One element to look for in algorithms I think is if they are symmetric or asymmetric in how its choices are treated. I just helped realise an automated subsidy allocation decision process for a Dutch regional government. Key element is that subsidy requests can be automatically awarded (cutting back the processing time from 13 weeks and payment in 17 weeks, to immediate and payment to under 5 days), but that requests cannot be automatically denied. If the automatic process can’t allocate automatically it goes to a civil servant that reviews the request and allocates or denies the subsidy. (Not coincidentally the GDPR forbids automated decision making about people, especially if that decision is detrimental to the person being decided about)

Replied to Things that have caught my eye: An Algorithm That Grants Freedom, or Takes It Away. (The Obvious?)

Algorithms already deciding all sorts of things to do with people’s lives. Who gets to decide their priorities and how will we feel when we realise that they are already being applied to us?

Good catching up with you after too long Boris. Excited to hear about Fission. Later on was wondering how IPFS as starting point plays out with highly dynamic material (e.g. real time data sets), versus dat for such data sets. Pleasing to note our thinking since our joined session at BarCamp Brussels in 2006 has evolved along similar lines in the current timeframe, except you more on the tech side of things, and me on the change management side of it.

Das kann ich gut nachvollziehen Heinz. Brandbeschleuniger trägt ja eine emotionelle Ladung die man auch als Luddismus empfinden kann gegen Digitalisierung generell. Obwohl die Beschleunigung ja auch positives bewirken kann, bez. Wissensentwicklung usw.

Wie bei greifbare Produkte verbirgt und externalisiert Digitalisierung Kosten. Den Energieverbrauch von Bitcoin in etwa. Gibt es da einen Weg diese externalisierten Kosten bei Digitalisierung sichtbarer zu machen? Diese anders zu gestalten (zB eine Website die nur online ist, wenn genügend Solarenergie vorhanden ist, und die optimiert ist für niedrigen Energieverbrauch)? Können wir das ausreichend für andere Produkte, sodas ein Vergleich dieser externalisierten Kosten zwischen Greifbares und Digitales ermöglicht wird (zB conference calls gegen vermiedenen Flugreisen)?

Was betont Dringlichkeit, und hat die ‘richtige’ emotionelle Ladung in einem gewissen Kontext? Katalysator, in der Definition bereits neutral. Beschleuniger, Brandbeschleuniger,… gibt’s da mehrere Möglichkeiten in Parallel? Brandbeschleuniger für negative Konsequenzen, dark patterns. Fortschrittbeschleuniger oder was immer, für positive Konsequenzen?

Replied to „Digitalisierung als Brandbeschleuniger“ by Heinz WittenbrinkHeinz Wittenbrink

Digitalisierung als Brandbeschleuniger trifft viel besser, als ich es bisher ausgedrückt habe, den Verdacht, dass die Mitarbeit an der digitalen Wirtschaft, also auch das, was ich beruflich schon lange tue, die ökologischen Katastrophen, die wir gerade erleben, weiter beschleunigt. Andererseits erinnert diese Formel so sehr an konservative Stereotype, dass es mir schwer fällt sie zu verwenden.

Journalism as a service, journalism as a process. And quoting The Guardian on how they diversify revenue streams, as different groups of readers are willing to pay for different things, despite reading the same stories. This ties into what Hossein Derakhshan talks about when he says journalism needs to leave ‘news’ as a format behind.

Liked How news organisations are succeeding with reader-first digital transformation by Kevin Anderson, Author at Strange Attractor

I think his framing of how to become reader focused also made sense in terms of selling journalism as a process rather than as a product. By looking as journalism as a service to be sold instead of a product, then companies could re-orient around their “impact on the customer”, he said.

This is a start to more fully describe and explore a distributed version of digitisation, digitalisation and specifically digital transformation, and state why I think bringing distributed / networked thinking into them matters.

Digitising stuff, digitalising routines, the regular way

Over the past decades much more of the things around us became digitised, and in recent years much of the things we do, our daily routines and work processes, have become digitalised. Many of those digitalised processes are merely digitised replicas of their paper predecessors. Asking for a government permit for instance, or online banking. There’s nothing there that wasn’t there in the paper version. Sometimes even small steps in those processes still force you to use paper. At the start of this year I had to apply for a declaration that my company had never been involved in procurement fraud. All the forms I needed for it (30 pages in total!), were digitised and I filled them out online, but when it came to sending it in, I had to print the PDF resulting from those 30 pages, and send it through snail mail. I have no doubt that the receiving government office’s first step was to scan it all before processing it. Online banking similarly is just a digitised paper process. Why don’t all online bank accounts provide nifty visualisation, filtering and financial planning tools (like alerts for dates due, saving towards a goal, maintaining a buffer etc.), now that everything is digital? The reason we laugh at Little Britains ‘computer says no’ sketches, is because we recognise all too well the frustration of organisations blindly trusting their digitalised processes, and never acknowledging or addressing their crappy implementation, or the extra work and route-arounds their indifference inflicts.

