Martin’s Weblog

The Harlem Shake: The Network Event horizon

The Harlem Shake signals a new era and a new type of “mass” production

Traditional “modern” economics, culture, media and identity have been shaped and expressed within a framework of industrialisal standardised mass production and consumption – we see this everywhere from fashion, dance, music, politics, food and education – it has become pervasive – it has become culture.

However, the Internet changes everything. With so many people so well connected anyone who is connected can be heard globally and contribute – ideas travel quicker and faster than ever before. In “Apocalypse: The Network Event Horizon” I describe how the Internet has let “the Genie is out of the bottle  and “Too Big To Know” , Ruining Everything and helping a “generation to find its voice. We are approaching a point of no return – a network Event horizon – a Web Squared Technium where scale, scope and the self-reinforcing social and technology power laws of a technology mediated connectivist memetic (Cemetic) culture generate a cambrian explosion of diversity, uncertainty and non-linear emergent viral exponential change.”

Gangnum style represented a cross over point – it was a traditionally produced official product which people connected, copied – it was heavily choreographed and eminnetly reproduceable . Cross over was represented by its viral spread through the Internet and the way it was remixed in throusands of parodies and different contexts.

Harlem Shake is the cross over – there is no official video, instead there is a simple framework for people to make there own video. In the Harlem Shake we have a signal of a new type of “mass” production and consumption. Instead of a standard item being manufactured and consumed on scale we have differentiated and unique items being manufactured and consumed on scope. Harlem shake represents a shift from the old economies of scale to a new economy of scope.

Harlem shake signals the “Network Event horizon” a shift to a cemetic long-tailmaker – hacker economy of scope, creativity, non-linear, differentiated and personalised peer production and consumption.

It will be interesting to see how politics, economics, education, media and identity play out as the network event horizon approaches.


February 17, 2013 Posted by | culture, education, IT and society, media, social media, society | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apocalypse: The Network Event Horizon

Networks are central to meaning, culture and evolution. They define the community and the circulation of meaning within a community – from a connectivist perspective they define knowledge and meaning, from a memetic perspective they are the means through which memes are transmitted and from a cemetic perspective networks are culture – they are community, meaning and evolution.

However we look at it networks are vital to culture and never before have people been so connected as with the Internet. In terms of numbers 2.3 billion people were online at the end of 2011(33% of all humanity) and by 2020 it is expected that 5 billion people will be connected – 66% of all humanity. While the scale of internet connectivity is important it is the nature of this connectivity that is even more important – web 2, social media and social networks mean that anyone who is connected can be heard globally and contribute their ideas. In the next decade 3 billion new minds will become connected and most of these will be from developing countries – introducing new voices into our global networks.

The number and diversity of connections and inputs into the network is important. From a memetic view this increases the variety and mutation of memes available for selection and inheritance. When considering the problems of genetic inbreeding then memetic diversity and a large meme pool can only be healthy for humanity. From a connectivist view the number and diversity of connections and inputs into the network increases the richness of meaning, the strength of weak ties and opportunities for tipping points.

Marshall McLuhan wrote about how a communications medium affects society and as digital networks play an increasing role in mediating our culture then the power law behaviours of digital technology and social networks increasingly affect our culture such that culture itself becomes subject to the same self-reinforcing social and technology power laws of the network that mediates it. As the speed, scale and scope of networks increases so does the the speed, scale and scope of the culture these networks mediate.

Kevin Kelly describes the intersection of humanity with technology as a Techniuman integral view of technology and humanity in which technology is a natural and inherent dimension of what it means to be human ..  integral to human existence and evolution”

Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle’s concept of Web Squared describes the Intersection of Web 2.0 with the world and explores what becomes possible when the building blocks of Web 2.0 (such as participation, collective intelligence and so on) increase by orders of magnitude.

Ray Kurzweil focuses specifically on technological exponential rates of change and argues that the Accelerating Returns of exponential growth will eventually create a tipping point to what he calls The Singularity – a time when the change graph over time is vertical change and we reach an era of unpredictability, apparent chaos and uncertainty that only our machines will understand. Kurzweil makes a compelling case –  “It took the printing press 400 years to reach a large audience, it took the telephone 50 years, the mobile phone seven years, and social networks only three. The pace of innovation will only continue to accelerate, he says, because exponential evolution is built into the very nature of technology”

While we are still a long way from Kurzweil’s singularity the Genie is out of the bottle and “Too Big To Know” , Ruining Everything and helping a “generation to find its voice”. We are approaching a point of no return – a network Event horizon – a Web Squared Technium where scale, scope and the self-reinforcing social and technology power laws of a technology mediated connectivist memetic (Cemetic) culture generate a cambrian explosion of diversity, uncertainty and non-linear emergent viral exponential change.

