What Should My 40th Birthday (Un)Conference Be Like?
I'm turning 40 next spring. When Elmine turned 30 last year we organized not only a fun bbq party, but also a workshop-styled conference day. We explored the 'work-life balance' issues, changes and questions our networked lives bring with some 20-odd people, joined by another 40 or so for the BBQ. Friends, clients, family, colleagues, attended alike. It was a great way to celebrate Elmine's birthday, and we both absolutely loved it. It deepened relationships, and it deepened our learning (see video). Which brings me to my next, 40th, birthday in May 2010. I'd like to organize a similar conference/bbq party combination, with more people if possible. So we're starting early with announcing and planning, and asking for your input.
The general plan
Having a one-day conference in Enschede, Netherlands, on Friday, May 14th 2010.
Having a big bbq garden party at our home on Saturday, May 15th.
Our questions, or, where you can influence the plan
Do you think this is a good idea in general?
What would be good themes to address, themes that are worthwile to look at with a diverse and networked crowd in a 1 day time frame?
Who would you like to see speak? Would you like to see people speak?
Would you be willing to attend? And mark your calendars with this 'early warning' post?
You can leave your remarks, answers and/or suggestions either here in the comments or on the BirthdayConference wiki-page (login possible, not needed).
It would be great if we could welcome a lot of you again to our home town next spring!4 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Hacking Education, Beyond Texts and Books
Last week Thursday the one day workshop 'Hack die Bildung' (Hacking Education) took place in Berlin. For a general description read the previous posting. This posting describes the theme I introduced as 'host' during the speed geeking rounds: beyond text and books. Explaining it all in the previous posting would have taken too much text :)
I pointed to 2 developments I think are impacting the way we (can) deal with lineair ways of information distribution like text documents and books.
First of all the amount of available information that comes at us (due to increased connectivity and resulting dynamics), which makes pattern recognition over large bodies of info more important than actual reading all that info. Headline scanning on steroids. Already 4 years ago I described how that has changed my daily info-diet routine
(filtering, tools, input routine). It means that most of my outside-in information reading has moved beyond books and longer texts (I don't read books as primary source e.g. but follow the authors), and that only inside-out information consumption still contains a largish text focus. This because filtering information, validating it, etc now all completely falls to me as tasks (not to some editor e.g.), and I have to be very picky when it comes to giving attention to a larger body of text. Even though I still regard my self as a through and through text oriented person, and our home is filled with books.
The second observation I shared was the notion that lineair texts are by definition very ill-suited to convey complex situations and problem descriptions, while the level of complexity in our societies is increasing (again due to increased connectivity and the resulting dynamics of that). I think it is that limitation what makes literature so great and fun, following all the complex storylines and interactions through the detailed description of the life of the protagonists. We intuit life's complexity more from that than it is actually spelled out, and we enjoy grasping at what we intuit between the lines. At the same time we now realize it makes for a crappy information carrier for complex situations. What is great and fun for literature, is a bug for other texts.
Also where book printing was first the start of a new era of abundance, it has now become a place of scarcity as our general level of connectedness has increased so much bringing new demands to the speed, availability and interdependence of information flows.
If books were invented now, excerpt from Dutch VPRO documentary De Toekomst - Game over & over' with Steven Johnson, january 2006.
Hence the increasing availability of tools like Tinderbox that help you first to map out complexity, and then turn portions of it into lineair texts for publishing. (Regular mind mapping tools don't suffice, as they still only allow you to build hierarchical structures from a single starting node.) Hence the interest in visualization techniques, which often yield new insights.
Hence the popularity of piling strategies (Gmail, everything in one folder) versus filing
strategies (Outlook folders). Video, audio are both ways to escape the lineair demands of texts as well. Audio has always been a medium of choice for complex pattern conveyance, which we usually call music. Try writing that down in prose. We've also been saying 'a picture is worth more than a thousand words' for ages. Cliches like that have a reason for existing. The number of tools that have lowered the threshold for us to create and share both video and audio material is large. See Videoboo or audioboo just for one example. This regardless of problems we have in retreiving/refinding/searching material like that, I am now talking about conveying complex messages.
