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A portal for our society
- A personal online environment fostering social, educational, and professional communities -
Thieme Hennis, BSc.1 - 1052381 email@example.com Delft University of Technology, December 2006
In this paper is an attempt is made to describe the design principles of design requirements of a portal where knowledge sharing and collaboration is stimulated and directed by flexible employment, meanwhile meeting requirements on innovative visions on education, professional development, and societal trends. Changes and trends, initiatives and concepts, ideas and new paradigms, are explained in this paper, and ultimately connected to provide an overview of the portal of tomorrow. This portal tries to place the free exchange of ideas and online collaboration in an psychological and economical rewarding environment. The source of competition will not consist of building fences around information resources to protect knowledge, but rather the opposite: sharing and open online collaboration! Starting with education, an elaboration is done on Open Educational Resources, on networked learning, and on new paradigms, such as “Connectivism” (Siemens). More and more educational resources are freely available on the Web. At the same time, classical ways of teaching are being supported by and transformed to online learning, social interaction, blogging and more. The learning activity is becoming more (inter)active, aligned to context, and fun. The proposal then continues with employment matters. New and upcoming initiatives and concepts are discussed, such as online marketplaces (e-lance economy), communities of practice, and social learning systems. These initiatives direct to more open and flexible ways of employment, and to the importance of lifelong learning. Another strong force concerns Open Source Software communities, their impact in society, but maybe even more important, their development and governance models, and whether these are applicable in other environments as well. A third trend concerns the social networks and the influence of folksonomies in creating a “Semantic Web”. The economic market will be highly aligned to, and play a much greater role in directing educational content and research. Vice versa this implies the collaborative shaping of the economy by finding opportunities to apply specific knowledge of connected persons. People will share and make value out of their specific knowledge on the web (“the Long Tail” of educational resources), through open educational resources, wikis, weblogs or any other open medium, rather than confining it to one or few institutions. The paper combines several initiatives, and tries to paste the result in our new connective world, corresponding with the relative trends, resulting in an imaginative portal that may change our society. This portal will give anyone the opportunity to connect with people and resources of interest, to employ and be employed, to share and make use of knowledge, to judge and be judged by others. People will manifest themselves by helping others, and sharing information, and by doing that, making themselves more worth. That is why sharing will be the source of competition: the value you have created for others.
Master of Science student in System Engineering, Policy Analysis and Management at the Faculty Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology.
A portal for our society
community of practice, social communities, open educational resources, social learning networks, connectivism, open source software, rating, tagging, e-portfolio, folksonomies, life-long learning, Semantic Web, e-lance economy, online marketplaces.
Time magazine made ‘You’ Person of the Year 2006, and in doing that it recognizes the changing patterns within our society, fueled by the Internet and its technologies. “It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes. […] The new Web is a very different thing. It’s a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. […] We’re looking at an explosion of productivity and innovation, and it’s just getting started, as millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity get backhauled into the global intellectual economy.” – Time Magazine, 13 December 2006 – A number of strong forces and trends in our new networked society will be elaborated in this paper, and the synergy and power of combining and connecting these into one open portal will be described. For connected people, this portal may be the quickest door to employment, to information, to education, and to people. There are currently several beautiful initiatives and trends, but all stand-alone and without much interrelation, even though enormous synergy can be created by doing that, helping society as a whole. The forces and trends to be described, not surprisingly, relate to education, employment, and online (social and professional) networks and communities. The goal of this paper is to explain a very comprehensive concept, and give an overview of the relevant literature, initiatives, societal issues and trends. Through elaboration on current trends and innovations, and combining them, a number of research subjects are formulated for creating an open online portal where the following matters are essential; 1. 2. 3. Communities: Communities of professional, educational and social interest can be created and evolve organically; The long tail: Even the smallest information objects and most specific of people’s skills and knowledge can be addressed, used, turned into something valuable for both user and producer; Roles: People teach, learn, connect, socialize, research, come up and solve problems collaboratively, create and are responsible of their own and community value, and have different roles (at the same time), depending on their skills or knowledge; Societal context, innovation and employment: Institutions, such as companies, universities, government agencies or even individuals, are part of communities, give direction to research and providing direct employment, keeping communities alive. In an open and collaborative environment innovation is fostered, which is the source of productivity and employment; Creating value: The popularity of a specific community depends on the value it creates for its members and connected institutions (and society), which in its turn depends on the activities of its members. Rewarding mechanisms: It is crucial that there are mechanisms that reward efforts, and that the rewards depend on the value created. These mechanisms should enhance collaboration, cooperation, and sharing of knowledge and experiences and fight free-rider behavior; Structure, quality, trust: A crucial role is reserved for structuring objects through tag-based folksonomies, the creation and preservation of quality and reliability by evaluation of any object, by people, and the subsequent creation of trust;
A portal for our society 8. Online portfolio: all activities of members, all remarks, all evaluations, all educational and professional experiences are part of a person’s online portfolio, which will be a representation of the person self. This will make it easier for employers to do specific searches, and making better connections.
