Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Economist e-readiness rankings

New Economist e-readiness rankings out. The report ranks countries according to how amenable they are to the conduct of e-business. For example they include factors such a the citizens' ability to utilise technology skillfully, the transparency of its business and legal systems, and the extent to which governments encourage the use of digital technologies. Infrastructural considerations are important too-- availability of broadband and (a new one) penetration of hotspots. Ireland is 15th on the list (up one place from last year) and the UK is 5th (down three places). Denmark is top of the list, with the US second.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Writing the place-- Social Tapestries

New website for Social Tapestries (son of Urban Tapestries by Proboscis). This impressively sponsored project is working on public place authoring using mobile technologies. So sharing local knowledge through mobile devices (PDAs, laptops, phones).
Interesting projects exploring community engagement and liveability.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Technolocalism and community renewal

This is an excellent article in Renewal by Will Davies and James Crabtree from 2004. Entitled 'Invisible villages: Technolocalism and community renewal', it explores how 'localism' and geographic devolution might be served by the Internet.

The premise of the article is that place is yielding to networks as a mechanism for how people connect. Rather than be bound to a physical place as the source and locality of social interaction, people may have more ties outside the area in which they live and work. Physical responses to the desire to create local social networks and reconnect the local to the non-local include mixed tenure housing and 'place-making' through iconic buildings. There are obvious limitations to these approaches. Placing people in proximity to each other doesn't necessarily make them know each other. There can be only so many iconic buildings before places start looking the same.

However locality can still bring people together through the need for action to tackle local problems. The Internet can help as a structure to enable communication and organisation. As more people use the Internet more regularly it becomes a mechanism to communicate with people locally as well as further afield (several studies are cited to support this). Furthermore at the application level, many new collaboration tools are developing to enable richer communication including the emergence of so called 'social software'.

The web enables a middle ground between public and private interaction which the authors liken to the mechanisms of a village-- in a village people can collaborate without very formal mechanisms based on trust. This harks back to my post on situated software based on Clay Shirkey's work-- how software can be created without the need for excessive overhead (scalability, security) within communities. Of course the negative connotations of the village metaphor (to an urban-dweller!) include the idea of the peeping neighbour twitching at the net curtains (and there are plenty of opportunities to do that electronically).

Finally I like their characterisation of the Internet as a 'vast network of inter-linking public spaces' rather than as one undifferentiated global public space. This also links to another site I'm exploring-- http://www.headmap.org/. More on that another time.

Will Davies is the author of two equally excellent iSociety reports covering related ground.
You Don't Know Me, but... Social Capital & Social Software
Proxicommunication:ICT and the Local Public Realm

Monday, May 09, 2005

ICT and rural areas-- new report

A new report published by the the Commission for Rural Communities on ICT and rural areas. The report was put together by John Craig and Briony Greenhill of Demos. Some interesting points around defining the rural economy and how it is linked to urban economies, how they are interdependent and how the rural economy is becoming more 'urban' as people migrate from the city to the countryside to work. Broadband enables some exciting possibilities for some places to become more viable as people are able to work and live in the same place. But place is becoming more important, not less as people choose to live in areas which can service their needs. I suppose a wishlist might include the traditional attributes of the countryside (nice scenery, tranquillity, healthy environment) but also good schools, decent shopping, the odd good restaurant... As the report makes clear, there is a role for government in making sure that existing communities are not marginalised, while taking advantage of the inward investment made possible by improved communication links.

Sunday, May 08, 2005


This is an interesting exploration of how ICT might be used in governing and increasing participation in the government of a city.

"The BeyondVoting Wiki provides a place where people can gather to speculate on ways we might =use the internet to improve our city. It takes a bottom-up perspective, looking primarily to empower individuals, community organizations, and sorts, where people can gather, ponder, research, discuss, and propose a new governance structure for New York City".

Located here: http://beyondvoting.wikicities.com.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Community Informatics Journal

A journal dealing with issues of ICT in communities... the second issue is here.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Another conference on regeneration and ICT

This one is in London... Overview is below:

"The deployment of new technologies by public service and community bodies can help boost economic development; help with regeneration of inner cities and deprived rural areas; and combat poverty and crime.
Our seminar will look at how e-services and new technology networks can help boost local economies; improve employment prospects; how IT can help Local Strategic Partnerships work effectively; how to boost skills in run-down areas; public information systems for empowerment; how to obtain grants, European funding and other support; and how the public sector can work with the private sector and community and voluntary sectors to wire up areas for regeneration. "

Friendster for the physical world?

A slight hiatus in posts due to moving house and returning to work from maternity leave...

Anyway, this is based on research ongoing in MIT-- by looking at location, communication and proximity patterns the phone can figure out where you go, who you speak to and who you hang round with. based on this information, the phone can configure itself to enable certain functionality (e.g. make alarm clock available through one-button click). Another use of the information would be to work out where you go regularly and link with other people who also go there regularly-- analogous to something like Friendster except acting in the physical world. this would need to be mediated in some way to allay privacy concerns. and ward off nutters.
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