Categoryeducation

A list of resources for ethical, responsible, and public interest tech development

A

For an upcoming day of teaching I started compiling a list of resources relevant for the ethical, responsible development of tech, especially public interest tech. This list is very much incomplete, a starting point.

(For disclosure’s sake, I should add that I’ve started lists like this before: I’ll try, but cannot promise, to be maintaining this one. Just assume it’s a snapshot, useful primarily in the now and as an archive for future reference.)

I also can take only very partial credit for it since I asked Twitter for input. I love Twitter for this kind of stuff: Ask, and help shall be provided. My Twitter is a highly curated feed of smart, helpful people. (I understand that for many people Twitter feels very, very different. My experience is privileged that way.) A big thank you in particular to Sebastian Deterding, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, Dr. Laura James, Iskander Smit, and to others I won’t name because they replied via DM and this might have been a privacy-related decision. You know who you are – thank you!

Here are a bunch of excellent starting points to dig deeper, ranging from books to academic papers to events to projects to full blown reading lists. This list covers a lot of ground. You can’t really go wrong here, but choose wisely.

Projects & papers:

Organizations:

Books:

  • Everyware (Greenfield)
  • The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things (Sterling)
  • Weapons of Math Destruction (O’Neil)
  • Smart Cities (Townsend)
  • Future Ethics (Bowles)

Libraries, reading lists & lists of lists:

Notes on PADI digital services

N

For just about 10 years now, I’ve been a certified scuba diver. The certification is from the kindasorta industry standard certification organization PADI, who certified me as a so-called Open Water Diver.

In practice this means dive centers are allowed to rent me out diving equipment and services, and I’m allowed to go on dives by myself (or with a buddy) up to depths of 18 meters. It’s what most scuba divers start with. Then later on, you can build on that basis and add on modules – and hence certifications – for things like diving at night or in caves, or go on to become a trainer.

The badge model

For those of us in the web & tech world, this is a familiar model. It’s basically badges: Certain activities earn you a badge, a certain combination of badges level you up. It’s no coincidence this might sound familiar – the Mozilla Open Badges project has drawn inspiration from this model, and Joi Ito has very explicitly and extensively written about how his scuba diving experiences influence his thinking on badges and certification, starting here. (Alas, I can’t quite share his enthusiasm about the tools, but as I said, they didn’t age well. Add to that the bandwidth restrictions we are operating under on this trip, and it explains the different experience.)

It’s a good model. It works. But not all’s well in PADI Land.

(more…)

Snapshot: The Digital Agenda for the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities

S

Over the last few months it’s become painfully obvious – once more – that we’re not really set for the 21st century, policy-wise. This probably holds true globally except for very few exceptions, but it’s certainly true for Europe and particularly for Germany. It’s something I’ve been discussing with friends and peers for a while, and I’m more and more convinced that we need to collectively dig into getting the policy level right.

In our industry, and among the tech elite, there’s a widespread school of thought that politics move too slow to bother with, and that pushing ahead and just innovating (aka “doing our thing”) is the preferred way to go. There’s something to say for this mode of operation, too. But I think that we need to also get the actual policy right too, the laws, the codified rulebook that our society is based on.

Trying to collect my thoughts turned into a massive scribbling session.

 

Notes: Digital Agenda for the 21st Century

 

Notes: Digital Agenda for the 21st Century

 

Notes: Digital Agenda for the 21st Century

 

Here are the key policy areas I think need to be addressed as they came to me scribbling away. I tried to list key challenges and opportunities; this list is by no means complete – not even near to complete. It’s a snapshot of my thinking at this moment, in early October 2013, and a note to myself more than anything else. So if you see all the points that might seem out of context or just single words/references, that’s why. Much of it also focuses on a European/German context. Again, these are just quick notes.

I’m hoping that going forward I find the time to explore these areas further, beginning with more detailed blog posts, then let’s see where the path leads.

So here goes. Proceed at your own risk.

Key challenges for the 21st century

  • Education
  • New Work
  • Innovation
  • New Manufacture
  • Connected Cities & Things
  • Health, Tech & Data
  • Politics, Governance & Administration
  • Cyber Foreign Policy

Education

  • Budgets. We need to invest massively more into education at all levels.
  • Embrace technology, foster tech literacy (personally, culturally, institutionally)
  • Peer learning (student-student, teacher-teacher, teacher-student, student-teacher)
  • Collaborations & partnerships
    • domestic/international
    • Social Media Classroom
    • Hive Learning Network
    • Webmaker Movement
  • Alternative certification of knowledge & open access
    • Open badges, etc.
    • Open Educational Resources (OER)
    • MOOCs

New Work

  • Trend to more flexible work structure
    • Less full time employment, more part-time/project-based/freelance work
    • international mobility (global nomad elite/elite nomads). How to enable, empower, capture value?
  • Administration has to catch up
    • We need easier transition between systems
      • between countries/jurisdictions
      • between employment, freelance, alternative phases (family time, sabbaticals, education breaks, etc.)
      • between public/private systems (health insurance, social security)
      • pension plans & social security must follow the person around the globe (at least around Europe)
    • Social security for freelancers & other not-full-time-employed
    • Hubs/coworking spaces, etc., can revive and enrich buildings and neighborhoods. Embrace & foster them!