While all this sounds like the the beginning of the end of civilisation and pretty apocalyptic (and many believe there will be apocalypse in 2012) Douglas Adams urges us to “Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet” and that:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

May 6, 2012 Posted by | culture, IT and society, media, society | , , , | 2 Comments

2012 – The Genie Escapes the Bottle and Everything Goes Square

With our lives increasingly mediated by technology and with that technology radically evolving this blog outlines the case that in 2012 we should expect more “real world” effects and disruption from our technology as the gravitational force from the not too distant singularity pulls us into a Web Squared Technium.

The Genie Escapes The Bottle

Computers are shaking off their mortal coils – we are letting them out of the fixed, high maintenance boxes we have kept them in all these years and giving the finger to the mouse. Computers need not be WIMPs. There is new creativity and imagination in the development of more natural computer interfaces and forms –  many of these are growing from Apple seeds.

I think that in 2012 we will see the start of quickening radical shift in the way we interact with computers – near past predictions are already looking wildly conservative – e.g. Gartners prediction that 50% of computers bought for those under 15 years of age will be touch , Read Write Web’s predication that gestural interfaces for your living room are five years away.and Augmented Planet’s predication that Augmented reality glasses are 20 years away

The combination of natural interfaces and new computer forms are revolutionising what we think of as computers and their impact – here are some of the major developments


Using a finger to point to something is one of our earliest actions – no wonder there are plenty of examples of babies using iPads and even with other species – Orangutans  take easily to iPads as well. Today’s children are the “touch generation” –  Haptic interfaces are so natural that development is bound to be exponential and they will develop as these children grow up


“A picture paints a thousand words”  and in many cases its just so difficult to describe an action in words. In his TED video Chris Anderson describes how web video powers global innovation by empowering everyone both literate and non literate. I’ve also noticed how many people are using Skype and Facetime and how useful Google video chat and G+ Video hangouts are for meetings – I’m sure that we will see an explosion in the use of video and visual communications and interfaces in 2012 and one of the most exciting maybe video glasses – Lumus are expected to show their glasses at CES in January for OEM production later in the year.


Things get really interesting when our computers start to “understand” what they are “seeing”. Facial recognition is scareably accurate and Google and Apple dveloping  facial recognition for their smartphones. Things get even more interesting when our computers understand our gestures – Microsoft’s Kinect has ushered in a new interface era and the race is on to augment our technology interfaces with gesture – expect to see gesture appearing  everywhere from games (of course) to TVs computers and smartphones.


Voice interfaces have been developed over a very, very long time but failed to go mainstream. As is often the case Apple have seeded a revolution and with Siri Apple has breathed new life into voice. Some consider this to be “The invisible interface of the future” and has of course kick started competition – Google are expected to release their answer to Siri ,“Majel” early in 2012

Computers come to their senses (and our senses)

Traditional desktop computers suffer terrible sensory deprivation compared with mobiles which are bristling with sensors and connectivity. New technology can see us, hear us and understand our gestures. Putting all this together means 2012 may mark a change in our relationship with technology we will really start to be able to interact more naturally with our technology  – much like we interact with people and animals.

In 2010 Google’s Reto Meier predicted The Future of Mobile: Invisible, connected devices with infinite screens but his time frames look conservative now. I won’t attempt to say when but below are some of the what – all this may happen quicker than we think.

Touchscreens with  textures

Touchable holograms


Flexible and wearable displays

Gesture interfaces that read our emotions

Gesture interfaces that read our lips

Google Augmented reality Glasses

Augmented reality glasses

Augmented reality contact lenses

Wearable computing

Electronic cotton for the ultimate wearable computer

Mind reading

Mind Control

Mind control and robotics


Technology and Social Powers

Dion Hinchcliffe lists and describes most of the well known power “laws” in Digital technology and social theory in his post Twenty-two power laws of the emerging social economy – here are a few of the main ones taken from Dion’s list

Moores law

The processing power of a microchip doubles every 18 months such that computers become faster and the price of a given level of computing power halves every 18 months.

Gilder’s Law

The total bandwidth of communication systems triples every 12 months.

Metcalf’s law

The potential value of a network grows exponentially according to its size so that as a network grows, the value of being connected to it grows exponentially, while the cost per user remains the same or even reduces.

Reeds Law

The network effect of social systems is much higher than would otherwise be expected such that The Utility of a (social) network scales exponentially with the overall size of a network.

Reflexivity (social theory)

Describes how social systems are often self reinforcing, how social actions influence the fundamental behavior of social systems and how social systems can tend towards disequilibrium.

The Pareto Principle

Roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes – the famous “80:20” rule.

Principle of Least Effort

People basically vote with their feet to the easiest solution in the least exacting way available.