Digital transformation, digital societies

Digital transformation is the accumulated societal impact of all those digital artefacts and digitalised processes, even if they’re incomplete or half-baked. Digital transformation is why I have access to all those books in the long tail that never reached the shelves of any of the book shops I visited in decades part, yet now come to my e-reader instantly, resulting in me reading more and across a wider spectrum than ever before. Digital transformation is also the impact on elections that almost individually targeted data-driven Facebook advertising caused by minutely profiling undecided voters.

Digital transformation is often referred to these days, in my work often also in the context of development and the sustainable development goals.
Yet, it often feels to me that for most intents and purposes this digital transformation is done to us, about us but not of us. It’s a bit like the smart city visions corporations like Siemens and Samsung push(ed), that were basically devoid of life and humanity. Quality of life reduced and equated to security only, in sterilised cities, ignoring that people are the key actors, as critiqued by Adam Greenfield in 2013.

Human digital networks: distributed digital transformation

The Internet is a marvellous thing. At least it is when we use it actively, to assist us in our routines and in our efforts to change, learn and reach out. As social animals, our human interaction has always been networked where we fluently switch between contexts, degrees of trust and disclosure, and routing around undesired connections. In that sense human interaction and the internet’s original design principle closely match up, they’re both distributed. In contrast most digitalisation and digital transformation happens from the perspective of organisations and silos. Centralised things, where some decide for the many.

To escape that ‘done to us, about us, not of us’, I think we need to approach digitisation, digitalisation and digital transformation from a distributed perspective, matching up our own inherently networked humanity with our newly (since 30 yrs) networked global digital infrastructure. We need to think in terms of distributed digital transformation. Distributed digital transformation (making our own digital societal impact), building on distributed digitisation (making our things digital), and on distributed digitalisation (making our routines digital).

Signs of distributed digitisation and digitalisation

Distributed digitisation can already be seen in things like the quantified self movement, where individuals create data around themselves to use for themselves. Or in the sensors I have in the garden. Those garden measurements are part of something you can call distributed digitalisation, where a network of similar sensors create a map of our city that informs climate adaptation efforts by local government. My evolving information strategies, with a few automated parts, and the interplay of different protocols and self-proposed standards that make up the Indieweb also are examples of distributed digitalisation. My Networked Agency framework, where small groups of relationships fix something of value with low threshold digital technology, and network/digital based methods and processes, is distributed digitisation and distributed digitalisation combined into a design aid for group action.

Distributed digital transformation needs a macroscope for the new civil society

Distributed digital transformation, distributed societal impact seems a bit more elusive though.
Civil society is increasingly distributed too, that to me is clear. New coops, p2p groups, networks of individual actors emerge all over the world. However they are largely invisible to for instance the classic interaction between government and the incumbent civil society, and usually cut-off from the scaffolding and support structures that ‘classic’ activities can build on to get started. Because they’re not organised ‘the right way’, not clearly representative of a larger whole. Bootstrapping is their only path. As a result these initiatives are only perceived as single elements, and the scale they actually (can) achieve as a network remains invisible. Often even in the eyes of those single elements themselves.

Our societies, including the nodes that make up the network of this new type of civil society, lack the perception to recognise the ‘invisible hand of networks’. A few years ago already I discussed with a few people, directors of entities in that new civil society fabric, how it is that we can’t seem to make our newly arranged collective voices heard, our collective efforts and results seen, and our collective power of agency recognised and sought out for collaboration? We’re too used, it seems, to aggregating all those things, collapsing them into a single voice of a mouthpiece that has the weight of numbers behind it, in order to be heard. We need to learn to see the cumulative impact of a multitude of efforts, while simultaneously keeping all those efforts visible on their own. There exist so many initiatives I think that are great examples of how distributed digitalisation leads to transformation, but they are largely invisible outside their own context, and also not widely networked and connected enough to reach their own full potential. They are valuable on their own, but would be even more valuable to themselves and others when federated, but the federation part is mostly missing.
We need to find a better way to see the big picture, while also seeing all pixels it consists of. A macroscope, a distributed digital transformation macroscope.