The issues described above form an initial step towards defining the portal generically. It should be a personalized website, where users can connect with other people and organizations, in order to learn, find work, or to employ people. Users have multiple identities (employer, mentor, student, advisor, etc.), depending on their capabilities, position, interests and context. They can increase their own value by sharing information, collaborating, and helping people. The increase of value may be rewarded in the end through employment or paid assignments, but many other financial and non-financial rewards are possible as well. It connects mechanisms from online freelance marketplaces with Open Source Software communities, and uses tag-based folksonomies to structure, connect, and find objects. Other social software will stimulate the collaboration, communication and sharing within and between people, communities and organizations. Free educational resources will improve the learning possibilities, and Free and Open Source Software will form the technical foundation of all interactions. The ‘You’ meant by Time Magazine relates mostly to media power, the ‘You’ possibly created by the portal concerns personal control in creating and manipulating personal education and employment. Schools or universities will not decide upon the content and form of your education, but you will, through connection with people and online resources. Companies will have less power over when, where, and how you work, but you control the work you do, you choose your employer(s), or rather be your own by selling your specific competences to interested parties. You will eventually be responsible for your own work, education, and value.
Content of paper
The following chapters, 3 to 5, will elaborate on current relative issues in the areas education, employment, and social networks respectively, based on literature in these fields. Subsequently, in chapter 5.3 a preliminary overview is given of a combination of these trends and issues, and put into the concept. Implications of such a portal, and the mentioned trends, are explained in chapter 7. The final section of this chapter is dedicated to draw some preliminary conclusions and to depict the structure of the concept into research areas. The following index shows the content of the paper: A portal for our society......................................................................................................................................................1 1 Summary......................................................................................................................................................................1 2 Introduction.................................................................................................................................................................2 3 Trends in Education....................................................................................................................................................3 4 Trends in Employment...............................................................................................................................................8 5 Trends in social networks and the Semantic Web................................................................................................12 6 Combination of trends..............................................................................................................................................14 7 Towards a portal for our society.............................................................................................................................15 8 Literature....................................................................................................................................................................18
Trends in Education
The ‘Information Age’ has brought some huge changes in the way we think, work and act, but the way we learn is still resembles the Industrial Age, with educational institutions as industrial disseminators of knowledge. This is changing though, and some powerful forces, such as the existence of a number of high quality Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) communities for education, in combination with the many initiatives regarding Open Educational Resources (OER), are essential ingredients of this change. Another strong current regards the use of many available Internet-services for education, which may lead to new learning paradigms. The following two sections of this chapter will deal with FOSS and different OERinitiatives respectively. The final section will address new learning paradigms and a description of the future learner, according to current literature.
Thieme Hennis Page 3 09-Feb-08
A portal for our society
Open Educational Resources
… use information technology to help equalize access to knowledge and educational opportunities across the world… -- Open Educational Resources Initiative, Hewlett Foundation – When in earlier days learning resources were considered as key intellectual property and competitive instruments, more and more institutions and individuals choose the path of making educational resources freely available on the Internet. These initiatives, growing in number and forms, are called Open Educational Resources (OER), and defined as the “Open provision of educational resources, enabled by information and communication technologies, for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for non-commercial purposes.” OER includes Learning Content, Tools (software), and Implementation resources [Hylén, 2005].
Types of OER and dimensions
OER initiatives can be typified by the dimensions scale, provider and discipline. An example of a large scale initiative and institution-based is the Open Course Ware (OCW) project of MIT. Initiatives not only differ in size, but in the provider of the resources as well; some are community based, such as Wikipedia and in a lesser degree MERLOT (submitted material is subjected to centralized peer reviews). Other hybrid forms exist as well, and the best example is Rice University’s Connexions, which combine its institutional resources and potential with contributions from external people and institutions. All modules should stand on its own, so it can be used in different courses and contexts. Another interesting feature is the assignment of different roles for contributors.2 It seems that another multi-million dollar initiative, OpenLearn of Open University UK, is following this path as well by dividing their websites in a LearnSpace (institution) and LabSpace (community). The final dimension regards the fact whether an initiative addresses only one discipline, or multiple.