Everything Goes Square

While some believe there will be apocalypse in 2012 I think there are signs of major a transformation in human affairs facilitated and catalysed by technology.

With our lives increasing mediated by technology and with that technology radically changing the signs are set for a period of significant and fast (even exponential) change from self-reinforcing social and technology power laws.

Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle describe this era as Web Squared – an era of exponential technology and real world change from the combination of Web 2.0 technology and philosophies with social, mobile, real-time and sensors.

It’s as if technology has its own irresistible momentum – something which Kevin Kelly describes in “What Technology Wants” – a Technium  with “its own inherent agenda and urges”. Kelly’s Technium describes the intersection of humanity with technology:

The  technium may be described as an integral view of technology and humanity in which technology is a natural and inherent dimension of what it means to be human .. the technium is integral to human existence and evolution”

Ray Kurzweil argues that Accelerating Returns on exponential growth will eventually create a tipping point to what he calls The Singularity – a time when the change graph over time is vertical change and we reach an era of unpredictability, apparent chaos and uncertainty that only our machines will understand. Kurzweil makes a compelling case –  “It took the printing press 400 years to reach a large audience, it took the telephone 50 years, the mobile phone seven years, and social networks only three. The pace of innovation will only continue to accelerate, he says, because exponential evolution is built into the very nature of technology”

While we are a long way from the type of rapid change Kurzweil predicts, O’Reilly and Battelle’s Web Squared is already being felt. Time’s 2011 person of the year (The Protester) is symbolic of the changes in which technology is implicated when web meets world – helping a “generation to find its voice”. David Weinberger doesn’t hold back in “Too Big To Know” and describes how the Internet Is Ruining Everything. If 2011 is anything to go by we should expect more “real world” effects and disruption from our technology as the gravitational force from the not too distant singularity pulls us into a Web Squared Technium.

January 15, 2012 Posted by | culture, future, IT and society, predictions, society | 3 Comments

Social media: A Cutting Edge On The Web

“The Web does not just connect machines, it connects people” (Tim Berners-Lee).  Social media is pretty much what Tim Berners-Lee envisaged for the web when he started his early development work. The original web 1.0 was an analogue of traditional publishing media which provided the opportunity for people to read on-line – this was familiar, easily understood and accommodated. Web 2.0 provides the opportunity for people to write as well as to read on-line – this is less familiar and has not been so well understood or accommodated. Social media takes Web 2.0 even further by predicating itself on people’s contributions, interaction and participation – the consequences are even less well understood or accommodated than Web 2.0.

Simply in terms of numbers social media is is important. Radio took 38 years to reach 50 million users; Terrestrial TV took 13 years to reach 50 million users; the internet took four years to reach 50 million people. Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months! Facebook has been growing at over 100% year on year; in February 2010  it had a “population” of 400 million active users (25% of all web users) – if it were a nation it would be the third largest on earth. 67% of Internet users use social networking, its ahead of email use and accounts for 10% of all time spent on-line.  Wikipedia has more than 13 million articles in more than 260 different languages and would be 1043 volumes if printed. Youtube serves 1 billion views a day.

Social media is shaping the way we communicate and access information. Social media provide new public and private places to meet and interact – the importance of which are now being recognised by all areas of society from politics, business, work, media, communities to education.

In Politics: Obama’s use of social media in the US presidential election is well known as are the applications while in government from the Whitehouse Youtube channel through to presence on twitterFacebookMyspaceFlickr etc he could be decribed as the first wired president. Access to social media is important for access to politics and the world of politics.

In Business The importance of social media is recognised  both externally and internally. IBM, for example, use social media on a very large scale in a decentralised mode both internally and externally. Dell, for example, provide a “case study on how a company has successfully integrated social media into its marketing communications, and culture“. Social media provide an essential medium to develop and expand business – levelling the playing filed and allowing small business to access resources only massive corporations could in the past. Access to social media is important for access to business and the world of business.

In Recruitment and Work: Social media search has become commonplace in staff recruitment and for people to find jobs for example use of LinkedinFacebook and twitter. Even MI6 have been using Facebook in recruitment. Access to social media is important for access to work and the world of work.

In News: Social media has become an integrated and vital factor in news.  Professional use of user generated content is recognised and  BBC news journalists have been told to use social media as a primary source of information. Twitter, for example, has played a vital role in reporting events after the Iranian electionThe Mumbai attacks,  The Hudson Bay crash. Access to social media is important for access to news and the world of news.

In Media: Social media has become an important media “channel”. Youtube, for example, is becoming an integral part of mainstream media on-demand delivery – hosting content from 60 partners, including Channel 4 and the BBC. Live performances are being streamed via social media U2 on Youtube and the Foo Fighters on Facebook. Social media is helping to evolve the way media is produced and consumed. The Youtube orchestra and the work of media remix-mashup artists show how social media are evolving media. TV and radio shows often either have an official twitter presence such as BBC Question time and Radio 4 today or have unofficial presence that adds a new dimension such as for the Eurovision song contest or an unexpected consequence as in the case of 2009 Xfactor. Access to social media is important for access to media and the world of media.