Games are another segment where we've made great progress in escaping the linearity of texts. Whether it is the gaming environments the military use to train troops in adaptive responses to a complex area of deployment, or whether it is for us to learn the consequences of the laws of nature like with Phun. Things like that convey the subtle interactions and chains of causality much more clearly than my physics book ever could (though I must say the teacher compensated that with experiments)0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Hacking Education, Berlin
Last week on the invitation of Martin Lindner, I attended the one-day workshop-style event 'Hack die Bildung' (Hacking Education) in Berlin.
A very nicely diverse group of about 25 people attended. This number of people worked well for me, reminiscent of the BlogWalk format, as it allowed for more deep-diving conversation.
Six themes were proposed beforehand :
informal self-organized learning, workplace learning, beyond the classroom, open course materials and open universities, beyond texts and books, hacking education out in the 'real' world
I was attending to both be 'host' to the theme of 'beyond text and books', as well as to share my experiences in working with Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences and 10 primary schools here in the region.
After a general intro plenary round, two rounds of 'speed-geeking' followed. In short bursts of 6 minutes everybody rotated in small groups through the six themes, that were introduced by the hosts by way of showing examples, applications or sharing a few anecdotes. This way everybody gets an overview quickly of all themes, before choosing a topic to explore more deeply in the group discussion rounds. Fittingly a description of my speed geeking remarks about the theme 'beyond texts and books' is too long a text to fit in this blogposting so it is posted seperately.
During the discussion rounds in the afternoon, notes on each of the themes discussed were made in etherpad (in German).
The closing plenary session we used to formulate a few educational hacks. Here are some of those mentioned, from the top of my head (i.e. without diving into the extensive notes):
- ELSA, as practiced at a school in Berlin, where parents, teachers and pupils/learners together negotiate the way the learning experience is shaped.
- Hands on themed projects, in which learners get most of the responsibility (as example a bike tour to Germany's highest mountain top in the Alps was mentioned)
- Parent blogs, to counter the 'control freakishness' of teachers
- Micro labs
It was a very pleasant, and intensive day. I find in general these small scale get togethers give me a lot in terms of conversations, learning as well as contacts. More than large conferences do. It's not a new insight, of course, been doing these unconference things since early 2004 after all, but it is one worth repeating every now and then.
On top of that, I rather enjoy Berlin as a city, so that helps too!0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Going to EU Ministerial Conference on E-Gov in Malmo
At the end of November I will be going to the EU Ministerial Conference on e-government in Malmo. This is an invitation-only event that is held in parallel with the EU Ministerial Meeting adopting the EU e-gov strategy for the coming years.
The formal conference stretches over 2 days with both plenary and parallel sessions on topics ranging from government 2.0 to procurement and digital id's and signatures.
In the past months David Osimo has taken the lead in generating a bottom-up declaration on the strategic choices for the EU concerning e-government, to make sure we as web-savvy individual citizens make our voice heard, and not just the industry. (See my recent posting for more details on this declaration, or go sign it). This 'open declaration' will be presented at the conference, which is a very good result that David achieved. It is also the reason I got invited to the conference.
Next to the conference there's an alternative event taking place, for those that did not get invited. This promises to be more varied and fun than the rather dry programme the EU ministerial eGov conference offers.
I intend to mix and match elements from both the formal conference as well as the fringe events. Elmine and I plan on staying in Copenhagen, across the bridge from Malmo, and add some meet-ups with local friends there to the mix.0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Open Data Network Germany Founded
Last Wednesday in Berlin, about 25 people gathered in the spaces of New Thinking Store.
They were there to found the Open Data Network in Germany as a legal entity. I happened to be in Berlin for another event (will post later), and thought it was a good opportunity to go there and show my support, as well as meet up with a number of Open Data advocates (some of them familiar faces from last month's Reboot_D).
Clearly a Political Topic
During the short intro round in which each of those present shared their background and reason for being there, one thing very clearly stood out: Open (Government) Data is of high political interest. All major parties were represented, and at significant level as well. The Greens (with a national board member), the Left Bloc (Die Linke), the Pirate Party, Labour (SPD, just voted out of power last month), christian democrats (CDU, currently in power), and right wing liberals (FDP, currently in power), all were represented. I thought that was rather impressive.
