Journal

Designing Complex Adaptive Systems

Sat, 2005-10-15 21:58.
As we suffuse the world with complex technical systems�”on top of the natural and social systems already here�”old-style top-down, outside-in design simply won’t work. The days of the celebrity solo designer are over. Complex systems are shaped by all the people who use them, and in this new era of collaborative innovation, designers are having to evolve from being the individual authors of objects, or buildings, to being the facilitators of change among large groups of people.

 
Quote from the great book "In the bubble" by John Thackara,

The journey becomes part of everyday life

Sat, 2005-09-17 18:02.
Many values associated with tourism are suddenly an integral part of daily life: The search for the extraordinary, visual, aesthetically pleasing, popular, authentic and ‘magic’. The sociologist John Urry claims that the lines between holiday and everyday life are vanishing. “What now is tourism and what is more generally culture is relatively unclear.” The clear distinction between vacation and the ordinary day no longer has value, and instead one can see tourism as part of everyday life.

 
(Quote from a publication of the Kopenhagen based Creative Consulting Agency Kontrapunkt).
Kontrapunkt On Travelling (PDF, 132 pages, 11.1 Mb)

Change

Fri, 2005-09-16 20:25.
"Lots of people don't like change. Change doesn't much care" - Simon DT

Open Technology Roadmap

Thu, 2005-09-15 22:52.

Openness is at the heart of truly worldchanging systems. Transparency of process, connections and results make open systems more reliable, more accessible, and better able to be connected to other systems; it also encourages collaboration and the input of interested stakeholders. This is perhaps most tangible in the world of technology, particularly information and communication technology (ICT); open ICT systems are increasingly engines of innovation, and are clear catalysts for leapfrogging across the developing world, via reduced costs, potential for customization, and likely interoperability with both legacy and emerging technologies.


Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society has just published something they call the "Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems" (PDF), a guidebook for policymakers, business strategists and technical specialists looking to implement open information and communication technologies around the world. The Roadmap doesn't focus on any single type of open ICT, but on the greater value of the open approach, and the ways in which open systems encourage collaboration and innovation using "a potent combination of connectivity, collaboration and transparency."


One aspect of the Roadmap that I find particularly compelling is that, although it speaks only to information and communication technology needs, the majority of the principles and ideas considered could apply more broadly -- to other kinds of technologies (such as biotech and nanotech), and even to political and social systems (such as voting methods and urban planning).


It's this broad approach that allows the concepts to apply to more than ICT. Consider, for example, the Roadmap's list of Guiding Principles of Open ICT Ecosystems:


An open ICT ecosystem should be:


Interoperable – allowing, through open standards, the exchange, reuse, interchangeability and interpretation of data across diverse architectures.


User-Centric – prioritizing services fulfilling user requirements over perceived hardware or software constraints.


Collaborative – permitting governments, industry, and other stakeholders to create, grow and reform communities of interested parties that can leverage strengths, solve common problems, innovate and build upon existing efforts.


Sustainable – maintaining balance and resiliency while addressing organizational, technical, financial and legal issues in a manner that allows an ecosystem to thrive and evolve.


Flexible – adapting seamlessly and quickly to new information, technologies, protocols and relationships while integrating them as warranted into market-making and government processes.


With a few slight adjustments to the phrasing, the same list would apply well as guidelines for a distributed energy network, or as guidelines for a transportation system, or even as guidelines for cooperative biomedical research. This isn't because the guidelines are vague or overly-broad, but because many infrastructure and service systems ultimately have similar needs for sustainable success.


That said, the Roadmap does give ample detail about the particular value of open information and communication technologies. Most useful, perhaps, is the section on how open ICT ecosystems can evolve. The Roadmap authors pointedly do not expect governments and organizations to shift to an open approach in one great leap; rather, the move to openness requires a great deal of rapid prototyping and incremental adjustments, to allow the particulars of the implementation to match the organization's context. That's the corollary to the low-level similarity of needs across disciplines: the specific circumstances of each case will be highly variable. The guidelines and the Roadmap don't tell you the answer, they help you find the answer.


This is one of those documents where the short length -- it's well under 50 pages -- belies the richness of the material. Open ICT systems have a definite value for development efforts, in terms of both leapfrogging and local/regional economic regeneration (it would be useful, for example, for the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast to keep the principles of open systems in mind). Even more useful, at least for me, is the degree to which the Roadmap triggers further consideration of how the open system concept applies outside of the realm of information and communication technology. The core principles of "connectivity, collaboration and transparency" have far broader application than just ICT; they are at the heart of a robust, flexible and sustainable model of society.
Via worldchanging.com

Why Web2.0 Matters: Preparing for Glocalization

Thu, 2005-09-15 15:40.
Danah Boyd has written a great essay on the relation between global connectivity and the need for putting this in a localized context.
Web2.0 is about glocalization, it is about making global information available to local social contexts and giving people the flexibility to find, organize, share and create information in a locally meaningful fashion that is globally accessible.