In communities: local groups, councils, governments and organisations use social media to provide information and to interact. Many UK oocal councils use twitter,  Emergency departments,  Governments and Councils use social media for emergency and health and disease communication. Councils are urged to stop thinking about their own web sites as the limit of their engagement” and make greater use of social media. Access to social media is important for access to communities.

In Identity. One of the major factors in identity is that of social interaction and we shouldn’t be surprised to find that social media is playing a major part defining on-line identity and will do so even more in the future. Original forms of identity might be described as Identity 1.0 – website and institutionally centric – typically we need to enter unique identification into each system we want to interact with. A currently developing form of identity could be referred to as Identity 2.0 – user centric – where we can enter a common identification into the various systems we interact with. The promising current development with identity 2.0 this is with OpenID for identification OAuth for authorisation and their combination. Many major systems have become OpenID+OAuth providers (e.g. GoogleYahooMicrosoft) and many allow its use to provide access. Social media (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter) also offer Identity 2.0 – both in terms of identity construction through social interaction but also for access to third part resources.Twitter, for example, is an OpenID+OAuth provider and this is my preferred method of accessing websites. Facebook can act as an OpenID rely and have also developed their own widely used social identity system called Facebook Connect while Google has been developing Opensocial as methods of providing access to and adding social features to third party websites. Access to social media is important for access to identity and to interact and access a great many resources.

In Education: Learning is about interaction with information, people and activities as is social media. Youtube, for example, gives access to an unprecedented wealth of learning material accessible from the Youtube Edu channel are videos from world class universities and experts such as MITUCLAStanfordHarvard, the Open University and UNSW, as well as a wealth of socially generated material on all manner of subjects from relativity through to how to change a tap washer and how to change a car tyre. Wikipedia is of course a well used socially created source of information but also has its socially created content at Wikiversity.There are also some very  interesting learning activities and resources available such as the 140 university on twitter. While many Educational institutes use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to engage students beforeduring and after courses. Access to social media is important for access to education and the world of education.

Social media is increasingly integrated with the web and with our lives and its going to become more so. Major websites are adding social features and many of these are connected back to social media identities. Social media is being integrated with common applications, for example even Outlook is going to get social media features, Gmail has social media with BuzzYahoo provides full access to Facebook and Google has integrated social media in search results. Social media will play a big part in the future in terms of information generation and management. Google CEO Eric Schmidt envisions a radically changed internet “dominated by social media content” – “It’s because of this fundamental shift towards user-generated information that people will listen more to other people than to traditional sources”. Louise Gray builds on the ideas of Chris Messina and describes how “The social Web changes the entire process of content discovery. Instead of portals, we are relying on mortals. Our trusted friends and experts bring us the best content from around the Web to us directly, via FacebookTwitterFriendFeed, and even that old tool… e-mail.” The idea is that social media will provide much of the access and content and that the “human filters” of social media will provide much of the capability to help us manage. Dion Hinchcliffe describes how social media are making the “classic web” obsolete and Jeremiah Owyang looks further ahead predicts 5 eras of social media and describes just how important and integrated social media may become over the next decade.

February 20, 2010 Posted by | culture, education, IT and education, IT and society, media, social media, society | 1 Comment

I never make predictions and never will: In 2010 Mobile will drive us

In the spirit of “I never make predictions and I never will” here goes.

William Gibson’s quote “The Future is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed” is a powerful and practical idea for working out what is going to happen in the short term – extrapolate from current edge and current trends. Using my crystal ball to throw the light of the recent past into the near future I see network effects creating exponential growth in certain areas and it is on these areas that I will focus.

These days new technology is announced & piloted very early – there are few surprises. I have to agree with Miko Matsumura that in 2010 Nothing is going to happen – Bill Gates summed it up when he said “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten”. Like compound interest an exponential function is just a fixed percentage of growth that compounds – change is occurring around us all the time and like a slow boiling frog we only  jump when we become aware of it – as if it emerged out of nowhere. Another factor in ICT change in particular is the Network effect (the value and effectiveness of a communication technology increases with the number of users) – this acts a sort of natural selection – operating both negative and positive feedback on exponential growth.

I’ve used only mobile since 2000 – at first it radically changed the way I operate but there hasn’t been much change for 10 years – mobile computers are still basically like little desktops. However, mobile developments from Apple and Google are changing computing and culture – 2010 may be the year when all the strands come together and the frog jumps in surprise at what emerges.