The Open Data Network will work towards a 'citizen centered' information society, where transparency and participation are key words, as well as the translation of civil rights and privacy to our information age.
Now, founding a legal entity isn't all that exciting to do. There are statutes to vote on and underwrite, board members to be chosen, etc. So next Wednesday there will be a much more practically oriented follow up meeting to work on a first tangible project: the 'Germany API'.
This will be a general API for different sources of information and data in Germany, to allow others to more easily build their own apps and mash-ups with the underlying data. It resembles somewhat the HNS.dev in the Netherlands that aims to do the same.
Building something like this would be a good step forward as it allows people to get engaged in using public service info and data in a more low-threshold fashion.
The Open Data Network also will act as the local contact for Germany for OurData.eu. Connecting to other European initiatives and showing existing sources, initiatives and examples of re-use is well within their scope of activities, and I am happy they want to take on that role. I am looking forward to see more entries on OurData.eu from Germany.
The association of medium sized cities in Germany apparantly has a keen interest in Open Data. In my view it is on the municipal level that open data is most easily leveraged in ways that have meaning for individual citizens: info that matters right in your own neighbourhood. So it is exciting to hear that the Open Data Network will be working closely together with a number of German cities to help move open government data forward. Perhaps the recent progress in e.g. Vancouver can serve as an example.
It was fun to be witness to this founding meeting, as well as talk to Berlin-based Open Data enthusiasts over a beer or two.0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Please Sign: Open Declaration on EU Public Service Information
In November the EU ministerial conference will take place in Malmo, Sweden (Sweden currently is the EU chair). One of the things on the agenda there is setting the EU's strategy for e-government for the next 5 years, until 2015. A number of people [LINK], including myself, think it is very much needed that our voice is heard there. Us being those familiar with what the internet and related technology make possible, and seeing that our governments still struggle to grasp the meaning of that and therefore pass up opportunities.
In the past months a lot of work has been done to crowdsource a declaration stressing the importance of open public service information (PSI). It is the product of both on-line discussion and face to face sessions (like the EUPS2.0 workshop in Brussels and at the Reboot conference in Copenhagen). The result will actually be presented at and during the ministerial conference in Malmo (that in itself is already an achievement, thanks to David Osimo). Those of you that know my involvement with Open Government Data will see why I wholeheartedly support that declaration. To be able to get the most out of the few minutes that the attention of the ministerial conference will be focussed on this declaration, it is important that as many people as possible show they support this initiative.
You can show that support by signing the Open Declaration on EU Public Service Information.
For the sake of transparent processes in public governance, and to strengthen our participatory democracies,
for the sake of you and me being able to build decisions on all available information, thus empowering ourselves,
for the sake of increasing innovative potential confronting the complex problems our EU nations face in terms of climate, economy and energy,
I ask you to sign the declaration.
It only takes a minute, so click and add your name to the list.
Signing the declaration will not solve any of the world's problems, but it will help to make sure one of the building blocks (open PSI) we need to work towards actual solutions will be more readily available to us all. Otherwise we will be 5 years along the road.
2 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Social Software @ Work
Last month I attended a very interesting event at the Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf, called Social Software @ Work. I did not have a chance to write about it earlier, so I'm doing so with some delay.
At the venue House Mickeln
Social Software @ Work was organized by the information sciences department together with the English linguistics department. It was through the latter that I was invited to participate and present by Cornelius Puschmann.
Theory and Practice in Six Themes
During two days we discussed the use of social media in the workplace around 6 themes. Each of those themes was covered with both more theoretical as well as more practical examples coming from academics, companies and practitioners alike.
The six themes were measuring results, social search, current trends, communications in science, e-learning, and social media in large organizations, all in relation to social software.
Presentation on 'Tools in a Broader Context'
I contributed to the 'current trends' panel and was the last speaker of day 1.
