Policy and technology: a "longue durée" view

Random thoughts on policy for technology and on technology for policy


January 2012

Is “social computing” an old story?

I’ve been asked to give a talk on “Social Computing” to policy-makers and industry representatives here in Brussels.

My first reaction, when preparing the presentation, has been: again? I have been presenting about what it is, how it matters, what to do about it for the last 6 years. Is it still an interesting subject? Can I go on repeating the same presentations?

So what new approach could I take?

First thing, I wrote to a friend who’s supposed to attend about his expectations, and he said:

  • What is it?
  • Why did it develop so fast?
  • What are the benefits for citizens, business and government?
  • What is next?

So I thought well after 6 years of research, it’s a good time to have a long-term historical picture. To put social computing in perspective. So the title is “Social Computing: taking the long view”

The structure is as follows:

– what is social computing and how it is moving into “serious business” science 2.0, enterprise 2.0, gov 2.0

– its deep roots (Engelbart’s augmenting concept)

– its impact (positive and negative)

– its future (implicit web, web squared, gamification, making sense of data)

The final concept is that social computing is there to stay, that there is still much room for innovation, but it’s doubtful that Europe will lead on this unless changes are implemented.

So I recommend not to have a dramatic and high-profile “Horizons 2.0”; but a gradual and significant change in terms of openness, framework conditions (e.g. science career), and how research is funded.

What do you think? What are the key concepts you think should be conveyed?



Looking for the best animators on Policy-Making 2.0

For me, the main topic of 2012 will be Policy-Making 2.0. What I mean by it, as compared with government 2.0, is that:

  • it focusses on the policy-making activity of government, while in 2011 I focussed on service delivery
  • it focusses on the whole policy-making cycle, not only in policy design as it is often the case in eParticipation
  • it stands firmly between the two extremes of (maximalistic) direct democracy and (minimalistic) social media PR: it’s about leveraging collective intelligence for better decision making
  • it concerns a wider range of ICT solutions than collaboration, extending to policy modelling and simulation, visualisation, opinion mining, data-intensive tools

First, I will continue working on the online engagement of the Digital Agenda for Europe, with Richard Wilson, PAU Education and Laia Pujol. This is exciting and promising.

Secondly, the CROSSOVER project will develop the research roadmapping work of 2010 in the CROSSROAD project and bring it at the global level.We’ve already launched an active Linkedin Group, and created a dedicated podcast channel (click here to subscribe in iTunes).

To do so, we are now seeking 5/6 animators (pdf) for leveraging conversations and collectively define the future of policy-making. The ideal profile is:

  • knowledgeable about one or more of these technological areas
  • well connected in the research and practitioners community, also through social media

It’s a low-quantity, high-quality job. If you’re interested, follow the guidelines in this document and submit your proposal by January 25th.

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