As I wrote earlier, Dave Greenop and I spent a stimulating afternoon last week discussing 'Designing for Civil (Information) Society' at Leeds Metropolitan University. Here's the slides as a pdf. We were mainly exploring the tensions between three things: the 19th and 20th century institutions and ideas we have inherited around government, the role of nonprofits, and informal association; the impact on this of current commercial and public models for technology; and desires for a more participative, personally empowering society. Big canvas, and this was just a few scribbles in the corner - but how do you know what you think until you do the slides and talk to a few people?
I was coming at it from a background of working on public engagement processes and community technology, Dave as as technology-based futurist also involved in local projects.
My main strand was that while technology is clearly changing civil society - through e-government, online media, use of technology among nonprofits and informal networks - it is moving fairly slowly in some fields and we need to take reality checks on, for example, use of social software in this context. Organisations can easily fall into the technology trap of installing new systems without accompanying changes in culture and operation. We need to take more account of the motivation, skills and personality type of the users, if we want technology to support citizen participation. We should focus more on people and think how to design for civil society from that angle (among others).
Of course, much of this is on the agenda of those involved in community technology projects (some items here). However, we also wanted to explore whether there was anything in the commercial drivers of technology development that chimed in with 'think people-centred'.
Dave ran through the trends towards more personal, mobile devices; revisited some of his work on smart homes; and the potential for 'smart cities' (other items here).
He took us through the idea of engineering cyberspace - including the relation between physical, mental and online space; the move from one web to many webs; and from that to the idea of the Personal Net. I won't expand much on that because I hope Dave can add his own explanations now or later - but the idea is that we should be able to connect our devices and manage our information in ways that strengthen our personal, social and working networks.
Creative Commons has now produced a draft UK share-alike licence, which seems appropriate for these slides: free to use and develop for non-profit purposes if you add a similar licence to any subsequent work. Download slides as a pdf