What if we could offer them the possibilityto learn how to broadcast the local football matches to friends and relatives? During the last months,SporTIC, a new Citilab project, has followed a similar process than the rest of the projects: gathering thelocal sport group of FontSanta Fatjo, explaining them the idea, listening to their opinions, elicit theirinterest, setting the lab, (in fact a mobile media production team, made by Citilab members and localparticipants) , training them in our facility, co designing new activities and getting some new results. Thefirst result is a collaborative audiovisual environment, Fonsanta Fatjo TV, made by this football team,where they put their live emissions, with interviews, and gathering them in a sports media library to seefreely on demand. Sports is also an educational field where young generation can be not only spectatorsbut also player and protagonist. 2.9 Computational Thinking for everyone.Innovation in the Internet era is not just putting information content on line, or getting new friends in asocial network, It is also to construct the new possibilities in the Internet. One of the necessary skills is tolearn how to create the software building blocks of new applications, services and platforms that couldexpand new possibilities of collaboration and learning. The culture of technology is based in the designpatterns that evolve from this and other software activities. The way that programmers and computerscientists think and solve problems, the way in which they design, is very characteristic of the patterns ofinnovation that have evolved collectively on the Internet. Some have spotted it: “ComputationalThinking”(Wing, 2006) , approaching all types of problems with the thinking and design toolset of a
  13. 13. computer scientist, specifically of a programmer. This is one of the most important ability to innovate inthe new society.This was approached in Citilab in two ways. One, expanding the knowledge of programming to theschool system. The other, creating activities that made people reflect in terms of the basic concepts andprocesses of computer science. The first was called the Edutech project, the second one was the Tecnolabproject. 2.9.1. Edutech: impacting the education system via programmingThe Edutech project combined the design of periodic training activities for kids in programming with anapproach to train teachers in secondary schools to use programming as another tool for their teaching (notjust teaching programming). In the first case, the Scratch programming language was selected by theproject leader (UPC Professor Jordi Delgado) to use it as an introductory environment to programmingfor 8-12 year-old children. It is one of the most popular activities in Citilab. Scratch was selected becauseit was instrumental in programming and designing complex systems in a very easy way and because it isconnected with a huge global community of children, parents and educators that have created more than500 000 Scratch projects online. Scratch groups at Citilab work also around the concept of project.In collaboration with the Catalan Department of Education, EduTech, devised a whole new approach tosecondary schools teachers training in technology. It created a website within the Education Department“Imagina” website (addressed to a all students and teachers in the Catalan Education system) where anonline course for hundreds of professors was created. Here the key, again, was not to impose a givenstructure but to adapt to the current needs of the teachers. That is, if, say, one were a professor ofLiterature at secondary school, probably he or she would see no interest in learning how to program or,even less, how programming could ever be used for a “liberal arts” course. In principle, a professor wouldhave almost no motivation to enroll in a course about programming. The Edutech team turned thisassumption upside down by requiring that all teachers participating in the training programme,independently of their background and current teaching subject, should end up showing that they havelearned how to program.... by creating a class of their subject that was in fact a Scratch program. Thatmeans not to use programming to create quizzes or questionnaires but simulations or any other resourcethat is a program and that conveys the core concepts and abilities of the subject been taught. It isinteresting to see that the resulting proposals by secondary school teachers do actually show that theyhave learned the usefulness of the “computational approach” to knowledge transfer in education.Combinatory programs have been created by Literature teachers in the program to let children learn aboutthe rules of poem writing, for example. 2.9.2. Tecnolab: learning to discover the concepts behind the computer.Immersing oneself in the experience of programming or robot building is a good way to get the practiceand methods of the information society. However, in the process, sometimes perspective is lost and thedeep concepts of computing and informatics are never known. That is what Irene Lapuente, a science