An important question to be answered is of course; why? What are the reasons for institutions and individuals for spending resources for giving away something that used to be competitively advantageous? Reasons for involvement of institutions range from altruistic (knowledge should be available for all) to more selfish ones (publicity & marketing, peer-network, need for new business models). The most common reason for participation of individuals is the free access to the best available educational resources and to have more flexible materials. The four most important barriers for involvement in production of open content, according to the OECD/CERI study on Open Educational Resources, are a lack of (i) time, (ii) reward system, (iii) skills, and (iv) a viable business model [Attwell, 2005]. The portal, described by this paper, contains a sustainable business model that assumes the community as a foundation for viability, with institutions and individuals part of the community. Besides, it will open a door to any kind of discipline, scientific or not.
Hylén (2005) describes three challenges that the OER movement is facing and will face, concerning; 1. 2. 3. Copyright issues; open content licenses. Quality assurance; level of centralization and openness. Sustainability; institution or community based model.
A portal for our society There are still some difficult issues concerning copyright. The making available of educational resources is also a task of re-licensing these resources. A large role can be assigned to newer open content licenses such as the popular Creative Commons license.3 Regarding quality assurance, three approaches are mentioned, which concern the institution as final responsible organ (closed and centralized), quality assurance by means of peer review (open and centralized), and the final (open and decentralized) approach, which leaves the individual as the judge, assuming quality a contextual phenomenon. This last option is very diverse and might seem difficult to implement, but can be found back in many ‘social’ websites, such as digg.com and technorati.com. Folksonomies (chapter 5) and rating systems can play a significant role in creating a sustainable quality assurance model following the last approach. Sustainability, the final issue by which initiatives are challenged, has two models, the institution based, and community based model. Sustainability deals mainly with financial issues concerning the setup, maintenance, and development of an OER initiative. Downes (2006a) has described a number of models of sustainability addressing the first, centralized approach, but concludes that “Centralizing open educational services is less scalable/sustainable. Decentralizing them is more scalable/sustainable.” Clearly a number of difficult issues surround the community model, but because scalability and flexibility are crucial issues, and the community model addresses the foundation of the concept of the portal, the focus will be on the community model.
Free and Open Source Software for education (FOSS)
The foundation on which the portal is built is technology; hardware and software. Hardware is not the focus of this paper, because apart from specialized applications, hardware has become a commodity where capabilities are no longer a distinctive factor. Still, it is worth mentioning that the access to the Internet is increasing rapidly, and initiatives such as Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project (launching in July 2007) will only reinforce this trend [Stecklow, 2005]. This section will shortly deal with the impact and importance of Open Source Software (OSS) communities. This is significant in two ways: not only are we able to learn from successful open source communities in setting up a sustainable portal, but the software supporting it is preferred to be open source as well. The latter statement is merely from an ethical or idealistic point of view: two important foundations on which the portal is built, are openness and power to the user to create and alter its personal environment. This should then also count for the software, allowing the community to alter it according to its own standards and views.
Reasons for Open Source Software
According to a European Commission study on the use of Open Source Software, quality issues came out as the most important in favor of OSS. Also security, ownership and effort, price and numerous other issues are reasons for using and developing OSS [Attwell, 2005]. On the other hand, there are numerous authors who discuss the negative economical side of Open Source Software, such as total cost of ownership, training needs, administration expenses [Fuggetta, 2003; Wheeler, 2003]. Griffiths and Amatriain (2004) address the ethical issues concerning OSS; “Because of the fact that software infrastructure and tools have significant impact on the organizations of institutions and the processes which they support, and consequently they should be under the control of the communities that use them.” Also: “Free software can ensure that appropriate tools are available at all levels, so that users can take control of the environment which they use.”
Open Source Software for education
Some large-scale OSS projects focusing on education are Moodle, Sakai, Drupal, ATutor eduCommons, and Dokeos. Several others are more popular in specific regions, providing a more simple solution. Generally speaking these OS platforms offer the same functionalities as closed source products like Blackboard or WebCT, but are more flexible, because of their openness. The message here is that software technology to deliver, store and manage educational material is abundantly available, and open. Attwel (2005) argues that to fully exploit this new period of open innovation in education, new relationships between software
A portal for our society engineers and the education community are required. These closer relationships will then create better alignment between the educational needs, and the technical solutions.
