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COST298 2009

COST298: The Good, the Bad and the Challenging (Copenhagen, 13-15 May 2009)

Social Networking Practices in Hungary

The final speaker today at COST298 is Maria Bernschütz. She takes us back to the emergence of the digital individual - identity emerged with the emergence of ID photos in the mid-1800s, but it was determined by the photographer; today, users are able to edit their online identities, photoshop their images, and otherwise control their online presence. So, what practices are in use here, especially by youth? Maria examined this in the context of the Hungarian sites MyVIP and iWiW.

Developing New Medical Information Systems

The next speaker at COST298 is Kresten Bjerg, who points us to problems in the health system. How can daily diaries created using the Phenomenalog software be used to track personal health information, for example? What role does telemedical monitoring play? How can they be connected?

This requires a consideration of how such interfaces model the doctor/patient interface, and how and whether personal information entered by the patient is transmitted to third parties. This is largely also a problem of psychology (in patients and their caretakers), and of developing such systems with patient needs and abilities in mind, rather than based purely on medical practitioners' needs or on technological possibilities.

Social Simulation Models for Collective Intelligence

The next speaker at COST298 is Constantin-Bala Zamfirescu, whose interest is in developing Group Decision Support Systems. These have traditionally be implemented in physical infrastructure developments, such as 'situation rooms', bringing together decision makers and information in the same physical space, but can now also be turned into virtual spaces. Performance of GDSS is dependent on software configuration and instruction.

A GDSS is commonly used over a number of phases, for example from data gathering to situational awareness. Ideally it presents a solution space (possible solutions to a problem) within a larger search space (including all available information); this creates a great deal of cogitive complexity.

ICT Usage and Its Environmental Impacts

The final session on this second day of COST298 starts with Inge Røpke and Toke Haunstrup Christensen, whose interest is in the environmental impact of ICT use. What new environmental threats are likely to emerge from current trends? This research was conducted through in-depth interviews with Danish users, and found pervasive, creative, and diversified ICT uses.

ICTs can be used for a wide range of activities, and are now integrated in almost any form of everyday life - this is different for example from the Hungarian example which we heard about earlier today, where being online is still an activity in its own right, rather than a condition for participating in a range of more specific activities. Inge now runs through a number of examples demonstrating the pervasiveness of ICTs - Webcams to monitor rooms, computers to monitor exercise activities, community email newsletters and Websites, and so on.

Creating Shared Memory Spaces

Finally for this COST298 session we move on to James Stewart; his interest is in how we create place and space, especially in the context of using personal ICTs (pICTs). This also ties into the question of user co-creation, of course, especially where it is looking forward towards future uses. The research project took place here particularly in the context of branded meeting places - locations which were clearly marked as governed by an established brand (e.g. Starbucks, McDonald's).

Some interesting activities here included linking online and physical spaces, and connecting with Twitter and Facebook in order to enable group interactions. The 'virtual' and the 'real' are increasingly blurred in the process; in practice, they are linked by electronic gateways. The idea of tagging emerged as a very important practice in this (tags understood here as anything from metadata tags to signs, logos, stamps, barcodes, and much more) - we appropriate the world by tagging, and we can see our and others' tagging activity for example in map-based representations.

Mobile Technology and the Public/Private Domain

The next speaker in this COST298 session is Simona Isabella. She notes how the mobile phone as a technology that crosses public and private spheres can be seen as an embodiment of contemporary society. Overall, the meaning technological artefacts assume depends on internal technical as well as external social factors; technologies are socially shaped, within the constraints imposed by technological possibilities, and may ultimately even be domesticated - but in different ways by different groups.

Mobile telephony history shows these developments: in Japan, for example, the humble pager evolved into a medium for interactive text communication, while the landline picture phone in the US failed because of concerns over privacy. Today, the emerging broadband society can be described as a society of perpetual contact; the mobile phone embodies and enacts this. By adding Internet access features, it transforms telephony from one-to-one to one-to-many; additionally, the use of social networking sites through mobile devices heightens the always-in-touch nature of contemporary society.

Birdwatching 2.0

Eva Törnqvist is the next speaker at COST298, who highlights a specific form of user-led, bottom-up innovation in the use of mobile phones: by birdwatchers in Sweden. Traditionally, this community has used other tools to disseminate information about where to see rare birds: for example sticking paper signs on the back of a road sign, later on using answering machine and pager messages (to the point where they clogged the phone lines in small Swedish towns to breaking point).

Today, a community called Club 300 (as in, at least 300 recorded sightings of rare birds) uses mobile phones to share their knowledge. The switch to mobile phones also allows for the transmission of substantially more information (bird pictures and sounds), and connection with other services (such as road directions). Similarly, the Swedish Association for Hunting and Wildlife Management now also share their wildlife and hunting pictures and videos on the Web, as well as through mobile phone services.

Involving Users in Innovating Mobile Services

The post-lunch session at COST298 starts with Hanne Westh Nicolajsen, who focusses on users as co-innovators. This is in the context of CAMMP (Converged Advanced Mobile Media Platforms), which sounds not unlike aspects of our Smart Services CRC. Such research is driven by convergence between the Net, digital TV and radio, and 3G mobile technologies. How can users be best involved in the design of rich mobile media services for the future?

Approaches to this are based on a living lab model (providing a real context to technology use, focussing on the medium to long term, engaging in participatory design, and involving multiple stakeholders), which also means aiming for creativity (through employing creative methods, engendering trust in the process to encourage wild ideas, and basing creative processes on existing knowledge of what is possible through technology).

What Drives Technology Adoption?

Finally now in this COST298 session we move on to Enid Mante-Meijer. Her interest is in the adoption of ICT innovation, which is a policy goal, for example, in the European Union especially in the context of broadband Internet access. What is innovation in the broadband society, though; what are the roles of push and pull factors; what helps or hinders innovation?

Innovation may be revolutionary, radical, or incremental; it is a concept relative to what exists already. Creativity plays an important role in adoption, as does the social context, and adoption may take time. Adoption is driven by push and pull factors, and Enid has examined examples for both as well as examples which show both elements. Online income tax forms or the new health system in Holland were clearly pushed by government decisions, for example, even in the face of user opposition; the adoption of digital TV in Flanders, on the other hand, was driven by both government and industry push and market pull, as was the adoption of Internet fridges in Denmark (!); use of mobile phones to network birdwatchers in Sweden, finally, was driven entirely by the birdwatchers themselves.

Digital DIY after Moving Home

The next speaker at COST 298 is Philip Ely. He notes a long history of DIY activities; in the UK, for example, some 63% were involved in DIY activities in 2004. Digital DIY (d-DIY) is less visible - a process of customising and modifying, installing and reinstalling our electronic technologies, especially in the context of residential moves - that is, of often substantial life changes. In the process, people reconfigure their existing technologies.

This area has been underresearched so far. There is little observation, for example, of gender or socioeconomic differences, or from any other disciplinary perspectives. Philip observed the activities of a hobbyist computer group involved in building their own computers, and established a technology biography of a number of the group members - all of them middle-class white males, incidentally - but points out that mutatis mutandis such practices exist throughout society. Philip also conducted an autoethnography of his own d-DIY practices following a major life change of his own.


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