New publication: Towards Sheltered Communication Systems Design – A Socio-Technical Perspective

The proceedings were just published containing my paper: A. de Moor (2012). Towards Sheltered Communication Systems Design: A Socio-Technical Perspective. In Proc. of the 9th Community Informatics Research Network Conference, Prato, Italy, November 7-9, 2012.

130322_Sheltered communication systems

Abstract

Social media are powerful conversation technologies. However, exactly how social media afford and constrain complex social requirements in collaborative communities is still ill-understood. One of these requirements concerns the need for sheltered communication systems: systems that support and interlink spheres of stakeholder communication with different required degrees of opacity. We introduce our Socio-Technical Conversation Context Framework as a way to analyze and design such complex socio-technical communication systems. We use collaboration patterns grounded in this framework as conceptual building blocks to capture design lessons learnt about matching community requirements with enabling tool functionalities. We illustrate the approach with the “sheltered communications” lessons learnt in a Dutch case of developing an e-learning tool system for students with physical and mental limitations.

Liberating Voices book published

A while ago, I posted some ideas on the socio-technical infrastructure needed to create a network of “thinking communities”. I was then contacted by Doug Schuler, coordinator of the Public Sphere Project, who asked me to create a Thinking Communities Pattern  for their Liberating Voices: a Pattern Language for Communication Revolution project.

081208_schuler_liberating_voices_front_coverA selection of patterns, including the Thinking Communities Pattern, has now been edited and published as a book by The MIT Press (ISBN 0-262-69366-6). See also the book flyer. To get an idea of how these patterns could be used, see, for instance, the post by Justin Smith, who lists some requirements for a pattern-based knowledge system.

The best way to introduce the book is by using Doug’s own words:

After eight years of work, the book on our information and communication pattern language project, “Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution,” is finally available. Liberating Voices brings together a multitude of ideas and suggestions from a variety of perspectives including activism and social change, education, community informatics, governance, media, development, information science, economics, journalism, arts and culture.

We believe that this book can be used by researchers, by practitioners in a variety of fields including teachers in the classroom, by activists, and by citizens and community members throughout the world.

I’m writing to you as a colleague or, in some cases, as a person whom I’ve never met but whose work I admire. In either case I’m hopeful that you’d find this work compelling. If you do, please read this note and send it along to friends and colleagues who might also be interested.

I believe that this book is particularly relevant at this time in history. It is a holistic call to arms for social change based on a revolution in grassroots information and communication. It takes the form of a pattern language that contains 136 patterns. Each pattern is a template for research as well as social critique and action. And each pattern is linked to other patterns into a single coherent whole. We (myself and 85 co-authors) have tried to show that the struggle for liberatory information and communication systems is absolutely critical.

In recent decades we have witnessed the creation of communication systems that promise unparalleled connectedness. Now is the time to unleash our collective creativity—social as well as technological—and develop the communication systems that promote community and civic innovation and engagement to address serious challenges like climate change and environmental degradation.

Inspired by the vision and framework outlined in Christopher Alexander’s classic 1977 book, A Pattern Language, the book presents a pattern language containing 136 patterns designed to meet these challenges. We are proposing a new model of social change that integrates theory and practice by showing how diverse information and communication based approaches can be used to address local as well as global problems.

The pattern language was developed collaboratively with nearly 100 co-authors using an online pattern language management system. The patterns from the book are all online as are approximately 300 other patterns in work. We are treating the publishing of the book as an important milestone rather than the culmination of the project. While we are very enthusiastic about what we’ve produced so far we realize that people and organizations who use the patterns will often need to adapt the pattern language to their specific needs which may even include developing new patterns. For this reason and others we are revamping our web site to encourage collaborative pattern language construction and allow people to readily share ideas and experiences with others.

Our goal was to create an intriguing and informative catalog of intellectual, social, and technological innovations, a practical manual for citizen activism, and a compelling manifesto for creating a more intelligent, sustainable, and equitable world.