Reflections on what might have been
This is blog post number 57 which means that since I started, in 2008, I have achieved my objective and written one post every month, more or less. Looking back it’s a personal commentary on digital Britain and digital inclusion which spans four years and two governments. The posts track my changing views on the developing digital agenda from a time when laptops were smart accessories, phones were stupid and BlackBerry was the device of choice; the world was hyperlocal and it wasn’t particularly social; open data was new but it wasn’t yet big.
Early in November 2012 I attended the Coproduction event at Manchester University; it was a great event with inspiring presentations, useful conversation and debate. The conversations both on the night and subsequently have added to my conviction, that we cannot continue to see digital inclusion and the economy as separate.
Smart School was a conversation of note: “The IoT raises the possibility for exploring the potential for education of a smart school; a pupil in a smart school will have an education in the social and economic potential and issues related to data and the Internet. “ The project goes further and has ambitions to: “… build on projects such as the ambient learning city to create a learning layer in the community for informal learning or storing and sharing community memories and history.”
This resonates with my thinking on a number of levels but not least because it’s about production, literacy and sharing it reflects the view of a Digital Britain that: “empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential” Steve Balmer, Chief Executive, Microsoft. (Department of Business Innovation and Skills, 2009) .
This is not a deficit view of a digital Britain which emphasises providing access to employability, to health, to education and information that the rest of us will take for granted nor does it exclude those things, it simply puts them into a different context that assumes an empowered individual within a community not a lagging individual on the periphery.
Service Systems was also a conversation of note, not least because it linked to the work of NEMODE about which I have written in a previous post. The case for service systems argues that goods dominant logic is becoming an outmoded model for many of the things that we buy and that a service dominant logic provides us with value in use and results from co-creation between the producer and the user. I strongly recommend looking at the work of Irene Ng on the implications of this for the digital economy.
Now it’s easy to pass this off as an academic exercise but I happen to believe that thinking like this underpins the real needs of a digital person in the 21st Century. As always serendipity brought me to something that crystallised my thinking: a video by Brian Solis the social media marketing phenomenon. You can watch the interview he does with John Swartz from USA Today on You Tube where he talks about producers and consumers co creating value mediated through technology. I’m not at all sure that he believes in a shift from traditional goods dominant capitalism to a service dominant culture but the interview brings into sharp focus the digital capacity that individuals will need in the new digital economy.
The themes of access and empowerment remain at the heart of digital inclusion though I often feel that access alone is regarded as sufficient moral justification; needless to say, I disagree. My thinking has become increasingly concerned with the fact that we are pursuing inclusion through the same initiatives that we have always done with a focus on the consumption of goods and services but the world is shifting to a place where the emphasis will have to be on literacy, coproduction and sharing and I have yet to be convinced that our current approaches will achieve these things.
I am indebted to James Duggan from Manchester University Phd Programme for sharing with me the thinking behind Smart School and also for signposting me to the paper“On value and value co-creation: A service systems and service logic perspective” by Vargo et al.
The Internet of Things (IoT) a network of things, objects and identities operating in smart places using intelligent interfaces to connect and communicate with users and social and environmental contexts. There is a short, readable paper on this from The University of Salford http://usir.salford.ac.uk/2735/ .