New learning paradigms and future education
It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry. -- Albert Einstein – New internet technologies have not left the education sector untouched. Millions of dollars have been pumped into e-learning solutions, and many initiatives have started to ‘do something’ with e-learning. The results were sometimes disappointing, because ‘old’ learning paradigms and educational theories were applied on these new technologies. Baumgartner (2005) summarizes these current pedagogical models of education, and relates them to different educational environments and content management systems. He concludes that weblogs have the potential to revolutionize the organizational structure of traditional teaching environments, being the only tools oriented to the subjective world of the learner. They also have the tendency to cross the boundaries of teaching environments as they organize discussions across a network of people. In reality, education has changed only very insignificantly, and the majority of learning is based on theories and approaches which do not address the full potential of the internet, related technologies, and the new generation of learners, so-called n-generation or digital natives. Even a lot of e-learning happens according to old models, taking the form of online courses. As a consequence, the current learning technology in the form of Learning Management Systems (LMS), take these paradigms as a starting point [Downes 2006b].
Next generation or digital natives
One of the most persuasive trends is the changing nature of internet users, the growing next-generation, or digital natives. New users are more autonomous, and differ in the way they act and react, approach problems, learn, and play. “They have also learned how to navigate efficiently and effectively through information, how to communicate, and how to build effectively on a network of peers. Experiencing these digital information flows, kids develop an exploratory learning approach trying to give meaning to the information provided” [Veen, 2005]. These trends around this new type of learner become apparent in the learner-centered design, where the learning is put in the hands of the learner itself. As Downes (2005a) puts it: “Learning is characterized not only by greater autonomy for the learner, but also a greater emphasis on active learning, with creation, communication and participation playing key roles, and on changing roles for the teacher, indeed, even a collapse of the distinction between teacher and student altogether”.
As mentioned before, traditional learning methods are applied in our online environment. The usefulness of instructional technologies depends on the ability to individually tailor the instruction, which is very costly when considering these current learning theories. Online self-organizing social systems (OSOSS), as discussed by Wiley (2002), overcome these problems. Elaborating on this, and declaring learning as networkcreation, Siemens (2005) has come up with connectivism, a new paradigm more suitable for our chaotic and information-intensive world. This paradigm, and similar ones, such as navigationism [Brown, 2005], take on the challenge to cope with enormous amounts of knowledge (becoming) available. Knowledge resides in the network as a whole - the physical network composed of people (learners, teachers and practitioners) and machines, and not in any given part of the network. They go a step further than (social) constructivism by emphasizing the importance of connecting to the right information, when you need it, and to discover patterns. It also stresses the decision making process concerning the usefulness of information, the ability to quickly evaluate data. The ‘role’ of the teacher is to coach the learners in HOW to navigate - to be their
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A portal for our society mentor in the skills and competencies required in the knowledge era. It does not claim that current learning theories are useless, but that a shift in focus, towards the externalization of knowledge, should take place. The learner is a part of a network of learners and specialized communities, and the making of useful connections within that network becomes more important than the internalization of knowledge proclaimed by other learning theories. The openness of information and resources is crucial in the creation of these kinds of learning networks. Downes (2005b) adds to that; “The communications approach presupposes (at least in part) that there is some entity, a 'teacher', in whom the knowledge resides; the process of learning is therefore a facilitation of channels of communication between teacher and learner (at a minimum). But if knowledge resides in the network as a whole, it is much less clear that there is sense to be made of the role of the 'teacher', much less of creating a channel through which the knowledge provided by a teacher can flow.” These thoughts are currently put in practice several bigger and smaller scale open source educational projects, such as the EU-funded iCamp [Fumero, 2005].