Innovation

  • Universities
    • Universities need massive budgets for applied research
      • Increase budgets
      • Foster cooperation with industry & non-profits
      • Foster trans-disciplinary cooperation & adjust budgeting processes accordingly
    • Increase cooperation between technical & design universities and departments
      • Create products and spin them off. Feed profits back to research.
      • Research and critically explore societal implications of technological innovation.
  • Fund experimentation and innovation
    • Create easy-to-tap innovation and founders funds & make it easy to raise money from distributed (non-VC) sources
  • Don’t regard political regulation as barrier but as creative constraint/framework to innovate withing
    • Example: Europe’s strict privacy laws are often regarded as a barrier to market entry by US companies. Rather, they can be an asset. Europe as data/privacy safe haven and privacy innovation cluster; home of privacy focused startups and services.
  • Update copyright, licensing, relationship between content creators, distributors, consumers/users.

New Manufacture

  • Germany is well positioned to play a leading role in new manufacturing (3D printing and related technologies)
    • But only one globally leading company in Munich, while most consumer-focused companies in the industry are based in US, UK or NL. Huge potential!
    • Foster collaborations with universities (like in the US), recognition as a policy priority (like in the UK).

Connected Cities & Things

  • Rules of engagement: Core philosophies of citizen/user empowerment are key.
  • Find & foster alternatives to authoritarian/top down models of “smart cities”
    • see Adam Greenfield’s work (Urbanscale, LSE)
      • empowerment instead of control
      • bottom up instead of top down
      • give citizens tools & control
  • Empower the organic networks of researchers & practicioners that exist outside big industry and universities
    • see critical & constructive informal networks exploring connected cities & devices
      • manifested in clusters like Silicon Roundabout/Tech City, or design school/lab Fabrica, built around small groups of committed individuals
      • Driven by practicioners, researchers & connectors like Dan Hill, Alexandra D-S, BERG, etc., who implement their philosophies of user empowerment in their design work/products/teaching each within their discipline
  • Can Europe play out its strength by empowerung these networks & structures?
    • plus a strong set of rules of data ownership/protection equivalent to privacy laws
    • more user/citizen centric power structures are possible

Health & Tech

  • Can Europe’s privacy laws be extended to other kinds of data/data ownership/open access?
  • Find the sweet spot at the intersection of
    1. Privacy/data ownershop/open data
    2. Body data/quantified self/personal analytics/health data
    3. Innovation
  • Potential of cluster in health tech built around these rules/ideals?

Politics, Governance & Administration

Most pressing issues/topics:

  • Legal framework needs to be updated to 21st century requirements
  • Net neutrality
  • Surveillance
  • Privacy
  • Governance, direct democracy, responsiveness
  • Transparency & open data
  • Digital inclusion
  • Update admin, processes (see gov.uk, nyc.gov)

Cyber Foreign Policy

  • Current focus of CFP in Germany is security/defense
  • How can a European version of 21st century statecraft evolve and work?
    • And who can be the actors/drivers?
    • see Ben Hammersley’s work
  • Merge and/or foster exchange between foreign policy/statecraft and innovation

 

Many, many big, gaping holes there, and lots of questions to explore and dig deeper. Hoping I can find the time and resources to do so in some way or another.

How to see through the cloud, translated

H

Over on the Mozilla Webmaker site, James Bridle wrote a brilliant piece that explains in very simple terms how to get a better understanding of the web at the most basic level – where the cables and buildings are located, and where our data travels: How to see through the cloud. It’s fantastic!

And since the whole point of the Webmaker project is to allow for quick and easy remixing – and the learning process associated with it – I took the liberty to translate it to German.

We talk about the cloud all the time, the seemingly ephemeral, almost magical place where our data lives and thrives. But only when the system fails and something doesn’t work do we notice that there’s a brick-and-mortar infrastructure that everything runs on. Cables, servers, concrete buildings. Heck, even my mom asked me about the cloud a few weeks ago, and what it looks like.

Well, thanks to James everyone can now just poke around the web and get a better understanding on where the cloud really lives, and how our data travels down the cables hopping from data center to data center.

You can find my translation over on the Webmaker site: Die Cloud durchschauen.

As a side note, if you want to learn in a playful, really not threatening way about how the web works, please go check out Mozilla Webmaker. It’s a fantastic resource and very, very simple to get into.

A discreet hotline for politicians to get tech advice. Worth doing?

A

We keep seeing politicians making decisions about technology and the web that seem odd and ill-informed.

In some cases, this might be due to lobbying, and that would be annoying. In other cases, it might be pure ignorance, and those I would chalk up as lost cases.

What would be the worst, though, is if a politian who is motivated and willing and just lacking the time to develop a deeper understanding makes a bad call, because of that’s preventable.