  14. 14. communicator with a strong background on activities to communicate concepts in the sciences, applied totechnology, i.e., to information technologies and computing. The result was an approach to computingand the internet that stressed what the main contributions of computer science and the internet were interms of new concepts and ideas, in a similar vein as some programmes for science communicationportray the concepts behind the laws of physics or mathematical concepts. In order to reinforce the factthat computing and the internet had to do not just with computers and gadgets but with a serioussystematic approach to learn about processes based on information and computation, Tecnolab activitieswere purposefully created with no computer interaction. Tecnolab ( is, basically a set of activities geared towards “learning computingwithout computers”. As its creator says “Tecnolab is about computing and internet with paper and pencil”.That means for example, that participants learn about information, computation, codification,communication, internet, computer virus, pixels, etc. without ever touching a computer. It is also done bymeans of groups games, cardboard quizzes, and, in general, play. It has been tested in several ways withseveral groups and in works very well with people either if they have participated in computer orprogramming courses before or not. It is mainly addressed to children and it has been used successfully inmany schools in Catalonia. Now it will be connected with international initiatives like Computer ScienceUnplugged, in order to extend its possibilities.The process illustrated by Edutech and Tecnolab is currently pushed further ahead by creating co designworkshops with teachers at primary and secondary schools to devise integrated course materials to coverseveral subjects in the curricula by simultaneously working on it from the perspective of programmingand computing, concepts behind computing, and media abilities. Several new contents for children arebeing developed and will be offered soon to the school system, covering subjects that the teachersthemselves have told Citilab staff that are difficult for the children to learn, from mathematics to naturalsciences and literature. 2.9.3. Redesigning museums with citizens: Expolab project.One new development in the direction of creating new learning opportunities is geared towards othertypes of centers associated with knowledge and learning museums. The Expolab project( , done in cooperation with the Tech Museum of San Jose in California and directed byIrene Lapuente from the Science communication company La Mandarina de Newton, is exploring thelearning dimension of co creating exhibitions with citizens around concepts of their own interest. The firstexhibition currently being on the last steps before production is centered around how people feel that theInternet has changed their lives. The process of the creation of this exhibition is in itself a clear sample ofthe whole design processes of the technological culture and adds to Citilab the dimension of physical andonline memory of the knowledge contributed, created and learned by Citilabers. It has had anexceptionally good reception from museum professionals as it was seen by the attendance of the parallelworkshops for museum professionals, that gathered almost 200 museum professionals from all over Spainand opened up the collaboration with institutions such as the aforementioned Tech Museum and also the
  15. 15. Center for the Contemporary Culture of Barcelona, Centre d’Arts Santa Monica, and others. 2.10. New ways of working... out of CitilabCitilab is still a project conditioned by the “social” approach of their founding fathers. But in last year, theinstitution has been impacted by the consequences of the economic crisis. Public funding is drying up.New activities with companies and the economic actors are needed urgently. Ramon Sangüesa, innovationdirector and Jose A. Galaso, a computer engineer and a business manager, are pushing the Citilab in thatnew direction. They were instrumental in setting up the Breakout project that explores new ways andspaces for working collaboratively. Breakout Festival started in New York in September 2009 conducted by Laura Forlano (Forlano,2009) and other innovators. They initiated several initiatives to “escape from the office” and experimentand do research on what new open spaces for co working could look like and which type of dynamicswere conducive to real work results. Ramon Sangüesa, while at a stay in Columbia University Center forOrganization Innovation approached Laura Forlano an her team which included members of the SentientCity project of the Architectural League of New York, the Institute for the Future and the co workingspace New Work City. They agreed to cooperate and to bring the Breakout experience to Barcelona andcompare the similarities and differences of the development of the project in two different countries andcultures.The Breakout perspective goes beyond the current creation of co working spaces, an internationalmovement inspired by developments such as The Hub (originated in San Francisco). Breakout exploresthe intersection between public and office spaces and tests if and under which conditions public spaces(squares, streets, parks) or “flow spaces” (malls, train stations, airports) can be used to developimpromptu work gatherings. The idea is imagining that all the city can be your office.At several times during 2009 and 2010, all the workers and teams of Citilab abandoned the building wentto public places (World Trade Center of Cornella), public transports (TramBaix), commercial centers (LaIlla Diagonal) or civic centers (Fabra i Coats in San Andrés, a popular neighborhood of Barcelona, andmet with other professionals to work on current projects for 2 to 12 hours. They established a completelynew working environment and opened up conversations, dialogues, presentations with the general publicthat surrounded them. The results were analyzed critically by J. Colobrans and his team. They have beenquite positive, breaking the ice with an astonished public that first looked at and then start breaking theice with this bizarre troupe of professional that made think to the passers by about an ambulant circus butthen discovered that it had completely different goals and that what they were doing could have a directimpact in new opportunities to work for all, passers-by included.2.11. Economic crisis has come: Looking-for-a-job?
  16. 16. Suddenly, the crisis arrived hitting heavily the community. 2010 has been the year were the crisis hasbeen more dramatic until now. A recent report of the UGT, the socialist labor union, denounced that inCatalonia 23.1% of youth between 16 and 25 years old have no job and are not studying (Jordana, 2010).And this trend is increasing. In 2005, there were 65.900 in 2009, 154.000.Traditional approaches focusing in “looking-for-a-job” are useless. Instead Citilab is proposing a newapproach, “inventing new kind of jobs” jointly with a joint process of training in this new professions. Arecent proposal to the Department of Labor, called Laborlab, is just trying to discover and design newprofessional profiles, specially for young people. One of the successful experiences Citilab has developed is in the area is a training course forprofessionals of social networks. Led by Internet pioneer and journalist, LuisA. Fernandez Hermana,during a full academic year, his team has developed a training course for people willing to startprofessionally in the area of social networks . Using a new collaborating platform, Citiespai, funded byCitilab and developed by a local SME, this entrepreneur is training a new group of social networkprofessionals beyond the traditional platforms like Facebook or MySpace. This course has beensupported by the Laboratory of Innovative Social Networks.Creating new jobs, professions and companies by training people in new working environments is a wayCitilab is exploring to fight unemployment, specially in the young generation. The old jobs will nevercome again. The new jobs are still to be designed, on of them, the professional of new living labsorganizations. The European Network of Living Labs is just putting in place the First Summer School ofLiving Labs, dedicated to training this kind of new professionals all over Europe. 2.12.Is really Citilab an innovative organization?We still don’t know for sure. Ramon Sangüesa has established an strategic research collaboration withthe Center for Organizational Innovation at Columbia University (COI), where he is affiliated faculty. Heproposed to invite them to come to Citilab and to make an assessment project about it. (Stark,D. 2009)Monique Girard, associated director of the COI , came to Barcelona during a year and a half, (June-July2009, October 2009 and June 2010) doing an ethnographic study analyzing the results of the project fromthe organizational perspective.Citilab started as a collaborative design project of socio-digital innovation. At least this is how thefounding group composed by a local politician, a professor in computer science, and an anthropologistthought and still think. But how this project is evolving in reality? It is quite difficult for the researchersand activists engaged in it since the beginning to have an objective perspective and to criticize it. Citilabneeds external observers.Combining the two research approaches, the observational quantitative ethnography approach of the teamled by professor Jordi Colobrans and the qualitative approach of the Columbia research team we can havemore innovative and critical results. This double approach is one of the characteristics of the Citilabexperiment. The initial proposal formulated in 2007 to the Spanish government (Badenes, V, et al. 1997)was a collaborative design project. We followed the same methodology that a computer scientist would
  17. 17. follow when creating new systems that already don’t exist but could. The assessment study by ColumbiaUniversity, is a more analytical one but also combines hints and proposals that help in creating newdesign artifacts to tests new ways of organizing. For example by organizing internal teams of staff indifferent ways and by cooperating with users in a more systematic way. The Columbia report describeswhat is really happening, using the traditional fieldwork methods of the social sciences. It is based onthe sociology of innovation and on organization studies. So it studies Citilab as a possibly new model ofinnovation based on the integration of citizens and remarks its relationships and differences withestablished organizational models and, more specifically, with organizational models of innovation. Indoing so, it is extremely valuable because it helps in spotting the organizational successes of Citilab butalso its mistakes and, in so doing, it gives strong feedback and orientation for improvement. 2.11.1. A first assessment: “Too much control, little structure”The Columbia researchers have produced several written reports remarking the contradictions betweenthe goals of the initial project and the preliminary results. In the first report, dated July 2009, David Starkpointed in a key issue “It sounds as though Citilab has a building, it has resources, but it lacks anorganization.” (Girard,M, 2009), remarked about the incipient organization, that there was “too muchcontrol, too little structure”. When a new organization like Citilab is set up there are two dangers: a)simply copying the old hierarchical organizational methods or b) simply get rid of them producing atotal lack of new organizational methods. Both options have been followed in the first two years ofCitilab. As Girard describes: “Two rather contradictory statements repeatedly made by members ofCitilab: on the one hand people complain about a lack of leadership, a lack of coherent direction. On theother, people complain of too much hierarchy and too much micromanagement at the level of topadministration. How can people be complaining about too little and too much control at the same time?The metaphors offered by Citilab staff to describe the lack of direction are telling: “Citilab is like a groupof musicians who are trying to improvise together but do not share a common rhythm and so the result isnoise.” (Girard, July 2009: 1-2). This is a serious caveats but also clear remarks for putting in place anorganization that could cope with the ambiguity of innovation and its requirement for flexibility andadaptation in response to new opportunities created from the interaction with users but at the same time ithas to have stability and structure to keep the whole organization from falling apart. Results in normativeemerging systems and the lessons (good and bad) of the governance of Open Source projects are possibleways to create are more adaptable and effective organization for Citilab.The discourse about creating a people, public, private partnership seems appealing, but managing thisnew structures is almost impossible at least if we don’t consider them “permanently beta organizations”(Neff,G Stark,D, 2002). As a result of these reports, a process of creating a more collective structure ofdirection was started. Citilabs and Living Labs need their own internal projects of reinventing theiroperating structures, including the managing functions, the relations between the personnel, and thefunding models.References
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