Downes (2005a) claims that; “…the structures and organization that characterized life prior to the Internet are breaking down… Passive has become active. Disinterested has become engaged. The new Internet user may not vote, but that is only because the vote is irrelevant when you govern yourself.” Web 2.0 technologies or social software (Boyd, 2003), in the form of blogging, wikis, podcasts, syndication standards and aggregation services, tagging services and social network services like Orkut, MySpace, Hyves and many more entail not (just) a technological revolution, but even a social revolution. Learning objects are being syndicated and aggregated, remixed and repurposed by students, rather than being composed, organized and packaged top-down. Education happens through an interlocking set of open-source applications, rather than traditional enterprise learning-management systems. Games, simulations, mobile learning, and ubiquitous computing are important issues to consider in designing future learning environments. “Learning and living, it could be said, will eventually merge” [Downes, 2005a]. Will Richardson, a respected edu-blogger, explains in an online letter to his kids why they don’t have to go to college, describing crucial issues as passion for learning, connectivism and informal learning, and relevancy.4
Lifelong Learning, Virtual Learning Communities and Personal Learning Environments
The previous section introduces the well known, but not ubiquitously applied concept of lifelong learning. With this concept in mind, Allan and Lewis (2006) describe the influence of membership of a Virtual Learning Community (VLC) on individual learning careers and professional identity. The four year study concludes that through the process of engaging in a VLC, individuals may change their change their ‘horizons of action’ leading to new learning and career trajectories. It stresses the importance of the comfort zone, of trust and fun, present in such communities. Their research though is aimed at a more traditional way of forming a community; initiated by an institution, which is not the starting point of this article. More learner centered, is the emergence of e-portfolios, an online collection consisting of electronic educational and professional evidence (including text files, images, multimedia, blog entries, Web links etc.) assembled and managed personally by a user. E-portfolios, and the more comprehensive Personal Learning Environment (PLE), supported by social software, offer a portal where learners can explore and create, according to their own interests and directions, interacting at all times with their friends and community. Learning and educating become as much social as cognitive, as much concrete as abstract, intertwined with judgment and exploration [Downes, 2006b]. Back to reality: a recent article by de Laat et al. (2006) describes the current researches and literature concerning Networked Learning (NL). It shows that many practical issues regarding tasks, roles of students and teachers, use of resources and reward structures, and the meaning of social or group learning remain unclear.
A portal for our society
Wrapping up trends in education
This paragraph will emphasize shortly the most important educational trends discussed. Information, put into a didactical format, of high quality, and for all levels, is made available online by more and more institutions and individuals. These open educational resources (OER) are mostly licensed by the Creative Commons license or some other open content license, which means that anyone can use and change them for non-profit purposes. The technological foundation is formed by Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), making the conversion of data into didactical information not only easier, but also cheaper, more flexible, and in the hands of the community. Web 2.0 Internet-applications, in the form of weblogs, wikis, e-portfolios, and other social software, have caused a shift in thinking amongst educators, and new learning paradigms, such as Siemens’ connectivism, are finding a bigger audience. The personal learning environment, connecting and navigating in a network of information and people, is more important than the active and cognitive learning we do now, at school or at work. Living, working and education will merge. In short, the trends in education can be wrapped up as follows; 1. Educational resources of high quality and different disciplines, in didactical format or not, are becoming freely available, but viable and sustainable business models to keep supporting this trend are lacking. 2. Software supporting the creation and management of learning objects is freely available, open source, and of high quality. 3. Web 2.0 Internet-applications or social software, in the form of blogging, wikis, podcasts, syndication standards and aggregation services, tagging services and social network services, is changing the way we learn significantly, and new learning paradigms, such as connectivism, are much more applicable for this new learning methods. Still, because of its novelty, the impact of these technologies is not investigated in great depth yet.
Trends in Employment
Billions of connected individuals can now actively participate in innovation, wealth creation, and social development in ways we once only dreamed of. And when these masses of people collaborate they collectively can advance the arts, culture, science, education, government, and the economy in surprising but ultimately profitable ways. Companies that engage with these exploding Web-enabled communities are already discovering the true dividends of collective capability and genius. —Don Tapscott, Wikinomics (2006) –
After discussing educational issues, it seems easy to make the step to a more professional environment. However, as concluded in the last section, working and learning and living will merge, in our new, open society. Hence, because this article deals with our future society, this step is difficult to make. Nonetheless, an attempt is done to define current trends in professional environments and employment, by touching upon current and upcoming matters as communities of practice and networked learning. Some successful online initiatives concerning employment will play an important role in this section as well.
Communities of practice and social learning systems
In social learning systems, a person’s competence is socially defined. Communities of practice can be considered basic building blocks of social learning systems, forming the containers of the competences of which these systems are composed. Wenger (2000) describes the implications of participation in learning systems on three levels; individual level, community level, and organizational level. On the individual level, it means finding the dynamic set of communities they should belong to, centrally and peripherally, and to fashion a meaningful trajectory through these communities over time. For communities of practice, the emphasis is put on finding the right balance between core and boundary processes.
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A portal for our society Analogizing this to organizations, it implies a need to learn to cultivate knowledge and participate in social learning systems, which are by nature not confined to one organization or industry, both inside and outside organizational boundaries. “In these learning systems, organizations find the talents they need, new ideas, technological developments, best practices, and learning partners…  In a knowledge economy, sustained success for any organization will depend on effective participation in economic markets, but, just as importantly and with many of the same players, on knowing how to participate in broader social learning systems.”