Politicians and their staffers work under immense time pressure. What’s more, they need to be informed about a huge number of topics, and the intricate, often complex details of how (for example) certain elements of the web work simply can’t get the amount of attention to grok it.

If a politician is high enough up in the proverbial foodchain, they might be able to muster the resources to have that research done. But not everybody can do that.

In the past I’ve often been the friend called by journalist and politics friends who needed a bit of trusted tech advice, and I’m always happy to give it. But not everybody is in a position to call a friend who knows this stuff.

Given the harsh, often ridiculing treatment politicians get when mentioning anything about the web online and getting even a tiny detail or reference wrong, I can almost understand why they don’t dare openly asking for advice. (Almost. But still. Nobody should be ridiculed for trying.)

So how about a hotline of sorts where politicians and their staffers can call for a quick briefing. Discreetly: Nobody but the two people on the line need to know. So they can ask away and need not risk being publicly mocked. In short time, they’d have a better understanding of how stuff works, and could make better informed decisions. A safe space to learn, in brief bursts of briefings.

Bonus: I think lobbyists would hate it, at least the one thriving on knowledge gaps on the politicians’ side. (Copyright lobby, I’m looking at you!)

Personally I wouldn’t mind setting aside an hour or two a week to have a few chats that way. And I’m sure we could find another half dozen of people, experts in their fields, trustworthy not to spill the details of these conversations.

Worth doing? [Y/N]

Thoughts about the MIT Media Lab Class Learning Creative Learning

T

Neighborhood Mario

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been following Mitchel Resnick’s Learning Creative Learning class at the MIT Media Lab online.

It’s a big experiment, trying to get the in-class experience online – and for free, too – and supplementing it with an online component that consists of groups in email lists, Google+ and any channels the groups might want to use additionally.

I’ve found the course to be a quite interesting experience. On one side, I found some aspects a bit frustrating, and on the other hand I’ve been enjoying it a great deal. Let me try to articulate the pros and cons so you can judge for yourself if this is for you.

The content and focus is great, and there are brilliant and fascinating guests. The in-class format consists mostly of a conversation between two people, a sort of dialog-slash-interview situation, which works fine. There are, of course, the tech problems you’d expect, like the occasional freeze or lag – once between the speakers and the class room (if contributing remotely, which seems the norm), and once between classroom and the remote attendee (ie. me or you). These tech problems, while a bit annoying at times, aren’t too bad. If you’ve survived conference calls on Skype before, you’re mentally equipped to follow a class on Google Hangout. So the “provided” content, while often on a meta level (after all, it’s a class on learning), is top notch.

Then there’s the interactive elements, and here’s where it gets more tricky. It’s a big online audience – I think I remember hearing the number 30K, or was it 40K? That’s a lot of people. They’re broken down into small groups, either self-organized if you put down a group name (I tried to get into “webmakers”), otherwise you’re assigned based on time zones. From what I can tell, groups seem to consist about maybe 15 people.

The mechanism to hook you up with the group is a mailing list – from then on in it’s up to the participants to coordinate. The “recommended” thing to do is start a Google+ community to complement the global G+ community (which has several thousand members).

Every week, there’s a bit of recommended reading/watching, and an exercise to share with your group. Which can be great, or it can become a bit of a problem. Because it’s clearly a course which you get much more out of the more you put in. Not a surprise really, and actually every class is like this, but since it’s designed around learning groups this is particularly true here. Now, for the oldest and lamest of reasons (little time & somewhat incompatible scheduling on my end) I’ve not really contributed much, and instead I’ve been pretty much lurking. Which isn’t a good thing and makes it entirely my fault I haven’t been getting as much out as I liked.

So I’ve been wondering: What could be a good, simple mechanism to help me and others in similar situations to get the group dynamic going?

Maybe a weekly shared watching experience in one room could help to connect, followed by a group discussion? This would at least cluster the time investment, making it easier to set aside a chunk for it. This would mean not watching the discussion live, but not being on the backchannel during the discussion doesn’t seem too much of a sacrifice compared to gaining a discussion group and the video recordings are perfectly fine.

Just thinking out loud – is this something that many folks in Berlin would be interested in? Let’s level up together.

Drumbeat: The Future of Education (and Video)

D

Drumbeat “Future of Education” Demo from David Humphrey on Vimeo.

The Drumbeat Festival in Barcelona is over, but my head is still buzzing. It was fantastic to see what happens when you drop a whole bunch of enthusiastic educators and geeks in one location and let them go crazy.

While I’m still processing all the things I saw and heard (Graffiti Research! Hackbus! Massively Multiplayer Thumbwrestling! Robots! Hastac! Peer-to-peer learning! Badges!), Gabriel Shalom and Brett Gaylor interviewed me, along with some others, for WebMadeMovies. I was asked about the future of education. (Funny thing – I was supposed to answer in German, but my brain kind of refused to. I felt –and sound– like I was reading out a Google Translation of myself. Aaanyway.)

What you see above is of course just a video of the demo. It’s much, much cooler out in the wild, when the Open aspect kicks in and the video can interact with the HTML outside. (Like here.)