Mobile will drive IT

Manufacturers and developers will focus on mobile first – some of this will filter into traditional computing but much of it will be inappropriate in a fixed desktop type environment. All the action will be with mobile now. We already see this with announcements of Google operating systems and rumours of the Apple tablet.

Mobile will drive us anytime, anywhere in real-time.

I’m not referring to smartphones or netbooks but to the ability to access services anytime, anywhere conveniently. The always on, always connected immediacy of mobile has altered our culture and our technology – we expect technology and services to be constantly available anytime, anywhere. Mobile has contributed to the shift to real-time – you don’t need to get back to a desk to access and update – you can access and update in-situ in real-time and we expect to be able to.

Mobile will drive us to new Interfaces

Through necessity new technology will be developed for mobile and this will also filter back into traditional systems. Keyboard-mouse derived interfaces are not appropriate for mobile devices – as mobile really takes off we should expect to see radical yet device appropriate new interfaces. iPhone set the direction with mulitouch – we should expect to see development of this with more gesture and sensory interaction – pressure, speed, acceleration, orientation, audio, video etc could all be used. Data glasses are an inevitability – a necessary way to compensate for small display size – especially when combined with augmented reality.

Mobile will drive us to the clouds.

Mobiles have to delicately balance power, size, weight and battery life. Although there may be a diversity of devices types the overall trend is always to smaller and lighter. If mobiles prioritise communications (network and User Interface) they can off-load power to the cloud and focus on balancing battery life, weight and size. A tiny device can use the cloud to run the core of applications from word processing to media editing even.  Clouds are compatible with the the always on, immediacy of mobile culture – software on demand as a service rather than the traditional local application model of download, install, maintain, update and secure. Cloud and mobile culture will positively reinforce each other.

Mobile will drive us green

The holy grail of mobiles is to offer all day operation from one battery – to achieve this while balancing size and weight  mobiles introduce a new energy economy by reversing Wintel processor power inflation and focusing instead on better energy efficiency. Like better miles per gallon rather than just speed we will be expect our mobiles to go further before having to fill up.

Mobile will drive us social

In-situ mobile access is more natural and discrete than traditional styles of sitting at a desk eyeballing a large screen. On-line personal social interaction through mobiles is already normalised – people expect to txt, tweet, Facebook etc when and where it happens. People also to expect the same level of interaction at work which does after all involve interacting with other people.

Mobile will drive us knowledgeable

If you want to find out about something you no longer need to wait until you get to a book or traditional computerjust Google or Goggle it from your mobile or ask your social network – again from your mobile. We now have instant access to an abundance of information – we can all know anything as long as we have a mobile. Today”it’s not how intelligent you are, but how you are intelligent” – less what you know than how you know it.

Mobile will drive us to a new reality

Using its sensors (location, audio, visual, orientation, tactile etc) a mobile can interact with you and the environment in new ways and a mobile that knows where it is can better contextualise responses With traditional computing people entered new reality inside the computer – places like second life. With mobile the computers enter our world – we bring our computers with us into a new reality – an augmented reality where computers add to our in-situ experience.

Mobile will drive us squared

A new paradigm will emerge from the combination of mobile drivers – a fast changing, real-time, any-time, any-where, green, social, knowledgeable, sensory, cloud, augmented reality. Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle described and named this paradigm as Web Squared – “when web meets world”. O’Reilly and Battelle describe the trend – 1990-2004 was the match being struck (Web 1.0), 2005-2009 was the fuse (Web 2.0) and 2010 will be the explosion(Web Squared).

Mobile will drive us.

Mobile will eventually change the way we work, learn and play – traditional organisation moved people to work, learn and play but with mobile work, learn and play can be moved to people and this may have profound effects on social organisation.

Predictions for 2010

The growth of cloud computing, real-time and social are well predicted and will become even more established. Below are some less predictable predictions….

User interfaces

By the end of 2010 there will be some radically interesting new user interfaces driven by mobile.

The stalled tablet interface will get seriously cool if Apple shock it back to life with an Apple tablet and the usual apple design flair in hardware and software. Others will learn, the bar will be raised and tablets will get interesting. Expectations are high.

The small size of mobiles will necessitate innovation in interfaces – I reckon that data glasses will be on Santa lists next Xmas.

I’m imagining that at sometime we will get IT designer clothing but maybe not until 2011 when we may be able to buy Apple and Google Glasses?

Augmented reality

During 2010 there will be exciting consumer applications for augmented reality (AR) that will lead to explosive growth and great demand from the general public due to the advantages and fun it will bring. Consider the Tesco visual search application for example. AR tech will be on Santa lists next year. Expect to see AR mentioned in adverts.

Some unknown development from combinatorial effects

Something emerging from interfaces, systems and social- Goggle Wave Glasses and waves perhaps?