Soekijad et al. (2004) show that indeed this broader learning environment, or inter-organizational communities of practice, can be successful, but claim that without some managerial input and initiative from a ‘CoreTeam’ the results would be less positive. Especially in situations where competing parties cooperate, central sponsorship and risk sharing among the parties is required.
Innovation and Trust
Tapscott and Williams (2006) describe profound changes in the nature of technology, demographics, and the global economy that give rise to new powerful models of production based on community, collaboration, and self-organization, rather than on hierarchy and control. Castells (2001) argues that in a network economy, organizations are dynamic, horizontally structured, and flat networked entities within a dynamic ecosystem, linking to other firms, manufacturers and people. He extends this concept to innovation, which, in a network economy, is the product of a global, collective intellect, which cannot be matched by any single R&D department. The path dependency characteristic of the application of an innovation means that technological trajectories tend to follow the path marked by this innovation. When an innovation has been generated, this characteristic will give an advantage to those who participated in the networked process of innovation, the early adopters and discoverers. In section 4.4 Open Source Software communities are described, which is a perfect example of the points made above. Stephenson (1998) takes a more personal level approach on innovation; “ … tacit knowledge is the source of innovation. A catalyst for the creation of tacit knowledge is trust. Unarticulated, tacit knowledge can find expression in collegial discussions with others, in which experiences are shared. This knowledge transfer is subtle and mediated by the trust among colleagues. Thus, trust is the medium and knowledge the message.”
E-Lance economy and the Long Tail
In an e-lance economy, the fundamental unit is not the corporation, but the individual. Tasks are not assigned and controlled through a stable chain of management, but rather are carried out autonomously by independent contractors. These freelancers join together into fluid and temporary networks to produce and sell goods and services. -- Tom Malone, The Future of Work (2004) – Malone & Laubacher (1998) coined the term ‘e-lance economy’, meaning an economy largely based on temporary organizations of individuals that emerge and dissolve when business opportunities arise and disappear, and where IT serves to link individual nodes. An e-lancer, or electronically connected freelancer, is described as entrepreneur, independent contractor, freelancer, independent consultant, or contingent worker. This kind of self-employment is becoming mainstream, and provides a number of advantages. Being employed by several employers at the same time creates more security, and opens more windows of opportunity [Florzak, 2002]. Online marketplaces, such as Rent-a-coder, eWork, eLance Online, Guru.com and oDesk, use this concept, providing outsourcing possibilities for anyone, from individuals to organizations. An online market is defined as an inter-organizational information system through which multiple buyers and sellers interact to accomplish one or more of the following market-making activities:
A portal for our society identifying potential trading partners; selecting a specific partner; and executing the transaction [Choudhury et al. 1998]. These marketplaces, of which a standard exchange is Fee + shown in Figure 1, provide users with a similar set of Free Register commission functionalities, such as catalogues of suppliers, project Buyer Supplier pricing and allocation by means of reverse auctions, settlement of payments, workspace, and supplier Auction rating and feedback systems [Snir & Hitt, 2003]. This Start (open or Respond type of employment is increasing rapidly; in early invite) 2006 Rent a Coder was facilitating over 12 thousand IT projects while enjoying a 60% yearly growth, while Select 1 or Deliver eLance Online has conducted transactions for over multiple winners Service USD 90 million since the marketplace launched in delivery 1999. Not just individuals are connected on the marketplace, but companies are making money through this online medium as well. Some of them, Rating and Assign Receive connected on eLance Online, report earnings higher feedback than $500.000, and one specific company already made Figure 1 - Standard marketplace exchange more than a million US dollars.5 Problems concerning transaction costs, the need for third parties for control or arbitration, product and payment uncertainties and opportunistic behavior are all addressed by these online markets. In principle, online marketplaces can enable smarter buying by providing buyers with advice, standardized processes, and reference projects. They take on the transaction governance role by setting transaction rules and assuming the arbitration function and provide rating and feedback tools that help distinguish reliable and reputable participants from lower quality participants and potential opportunists [Radkevitch et al, 2006]. By doing this, they considerably lower transaction costs and provide smaller companies with some economies of scale advantages that bigger companies have. Still, the applicability of the concept does not depend on the size, but more on the type of transaction. Currently, the majority of the services are IT-related, but that need not be. One can think of similar transactions concerning almost any product or service, which might include the exchange of knowledge between individuals as well as institutions. Not only do the mentioned mechanisms lead to low transaction costs, but they enhance the level of customization and possibilities of providing feedback. The roles one takes in such an environment can change from supplier to customer, depending on the context. The Long Tail refers to a an economic paradigm where a few hits or blockbusters (the high volume end of a traditional demand curve) do not make the core of business models anymore. Rather, it addresses ‘the Long Tail’ of that same curve, the products and services which now, because of the Web, have a global reach [Anderson, 2006]. Amazon and Netflix are examples of successful businesses following this line of thought. The link with personal knowledge and expertise is drawn easily. The Long Tail of people may, through online marketplaces, be addressed, in a much more flexible and fast way than according to traditional economic and employment models.