Shoshana Zuboff - The Support Economy

Thu, 2005-09-15 15:23.

Q: Under what conditions do new episodes of capitalism emerge?


A: Each new episode of capitalism emerges from the complex interplay of three forces: (1) New human yearnings that create a new approach to consumption and new kinds of markets, (2) technologies capable of addressing the demands of the new markets, and (3) a new enterprise logic that can link employees, technologies, and markets in new ways.


Q: Do these conditions exist today?


A: Yes. First, today's people are pioneering a new approach to consumption that we call the individuation of consumption. They want to be treated as individuals, not as anonymous transactions in the ledgers of mass consumption. They want to be heard and they want to matter. They no longer want to be the objects of commerce. Instead, they want corporations to bend to their needs. They want to be freed from the time-consuming stress, rage, injustice, and personal defeat that accompany so many commercial exchanges. They seek advocacy in place of adversarialism, relationships in place of transactions. They want to take their lives in their own hands and they are willing to pay for what we call the deep support that will enable them to do so.Deep support, as we describe in our book, is not just an enhanced version of conventional customer service. It is an entirely new way of doing business, a radically different approach to the realization of value in which the very purpose of commerce is redefined around the objective of supporting individuals.


Deep support enables psychological self-determination. It produces time for life. It facilitates and enhances the experience of being the origin of one's life. It recognizes, responds to, and promotes individuality. It celebrates intricacy. It multiplies choice and enhances flexibility. It encourages voice and is guided by voice. Deep support listens and offers connection. It offers collaborative relationship defined by advocacy. It is founded on trust, reciprocity, authenticity, intimacy, and absolute reliability. Second, there is a new digital medium whose networked intelligence, flexibility, ubiquity, and complexity make it ideally suited to meeting the demands of the new markets for deep support. Until now, though, it has been bent to the purposes of the old consumption, according to the principles of the old capitalism. The new medium will not fulfill its historic destiny without a new enterprise logic capable of liberating its revolutionary potential.


The fire is laid. What's needed is the match. These conditions create the urgent need for a third force-- a new enterprise logic capable of marrying the new markets for deep support and the new digital medium. We call this new enterprise logic distributed capitalism. Watch the flames when these three forces finally combine. That will mark the real discontinuity between the economy of the twentieth century and that of the twenty-first.


Full interview
Further reading

Online ad sellers think local

Thu, 2005-09-15 15:01.

"Once you get these small business customers to advertise online, it's going to be a billions-of-dollars shift," said Stuart McFarlane, chief executive of Pasadena, Calif.-based Insider Pages. "But the real challenge is, how do you bring in yellow-pages customers at a low enough cost to make it affordable?"

Search leaders Google and Yahoo have created largely self-service empires that let marketers bid for and place promotions next to search results, requiring advertisers to pay only when people click. The cost-effectiveness of search ads has attracted pioneering companies for years, but now marketers of all stripes are signing on, including national and international businesses.

Local advertising dollars, however, remain elusive. Google and Yahoo handle only a couple of hundred thousand local merchant ads, compared with the potential for tens of millions of customers, according to industry analysts.
"It's enormously difficult to get these small businesses to adopt Internet advertising," said Greg Sterling, an analyst at the Kelsey Group.

Small and medium-size businesses are typically stretched thin and, unlike national advertisers, rarely can afford to hire agencies to handle ongoing keyword auctions offered by search engines. Many small businesses know that the Internet could help them but have neither the time nor the inclination to go online, because of the medium's perceived complexity.

Still, analysts say, consumer behavior will drive change. Unlike the pervasive hype of the Web boom, Sterling said, "there's a reality now to the Internet that didn't exist before--consumers are doing research to find products and services."

 
Full article

Of Searches and Psychics: The Costs of Long Tail Businesses

Thu, 2005-09-15 14:55.
When individual transactions are very small, non-monetary costs dominate
Chris Anderson of Long Tail fame recently posed a question in a post on the economics of abundance: what happens when it costs almost nothing to produce and stock one more item?
One surprising result is that non-monetary costs dominate the transaction. Most of you are familiar with monetary costs - pay $0.99 to download a song from iTunes (or $0.10 from AllofMp3). However, as the monetary costs fall, the most important impediments to a transaction are non-monetary: search costs and psychic costs.
Some of you may have studied the concept of "search cost" in college economics. It is the cost of finding the item you need - often measured in time and effort, rather than money. When sorting through the list of all music ever released, it would take you forever to find that piece of music you'd actually enjoy. Even at $1 a CD, you'd probably buy nothing, because you'd give up long before finding anything you'd like.
That's why Amazon provides a variety of tools to help reduce search costs: recommendations, samples, listmania, and many other tools. Though not perfect, Amazon now leads customers to buy items they've never heard of before. (I discovered Pepe and the Bottle Blondes on Amazon because I like Pink Martini).
It is not enough for a company to aggregate lots of small things. Reducing search costs by matching content to users is critical for Long Tail businesses.

 
Full article