January 1, 2010 Posted by | future, IT and society, mobile, predictions | | Leave a comment

October 2009: Media Shift Tipping Point?

Music has become one of the important indicators of cultural shift – In the last week I’ve come across several events which, whilst interesting separately, coincidentally suggests a fundamental shift is underway in media.

October 13th Rihanna first tweet announces album release date

October 25th 2009 U2 stream a live concert on Youtube

October 30th Britney Spears announces new video via twitter

October 30th The Foo Fighters stream a live performance on Facebook with chat and twitter

Much music activity is still of the traditional create and consume push model albeit mediated in various ways these days. The Foo fighters stream was particularly interesting as it presented an “intimate” and interactive studio based setting to millions of people who could interact via facebook and twitter with each other and to a limited extend with the band as well.

The next step as I see it is a more dynamic “mash” of media – performing out to a live audience and the Net with increasing opportunities to pull in from the audience and the Net.

I’m imagining how artists could use Augmented reality to overlay new dimensions to their performances – While performing in the studio The Foos could overlay a concert venue or other action scenes – indeed they could augment a performance anywhere. I’m imagining how artists could augment other performers and performances in their shows for example when doing a cover track.

With audience smart camera phones I’m imagining how you could view a performance from various points of view.

I’m wondering whether, like in original Shakespeare plays, members of the audience could say “I can do that part better”, get up on the “stage” and play the part. Consider Youtube performances and their video responses for example Steve Vai Tender Surrender and some of the amazing responses.

November 1, 2009 Posted by | culture, future, IT and society, media | 1 Comment

Welcome To The 21st Century: The Beginning

The noughties are a new decade, century and millennium – the changes happening with technology and their impact on identity, culture and society really are this momentous.

One way to see these changes is with a straight historical contrast and you can see my rough work on twitter here.

The 20th century can be seen as the peek of traditional ways of doing things that really do stretch back to the dawn of humanity – familiar things extrapolated to the extreme with mechanisation and automation and with extreme consequences to the environment we have now come to understand. I covered much of this in 20th Century Industrial Processes: Culture, Identity and Information

I characterise the past era as one of “concrete” thinking” – thinking and activity that is rooted in and characterised by a predominance of physical objects and events. Thinking that books are literature, newspapers are journalism and CDs are music. Thinking that schools and colleges are education. Thinking that the office is the workplace.

“Concrete” thinking goes deeper though – I also describe the past era as the era of “pyramids” – the design and construction of hierarchical, elitist and stable structures – the standard organisational model often manifest and symbolised by top floor executive offices.

I characterise the 20th century as an era of super large scale manufactured production and personal consumption – the extreme end of the application of tools from the stone axe to the modern production line.

I characterise the 20th century as an era of mediation, privacy, secrecy and obfuscation – a consequence of the elitist pyramid model to maintain stability and equilibrium and a Marxian interpretation of culture.

Technology developments are for the first time I think providing the opportunity to transcend traditional “concrete” ways of thinking and acting – my main focus is on Information technology but radical developments are taking place in all the sciences, leading new applications of technology and “unthinkable” effects and opportunities for humanity, culture identity and society.

I characterise the 21st century as an era of “networks”, indeed the internet symbolises and facilitates “network thinking”. It’s an era of flat, integrated, dynamic, and emergent structures. The 21st century is already and will be increasingly fast, complex, chaotic, uncertain and “organic”.

The 21st century will be increasingly open, public and participatory – it will be an era of personal production where large organisations may consume the output of individuals but there will be increasing disintermediation and scope with individuals transacting directly.

In a nutshell I see the 21st century as an era of software.

This blog is intended as the basis of a series exploring associated ideas, technology, cultural, educational themes etc.

Please add your comments.

May 17, 2009 Posted by | culture, future, IT and society, paradigm 2, society | , , | 2 Comments

20th Century Industrial Processes: Culture, Identity and Information

This blog takes a brief look at how industrial processes have shaped our culture, identity and our ideas of information.

The defining factor of the 20th century was fossil fuel (especially oil) which today provides an energy equivalent to 22 billion slaves and allowed an exponential extension of 19th century industrialism to do things faster, bigger and more. The 20th century as an industrial age was dominated by material things, materialism and industrial processes – manufacture, distribution, consumption, disposal and the identity, political and power structure consequences of this.

Fossil fuel became abundant and cheap and 20th century systems could afford to be energy intensive – the globalisation of material things became possible – the earth became a global factory. China for example could manufacture from raw materials transported from multiple countries using oil transported from multiple countries and then transport manufactured goods to multiple countries. Transportation is present at every stage – the energy and pollution costs are now apparent.

Politics and economics became focused on production and people’s identities became focused on consumption – we have become defined by what we have – the things we buy rather than the things we do or make. The consequences of political and economic power can be read from this.

