Smart Society

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This morning’s Social Informatics presentation was from Mark Hartswood of Oxford University and our own Stewart Anderson on their latest European research project, which I think is called Smart Society (I am not quite sure because the project is so wet off the press it does not seem to have a web site). Scratching the web I found a web site describing the project as: “This project proposes a new generation of Collective Adaptive Systems centred on the two foundational notions of compositionality and diversity where humans and machines “compose” by synergically complementing each other and where they interoperate collectively to achieve their possibly conflicting goals both at individual and societal levels.” The lead figure in this project is Professor Jirotka of Oxford University, who was one of the participants in the breakout group on the social research implications of the Internet of Things held in Loughborough last year whose report I briefly mentioned last week. Her refractory resistance to seeing the social implications of the Internet of Things as being only related to issues of privacy and security became even clearer today. The Smart Societies project is addressing Collective Adaptive Systems that aim to integrate semantically the user with the data, with Mark and Stewart using the opportunity of today’s meeting to brainstorm potential social issues and relevant research literature. This is probably where the multidisciplinarity of the Social Infomatics group, with its mix of informatics, social STS and business academics, works best. Mark outlined thier inchoate taxonomy of social issues in semantic systems, and the group chewed over their cud like a herd of particularly diligent Holsteins. The discussion ranged across the politics of search, the significance of cultural values, the imapct of systems on labour, the impact of systems on personal relationships, social sorting and the accommodation of conflicting values. All of this before 11 a.m. If anyone can draw this range of issues into a coherent framework they will be doing very well, but Mark, Stewart and Marina are very much the team to do this.

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