That's why I chose to share a bit more general story ('The tools in broader context') on how internet and mobile technology is changing our societies. Social software in that light is the first batch of tools that really use the new affordances internet and mobile tech give us (easy sharing, easy group forming and networking, low threshold participation, largely time and place independent) by employing human relationships as navigational structure. This requires new skills, routines and knowledge. Organizations, workplaces, learning, meetings, and even things like public tendering all change and shift towards a more networked appearance. It puts previously predictable situations in the complex realm all of a sudden. I held up the project at Rotterdam University as how ultimately that changes how we perceive ourselves, and how we define humanity. At the same time we see new waves on the horizon that are not only bringing the social digital realm into each and every 'real life' context (context based services) but also bring new elements to the networked environment: everyday objects (internet of things), all data elements (semantic web), production (personal production / FabLab)
People Tagging, Contactivity, and Identity
There were many other interesting presentations, out of which I will only highlight three notions that stuck with me particularly.
In the Social Search panel Simone Braun talked about 'people tagging' as a way to complement competence management with a bottom-up way of building your ontology of competences. People tagging, not just for competence management, to me feels like a key element when people are your path of navigation through information. When I want to know stuff about a topic I don't immediately dive in, but look for people I know connected to the relevant topic, and then search their context for relevant information. It is why I am still very eager to find a feedreader that allows me to tag individual feeds (for me feeds mean people, I have my feedreader organized that way): I want to be able to ask my feedreader "What are information scientists I know in SE Asia saying today, what do they think is important today." and "What are the coders in Berlin up to this week". People tagging is important. As is the notion of augmenting taxonomies with tagging to keep your taxonomy relevant and up to date, that Simone Braun tapped into.
My friend Karsten Ehms of the Siemens Knowledge Management team in Munich talked about the internal blogging at Siemens in the panel on social software in big organizations (otherwise filled with good presentations from Sun, BASF, and Daimler). One key point he made was on the relevant measurements of success for internal blogging. In the end it's the cross organization and the cross country connections that are build that count. The connectedness and the nature of those connections between people, which together I call contactivity. (Slide 15 in Karsten's slideset)
The final presentation was given by Michael Habib of Elsevier in the panel on communications in science. In his talk on scholarly reputation management he positioned Identity as a possible centre point to a more networked approach to classical reputation ingredients in science like the number of publications and the number of times they are referenced in other work. Both of those indicators are under pressure because the whole peer review and (paper) publishing model is. Tools like Elsevier's Scopus could use 'identity' as a replacement. What identity management looks like also depends on the stage of your scientific career. Seniors need different aspects of their reputation to be readily findable than when you just start. Michael's whole slideset is worth looking at but the picture below is I think relevant to everybody when it comes to thinking about your 'presence' on-line.
This was a good event, and my stay in Dusseldorf was made all the more pleasant, as I as well as Elmine took the opportunity to visit and stay with Pedro and Patricia Custodio.0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Rebooting Germany at Reboot_D
It's already been a month (it's been kind of hectic, amongst others with a death in the family) since I visited Reboot_D in Berlin, but finally here are some impressions.
Reboot_D (link in German) took its cue from Reboot Britain last July, an event looking into how to use the new affordances of the digital age to work on the challenges nations face.
In Germany the focus was specifically on political and government structures, and the public sphere, and it was a small scale workshop-like day, with about 40 participants. Organizers were amongst others Martin Lindner (blog) and Ulrike Reinhard.
Format of the event
There were six general themes (the links point to collective event notes in German):
The day started with a general round of introductions where participants were invited to state some of the questions, positions or things they'd like to address.
Then we did 6 quick rounds of 8 minutes in which all participants rotated in small groups, getting introduced into the six themes by 'hosts'. Each host shortly showed a few examples relevant to the theme, and first questions got explored. I liked that format.
After this 'speed-dating' each theme was more fully explored in two rounds of smaller group discussion/workshop. A plenary session at the end brought resulting actions and impressions together.
As I was the host for the 'open government data' theme I did not get much chance to hear what was discussed around the other themes.
Open Government Data
From the group work on Open Gov Data three actions emerged.
1 Legal framework, flow-chart
First of all, participants feel a need to establish the exact current conditions around open government data. How exactly has the 2003 EU Directive on public service information been translated into German law? How does it connect/ work with other relevant laws around privacy, copyright and database gathering? Without knowledge of the general legal framework it's hard to enter into discussions on what is or is not viable open government data. Knowledge of this legal framework can be made into a flow-chart like poster, helping others to navigate this topic.