Information is intangible and must be represented in some way and given that the Internet didn’t exist through most of the 20th century then information was by necessity locked up in material forms of representation and the necessary 20th century industrial systems associated with material things – energy intensive manufacture, distribution, consumption and disposal along with the political and power structure issues that result.

The 21st century Internet provides a new perspective on 20th century information – the energy intensive manufacturing and transportation costs involved and the advantages pertaining to those who own the means of production and distribution. Consider what is required to produce a magazine – from the felling and processing of trees to make paper to the printing and distribution and the eventual disposal and waste.

Information was constrained and limited by its physical embodiment in objects – it was expensive, scarce, difficult to change and to share. You may need to travel to a bookshop or library to get a book – there would only be a limited number of books, you couldn’t easily make and distribute your own book or comments on a book. The same issues apply to other forms of information such as audio and visual information – consider the industrial processes involved in the music business to manufacture and distribute CDs.

Embodying information in physical objects slows it down and freezes it – in the same way that paper is a dead tree you could regard a book as dead information – there is no interaction. It seems a bit extreme but you could regard a library like an information graveyard where you can go to read inscriptions on the tombstones – the books as tombstones – dead information.

Computers and software as information technology have themselves also been part of the 20th century industrial production-consumption dynamic. Mainframes were born in the middle of the 20th century and naturally created a centralised information and control model. Punk music and the personal computing trend both started in the late1970s as an attempt at personal production – both were eventually assimilated by the very mainstream industry processes they were a rebellious response to. Personal computing is dominated by major industry businesses. Software “production” is still dominated by manufacture, distribution and installation – it is partially “dead” software. Computers and anything digital are subject to rapid produce and consume cycles – we need ever faster machines to run ever bigger software. The irony is that the machines of the information age had become the epitome of the industrial age.

March 1, 2009 Posted by | ICT, IT and society | , , | 2 Comments

Video confession 12

Opportunity, organisational culture  and innovation

IT is renowned for pace of change and as life is increasingly mediated by IT we find that the pace change in our lives is increasing.

There are two coping mechanisms for dealing with change.

Be defensive, inward looking, backward looking and entrenched in what you are and have been doing. Use organisational systems to delay and stifle change. Build barriers and obstacles to fortify your position. Bury your head in the sand and dig a hole.

Be open, outward looking, forward looking and find new ways of doing things and find new things to be doing. Use organisational systems to encourage and embrace change.  Reduce barriers and include others. Go out and find opportunities.

IT systems technician Raz has recently started an evening table tennis club in the student common room. What grabbed my attention was that if an opportunity is provided then people will collaborate and participate. Raz’s table tennis club has people from all areas of the college – students, admin staff and lecturers from different divisions. Raz gives training but at the same time is not afraid to be beaten the students – it’s a good example of teacher as facilitator and of participation and communication working across boundaries.

Raz’s table tennis club made me realise the significance of opportunity in innovation and organisational culture and the importance social networking across boundaries will play in the future.

In the video we see two IT systems tehnicians Raz and Abdul playing at the end of the sessi0n. It’s interesting to note that the students have so far always beaten the staff.

March 30, 2008 Posted by | IT and education, IT and society, video blog | Leave a comment

Education: PIE and MASH-Beyond Space and Time

Consumerisation and personalisation are the underlying trends in recent education thinking, technology developments and our culture generally.

This blog attempts to combine recent educational proposals with recent IT developments, describe some of the challenges and make some suggestions for meeting these challenges.  

Recent educational papers  promote ACTIVE LEARNING through consumerisation and personalisation. They promote demand led learning, competitive learning markets, learner accounts, greater learner choice and soft skills such as research, problem solving, collaboration, communication and information management. We will also be expected to deliver learning across boundaries – in the workplace, in other institutions and at home.  The educational papers suggest the mindset required.

Recent IT developments promote ACTIVE IT through consumerisation and personalisation developments in mobile technology and use (smartphones, UMPCs, WADs, mobile broadband) and through continued development in the capabilities of on-line social networking and Web 2 applications and spaces. The IT developments suggest the tools required.

My opinion is that developing NET technologies such as PIE (Personal Information Environments) and MASH (the ability to combine different information sources) will provide some of the tools to operate and learn beyond the traditional boundaries of Space (locations) and Time and allow us to deliver the Active and Personalised learning the educational papers promote. The crucial thing is that these tools are useless without the mindset to operate them and that the tools and mindset have to apply to institutions and not just to learners.

The Challenge

Recent educational thinking promotes active learning and soft skills such as research, problem solving, collaboration, communication and information management yet our systems (exams, quality, IT and buildings) offer an environment developed from 20th century learning approaches and don’t offer a natural environment to develop active learning.

