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Using Social Media for Social Innovation

The final speaker in this session at Challenge Social Innovation is Ricard Ruiz de Querol, who begins by noting the major social challenges we currently face; in addition, we also have some very major social media platforms – his interest is in the overlap and connection between them. A third element is the realm of social innovation, which intersects both areas.

Social media is an umbrella term for a wide range of possible tools, platforms, and practices; even individual platforms like Twitter sustain a universe of applications and practices. Where do we start? How can and do developments – social innovations, even – in one corner of that universe gain speed and scale? How can social entrepreneurship gain a Microsoft or Google to support it (without the negative consequences that may come with such an embrace)?

A Manifesto for Social Innovation Using Social Media

The next speakers at Challenge Social Innovation are Christoph Kaletka, Ricard Ruiz de Querol, and Bastian Pelka, who are presenting nothing short of a manifesto for social media and social innovation. Social media, Bastian starts, are not a technology, but a specific form of using existing technology: a social innovation. Social media is an umbrella term for a rapidly growing set of practices and platforms, which are based around the core innovation of user-generated content as a new social routine.

Social media, then, describe a new communication pattern (a paradigm shift in communication), which replaces finished communicative processes with always-unfinished, collaboratively developed, incrementally evolving outcomes that are developed through bottom-up, collaborative, and distributed processes. Such shifts are in line with the overall shift from the industrial to the knowledge society; in the process, knowledge and content production processes are decentralised. Not least, this changes conventional ideas of ‘quality’, of course.

Commercial Approaches to User Collaboration

The next speaker at Challenge Social Innovation is Heidemarie Hanekop, whose focus is on user collaboration with companies. First, of course, such collaborations are importantly enabled by the Web, which makes a broad base of new knowledge publicly available and thereby enables new forms of information sharing and collaboration. This can happen with and without the help of commercial interests – from Wikipedia and open source to Facebook and YouTube.

Such new collaborative spaces are clearly attractive to users, which has also led to the involvement of companies in this space. But user collaboration stands in sharp contrast to the hierarchical organisation of companies and markets, so how can this work? What are the mechanisms that enable user collaboration on a large scale? How do companies adapt these mechanisms for their own purposes?

User-Led Innovation: The Case of Crytek

The next speaker at Challenge Social Innovation is Birgit Blättel-Mink, who focusses on the case of German games developer Crytek (which developed Far Cry, Crysis, and other games), based in Frankfurt, which engages with its users as innovators. The company has some 600 employees distributed across five international studios and two distribution centres; its core product is the Cry games engine.

Crytek’s user community includes casual gamers (on social networks), hardcore gamers (in the Crytek Mycrisis community and other online communities), and modders who generate modified games modules and take part in various specialist communities. Casual gamers are engaged with for marketing and promotion, hardcore gamers participate in quality control, bug reports, and bug fixing, and modders drive user-led innovation.

Models for Greater Citizen Involvement in Public Services

We’re now starting the final round of keynotes here at CeDEM 2011. The first presenter is Elke Löffler of Governance International, whose interest is in facilitating the greater involvement of citizens in decision-making – a move from big government to the big society. How far have we come to date? We’ve moved, at least in some countries or some regions, from law and order approaches in the 1980s through new public management models in the 1990s to collaborative governance initiatives in the early 2000s; the latter stages of this process are very unevenly distributed, however.

Even public servants pursuing these latter, more advanced models feel that they have not yet been implemented in any significant way; where new approaches are attempted, awareness of the also still remains quite low. On a scale from 0 to 100, EU citizens generally rate the level of user involvement in their countries at around 50, with the UK and Germany slightly more advanced than other countries – the glass is half full, at best.

Of Lightweight Crowds and Heavyweight Communities

The second round of keynotes at CeDEM 2011 starts with Caroline Haythornthwaite, whose focus is on making sense of online community structures. She begins from a social network analysis perspective, which understands social networks as constituted of relations between actors. Such social networks transcend online social networks, of course; rather, we now need to take a whole-of-system perspective in which social networking takes place across a range of networks, including online networks.

What’s especially important here, too, is a focus on new forms of collaborating and organising; with the shift towards Web 2.0, but also with many other concurrent shifts, there’s been a transition in attitudes and practices towards collaboration. Indeed, Caroline suggests that we’ve entered a Web 2+ period now. Alongside this are shifts towards user-driven practices, the perpetual beta where things are constantly in flux, and where data and information are mashed up and remixed all the time.


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