Open Source Software Communities
I figure that since proprietary software developers use copyright to stop us from sharing, we cooperators can use copyright to give other cooperators an advantage of their own: they can use our code. – Richard Stallman –
A portal for our society Literature on Open Source Software (OSS) Communities can provide a lot of useful information for designing or governing the portal described by this paper. Wendel de Joode et al. (2006) propose a number of hypotheses about the relation between openness and reliability in an Open Source Community, which concern the percentage of developers that in fact use the software, the control of information, and the popularity of the software. Figure 2 contains the initial framework explaining the relation between openness and reliability. In my eyes OSS communities have Producers paved the way for the development of are other types of products and services, in consumers the way they are developed, and how they have helped and are aligned to the needs of society. OSS communities Free flow of Openness Reliability have developed crucial software; information almost 70% of the Web servers are run by OSS Apache6, Linux forms the operating system for many servers, High computers, handhelds, and other popularity devices and, as mentioned earlier, the whole OER movement is built on OSS. Numerous businesses are founded on Figure 2 - Framework openness-reliability within OSS communities and are making money out of OSS, (Wendel de Joode et al. 2006) such as IBM. Benkler (2006) states: “It is a new mode of production emerging in the middle of the most advanced economies in the world— those that are the most fully computer networked and for which information goods and services have come to occupy the highest-valued roles.” To illustrate the increasing economical importance of Open Source Software, the following figure is shown, concerning the increase of revenues at IBM because of Linux-related services, being more significant than the declining IP (Intellectual Property) revenues. Castells (2001), with his argument about path dependency and the advantage of participation, seems right in this respect.
Figure 3 - Selected IBM Revenues, 2000–2003
Still, the question on why people would cooperate and put time in such communities, has not been answered in this article. Why would people cooperate? How will they be rewarded? How is quality maintained? And opportunistic behavior minimized? Lerner and Tirole (2000) assume that programmers are motivated not only by intrinsic aspects, i.e. engaging in an activity out of pure pleasure, but also have in mind the signaling knowledge to potential employers of profit-oriented companies, which is more extrinsic. The motivation of
A portal for our society managers in OSS projects, as well as of programmers can be traced back to career plans, which makes the reputation one has within a community so essential [Lattemann and Stieglitz, 2005]. Another important issue relevant within the Open Source Software (OSS), addressed by Pekka Himanen (2001), concerns the values and way of living proliferated by hackers, opposing the current Protestant and capitalist spirit, that “is based on the exploitation of scientific communism.” This means that companies nowadays seize information freely provided by others, yet keeping information discovered by them, resulting in an ethical quandary. The hacker ethic refers to a certain way of thinking and living, a certain attitude, not to any kind of technology (a gardener can be a hacker). People following this line of thought are enthusiastically sharing thoughts and ideas, connecting with each other to create things collaboratively and freely. The portal, described in this paper, addresses these ethical foundations and values, rewarding the sharing of knowledge not only psychologically, but more important: economically as well, without harming these fundamental ethical foundations and values.
Wrapping up employment trends
In a network economy, companies (and other institutions) become more and more horizontally structured, more and more dynamic, towards flat networked organizations, linking to other firms, manufacturers and people. Although it requires a significant cultural change, many organizations start to see the benefits of opening up, of collaborating. Communities of practice and learning networks, supported by IT, are set up within and between organizations, and across different disciplines. These kinds of collaboration are crucial for innovation in the network economy. Transaction costs of outsourcing have decreased immensely by online marketplaces, opening up a whole new market and new ways of easy, quick and online employment. These marketplaces have proved to be successful in providing high quality services, trust, and low transaction costs. Work will become more part-time, temporary, project-based, subcontracted, flexible, and consulting-oriented. People will need to be flexible and able to transform knowledge into workable, useful information. Selflearning becomes more important, or maybe essential if one tries to be successful. In this future, companies need a flexible workforce. The solution is that people educate themselves, by using the Internet and connecting to people and organizations, and distinguish themselves on it with concluded education, work experience, and other social and work-related information, creating their own value. The link with current educational trends is easily drawn. Open Source Software communities are indispensable in our economy, not only backing most of our servers and many other electronic devices, but increasingly also as a means of making money. Besides, the values and ethics of openness, sharing, passion, excellence, and freedom, propagated by the FOSS movement might form a desirable spirit in our information age, not only from an ethical perspective, but from an economical as well. Is this ‘Hacker Ethic’ applicable within our connected society? What does it mean for business and employment?