Everyday life will be increasingly mediated by the net (information, leisure, work, learning, shopping, socialising, etc) and being “on net” is increasingly vital. This will be the context in which we will be expected to operate in the near future. We should expect to see more people seeking web access and carrying around Web Access Devices (smartphones, UMPC, laptops etc). We should expect to see more people using personal web spaces – interacting through social networks, using web 2 applications or using customised Personal Information Environments (PIE) created by MASHING applications, feeds and links.

In education there is a tension and a challenge. Young people, teachers and institutions are operating at different speeds within different contexts – young people (major educational consumers) are relatively comfortable with “NET LIFE”. Teachers have some experience of “NET LIFE” but generally don’t have the time or support to explore and develop it and its use in education. Institutions change even slower – they have few incentives to engage in the risk that change brings – to do so risks upsetting hard worked quality development.  Thus we have a problem – educational thinking, technology, culture and our students are all moving on at a faster pace yet how are institutions expected to deliver in the real world the reforms described in educational papers.

The challenge is to be able to provide active learning opportunities in increasingly flexible ways – for learner “consumers” to access learning where, when and how they wish. Rammel (2006) for example illustrates one aspect of our challenge –  “The development of Specialised Diplomas as a modular qualification with young people taking different modules or qualifications in different institutions will present challenges.”

Suggestions for meeting the challenge

1. Re-engineer our networks

With more people (staff and students) using personal web access devices and personal information spaces we need to build our networks to allow these to operate in our institutions.

1a Re-engineer our networks provide our bandwidth to guest devices to access the net.

I’m already seeing many iPhones for example on our system. The objective is to provide a secure internal /institutional network but with some form of guest access to the Internet. One solution on wireless is to guest SSID’s to which guest devices associate and then tunnel them out onto the Internet through web access filters without “touching” our secure networks. Ultimately however the spread of wireless WAN (3G, Wimax) will reduce the need to accommodate guest devices on our own networks.

1b Re-engineer to increase bandwidth and reliability especially for our Internet connections.

Network and Internet access is everything and Internet connectivity will increasingly be seen as the priority. This means that our networks will busier and that we should be increasing bandwidth and reliability to accommodate. Increasingly the “ network is the computer”  and investments in our networks should be prioritised.

2 Re-engineer our Systems

With more people (staff and students) using personal web access devices and personal information spaces and access needed from staff and students in workplaces and other institutions we need to build our systems to allow Internet access and to provide data interfaces for users. We should plan to make it possible for a learner to use their own personal information environment (PIE) to access our systems.

2a Re-engineer systems for Internet access as a priority.

All relevant learning systems should be designed and built Internet first.

2b Re-engineer systems to provide Internet data feeds and interfaces.

All data should have web access and we need to think about interfaces for users and enabling RSS.

3 Re-engineer our physical environment

Recent educational thinking promotes development active learning and soft skills such as research, problem solving, collaboration, communication and information management. The traditional classroom is not a natural environment for this type of activity – we need to develop new learning spaces that are more natural to active styles of learning.

We need to create and support experimental learning spaces in which to develop new teaching ideas. One key ingredient is that learners can change the environment to accommodate new learning – groups work / project work / net access. The other key ingredient is that there is adequate support on hand – technical and educational.

4 Re-engineer our curriculum

Current curricula remind me of trying to fit round pegs (learners) into square holes (colleges) and the problems this causes when increasingly we want round pegs. Current curricula and operation are derived from the 20th century industrial age – they have fixed time and space slots (lessons) – they have industrial style advantages in terms of quality control and management but present real problems for the active, flexible learning educational reforms being promoted. Curricula change is probably going to be the most difficult problem.  How can we manage and deliver a curriculum where the resources, time and space for various activities change from week to week and where students might pick and choose what to learn.

Re-engineer curricula to be modular

This seems to be necessary to be flexible. For example it would be advantageous to be able to study business modules along with science and arts for example.

Re-engineer more of the curricula to be on-line

This seems to be necessary to be flexible. Timetable clashes might prevent certain combinations but if studied on-line then the restrictions of space and time disappear – we can study wherever and whenever we want and how much or how little we want.

Re-engineer ourselves

Leitch (2006) views the natural resource of the 21st to be our people and that education is key to developing this resource. Institutions are made of people and ultimately none of the education reforms can happen unless our people (teachers, support, admin, managers and executives) engage with the new paradigm – we need to develop both the mindset and the tools. The mindset is Active, Flexible, Collaborative and Experimental. The tools are those of the NET, including web 2 and social networking.  We need to begin using and experimenting with RSS, Tags, blogs, and groups  for example to enable us to work across traditional boundaries and the boundaries of space and time.

January 5, 2008 Posted by | education, ICT, IT and education, IT and society | 2 Comments