2 Finding change agents
From the discussions it seems likely that the individual states in the German federation are a better starting point than the national level. (Also see my general observations on the discussion further down)
Finding people to talk to, and connecting them with existing open government data enthusiast/advocates elsewhere will help build momentum. Right after the event I was approached by Daniel Dietrich informing me there now is a German open government data association, called OpenData Network, which will actively work towards this.
3 Formulating new ethical questions
Before the digital age some questions about admissible or inadmissible data usage never needed to be discussed as it wasn't technologically feasible anyway. Now that technology isn't a barrier, we need to both formulate and answer the type of ethical questions that we could ignore before. Is it ok to connect certain data sources into something new, that even those that it concerns weren't even aware of themselves? (Like being confronted with patterns in your own behavior you were unaware of but that can be constructed from data you are aware of, finding new mirrors as it were to look into) What if somebody uses data without knowledge what it actually means, and bases faulty decisions on it, and then complains back at the source? It's these questions that I find most often are now used as a reason to not open data up. It also connects to Lawrence Lessig's recent article on the 'shadow' side of transparency. We most certainly need to look into these questions: both formulating them, and providing lines of reasoning to answer them.
General impressions from the debate
Germany is less than 5 kilometers away from my home, but it's always interesting to see how different some cultural aspects can be between neighbors.
I was surprised to hear how quickly a lot of discussions, even the more mundane ones, quickly turned to highly politicized highly abstracted debates, and whether it meant changing or even damaging the constitution. That way things quickly become too big to tackle I think. You can work change without top-down transforming the entire nation first. You can work change by creating a few practical steps and examples, that then serve as leverage to do more. Those practical entry points are most likely better found at lower levels of government than the national one.
Video impressions can be found on the Reboot_D Youtube channel
A short video interview with David Weinberger on how 'transparency is the new objectivity' was done before the event by Ulrike, one of the organizers.
Blog Action Day '09: Holding Questions on Climate Change
This posting is part of 'Blog Action Day' on Climate Change.
We always, I think, 'cheated' to grow/progress by adding stuff from 'outside' to our societies/economies that we otherwise treated as a closed system: serfdom, conquering, colonization, the new world, slavery, coal and oil, to name a few.
Now everything is connected, we're all in the same global complexopolis (I just made that word up), and there's no 'outside' the system anymore to cheat with. (Except for credit-based money creation, which went bust recently as well). So we're locked into a closed system. All of us, all 6.5 billion and counting.
Climate change is just one of the elements in that mix: the result of us cheating the system by digging up coal and oil and adding them to the carbon cycle again. It concerns a number of other greenhouse-causing gases, and it concerns all of our resources, phosphates, metals, carbons, you name it. CO2 is just the current poster child of choice.
And we're only half waking up to the fact that we've closed each and every loop in the system now. Back to where other species have spent their entire existence, inside their fixed niches in the ecosystem.
I have no clue how to 'fix' it, I assume there is no easy fix nor a quick one. It will need an overhaul of most of our ways of doing things. How I as an individual can contribute to that, I don't know. I'm more or less in the same spot Peter is in. Rationally I'm on board but the difference engine that is my brain is largely indifferent still, just worried in a diffused kind of way.
Of course there are things an individual can do, buy local, consume less, avoid flying, use public transport in stead of my car, donate boat paint, go favela chic. But does it really make a difference? Am I better at it than my dead great grandfather? Can you really get to e.g. the 80% CO2 reduction that is required of us Westerners if you stick to a 2 degree average rise in global temperature, while giving other nations a chance of reaching our levels of well being (which is the moral choice to make here)? Which brings us to 'cap and converge' (not to be confused with cap and trade), cap CO2, know that all resources are capped as well, and converge to a more or less equal 'budget' for all world citizens. Will that be achievable, without yielding to a type of hair shirt green eco-fascism, which my green primary school teacher already warned me about when I was 11 in 1981? I find I lack data, and our societies processes lack the transparency to make an informed judgment.
This is not a doom and gloom posting, far from it. It's just that for now I am merely holding questions, and wondering what 'working on things that matter' should mean for me right now. What questions are you holding?
(pics: random people going about their lifes, and enjoying themselves)0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink