Community Informatics for Community Informaticians (keynote at CIRN 2010, Prato, Italy)


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This presentation, "Community Informatics for Community Informaticians: Making History in Historic Times" was a keynote presentation at CIRN 2010, Prato, Italy. It advocates for more formalization of both our technological and our organizational frameworks.

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Community Informatics for Community Informaticians (keynote at CIRN 2010, Prato, Italy)

  1. 1. Community Informatics for Community Informaticians Douglas Schuler Community Informatics Research Network Conference Prato, Italy October 27, 2010 Making History in HistoricTimes
  2. 2. Disclaimers • I'm a "newcomer" to this conference, but not to the field • (As you probably know) I'm not the first person to bring up these suggestions… • These proposals are offered from my perspective but please consider them as Wiki-style templates. • If I had had more time, this would be shorter. Probably better organized too... i.e. this is a work in progress.
  3. 3. Why do I say “Historic?” Life on the planet is going through fundamental shifts. The opportunities we have now are time-limited. The actions we take now may actually establish set the directions we take in the future. Our community focuses on a critical — though often overlooked — area. It’s actually an understatement
  4. 4. Our Goals • Research / understand our environment and our actions • Empower communities • Promote equitable and effective policy • Develop civic and community applications • Claim / identify / create the role of community and civil society in cyberspace and in information systems generally • Change the world
  5. 5. The State of our Enterprise • Our glass is not empty, but not full either. • A network, but not necessarily an intentional one. We can do better...
  6. 6. The Challenge What can we do the improve the effectiveness — or what I’d call the Civic Intelligence — of our community? Can we apply what we know to actually help ourselves?
  7. 7. How Can We Achieve This? •Building a shared technological platform •Building a stronger and more intentional network Through two mutually reinforcing activities: We should spend more time and effort applying community informatics to our own community
  8. 8. Networks • Lots (and lots) of connections • Free flow of information • No control • Lack of focus • Not conducive to decision-making Much exalted but not without problems
  9. 9. Hierarchies • A special kind of network • Regimentation / Chain of Command • Constrained communication • Bureaucracy and “fiefdoms” • Decisions are basically “final” • Organizations as “machines” • Focus and coordinated action easier Much disparaged but not without advantages
  10. 10. The software and the community that uses it can be more intentional.We can create a hybrid network / hierarchy. How do we “Structurize” our Network? • Interest groups • Dynamic leadership • Issues as nodes • Shared projects
  11. 11. Why this should be easy for us — • We have similar interests and motivation • We’re oriented towards actual projects especially community work Why this could be hard for us — • We’re individualistic • Not enough resources? • Maybe we’d fight over resources? Who would be able to fundraise in “our” name? • We’re geographically distributed; we come from different “worlds” • Inertia. It’s easier to keep doing what we’re doing.
  12. 12. Possible Uses of a Shared Technological Resource • Find the information you need • Share policy documents, applications and other resources • Identify other people with similar interests • Develop and test theories • Find other people with whom to collaborate • Create software,APIs, and other useful artifacts • Carry out larger research and other projects less expensively by sharing the load more broadly and intelligently • Create and manage projects or campaigns • Make our work more accessible to the rest of the world (as well as more legitimate, necessary, possible, and effective) • Build our community
  13. 13. • Fulfill general individual needs • Fulfill general organizational needs • Easy join / some commitment (many small contributions can create an enormous resource) • "Big tent" philosophy • Reciprocal sharing and log-ins • Look and feel sharing Some Requirements for a Shared Technological Resource
  14. 14. General Requirements (continued) • Structure of organization / technical approach should help us to do what we want to do • Support for the data objects for community informatics repository (ICT policy info, papers, events, projects, people, news, etc. etc.); context information; other "objects" (e.g. patterns) • Theory development / research directions • Internationalization
  15. 15. A Civic Intelligence Orientation • What knowledge do we need? • How can we support our processes? • Think about focus • Think about learning, monitoring, memory, negotiating, etc. • Collaborative modes like collaboration, deliberation, etc. • Tech development: Smart or public or civic intelligence search engine(s) Generally this means promoting civic ends through civic means
  16. 16. A Civic Intelligence Orientation • Civic intelligence is established as an explicit frame • Design using civic intelligence and models • System promotes civic intelligence in users • The system is built to demonstrate and manifest civic intelligence as an evolving intelligent artifact Four Main Approaches for Design* * From my planned (but temporarily abandoned) Prato submission....
  17. 17. No Intelligence Without Focus • Can technology (or organizational structure) help sustain individual and collective focus / attention ... • ... on content, on projects, on situation, on people, on tools, or on issues. • How do we indicate our attentional interests and how do we learn about what we need to learn about and hear about changes? Help is (Possibly) on the Horizon
  18. 18. General Approach • Build on existing data and processes • Build incrementally towards planned and emerging goals • Collaborative development • Roll your own and use existing platforms • Build the community intentionally (and, probably, formally)
  19. 19. Organizational Recommendations • Global organization including people from all over the world -- diversity can be strength! • Network of networks // Project oriented / Non-partisan • Basic principles • A formal (i.e. legally established) organization • some designated leaders — at least at first • Try to model new organizational forms that are more suitable to future work • Support for activities (e.g. collaboration and deliberation) • Build on new findings (from social media, network theory, collective IQ findings!) and build bridges to other disciplines
  20. 20. Support for Intelligent Interactions • deliberation • collaboration • project / campaign development • question and answer • Multi-user document editing • Etc. Etc.
  21. 21. Some short-term goals Some progress towards organization and technological development for our community. Identifying other people and groups who ought to get involved. Identify the objects to support Identify a core group of people Directories and repositories for applications Maybe an RFC for this campaign? Develop a set of principles Wiki-based requirements documents profile definitions cross-site linking CI search engines CI ontologies etc. etc. Some slightly random suggestions
  22. 22. What am I offering? • Organizational support (CPSR, PSP) • Encouragement • Some (hopefully) interesting ideas • PSP technology including pattern development and annotation • My efforts • And, last but not least, a Pattern workshop on Friday (October 29)! The workshop can help move the initiative I’m proposing — or any other community project further along.
  23. 23. Final Reiteration •Building a shared technological platform •Building a stronger and more intentional network We achieve this through two mutually reinforcing activities: We should spend some time and effort applying community informatics to our own community