Trends in social networks and the Semantic Web
The web is more a social creation than a technical one. I designed it for a social effect — to help people work together — and not as a technical toy. The ultimate goal of the Web is to support and improve our web-like existence in the world. We clump into families, associations, and companies. We develop trust across the miles and distrust around the corner. – Tim Berners-Lee –
A portal for our society As can be read in the last two sections on educational and professional trends, some of the key issues in our next decade are: Learning networks, communities of practice, connecting, opening up, sharing knowledge in a network, collaboration across organizational boundaries, e-lance economy. Karen Stephenson (2005) describes six knowledge networks, including the Work Network, Social Network, Innovation Network, Expert Knowledge Network, Strategic or Career Guidance Network, and Learning Network. People can play roles as mentor, expert, friend, colleague, switching between to these networks, some of which already have been discussed in earlier chapters. This section will deal with social networks, and another very important force, folksonomies.
This short section will deal with social networks, which are important and relevant enough for the described portal to be included in this paper. A social network is a collection of individuals linked together by a set of relations (Downes, 2005c). Social network sites, such as MySpace, Hyves, Friendster, Flickr, FaceBook, and Orkut have grown larger over the years, but this growth seems to stagnate (Aquino, 2005). It can be argued then, that social networking, in vacuo, is not that useful. On the other hand, when specific goals form the basis of the network, such as in LinkedIn, which seeks to connect potential business partners or prospective employers with potential employers, practical use is more apparent. Another similar useful tool is Illumio, where search for people with expertise (of any kind) over the Web is made easy.7 Social networks can have other useful purposes, such as learning and researching, as has been argued in the educational section. An example of a learning community is ElggSpaces.8 Social networks should be part of the research, increasing the viability of communities participating in the portal. When learning networks and communities of practice still, in many cases, find solace within one organization or discipline, social networks connect people of all kinds, and on a very much liberal and active basis. Because of that, these networks may be of great importance for the portal, which should enable people to form social relationships within a network, not only based on shared professional interests, but on friendship and other social ties.
Another strong force, changing the internet nowadays, is the use of folksonomies. A folksonomy is an Internetbased information retrieval methodology consisting of collaboratively generated, open-ended labels that categorize content such as Web pages, online photographs, and Web links.9 Authors of the labeling system, referred to as tagging or tags, are the main users of the content to which they are applied. They can structure specific objects, assigning tags to documents, media, weblogs, anything. Tagging has the potential to produce social networks, which are based not on only on friendship, but on shared interest as well. Golder and Huberman (2005) have demonstrated that tagged bookmarks may be valuable to describe and organize how web documents interact with one another, not only individually, but in aggregate as well. Many sites, and especially blogging sites, such as Technorati.com, support collaborative tagging, providing a strong basis for studying computer mediated collaborative systems. It may even be a giant leap forward to the creation of the Semantic Web, where every Web page, and smaller objects within it, contains metadata describing its content. Another very interesting initiative is 43things.com, where people can fill in 43 (or less) goals they have. These goals, expressed in tags, are then connected to people with the same goals, and you are able to communicate and help each other, or do nothing.10 This mechanism is perfect for finding people on a social website with similar educational or professional interests.
http://www.illumio.com/ http://elgg.net/ 9 Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folksonomy 10 http://www.43things.com/
A portal for our society
Wrapping up trends in social networks and the Semantic Web
This section has described some highly influential forces on the Web, social networks and folksonomies, and their relevance for the research. Social networks, when backed with a specific purpose, can increase the viability of communities. Links and relationships are established on a bottom-up fashion, and people form social relationships within a network, not only based on shared professional interests, but on friendship and other social ties. Tag-based folksonomies can be the perfect instrument to structure objects within the Web, enhancing the possibility to create networks based on not only friendship, but on shared interest as well.
Combination of trends
We have now seen some significant trends in education and employment, and some important initiatives have been described concerning social networks, and folksonomies. Governance structures and reliability issues in Open Source Software Communities have been discussed. The combination of these trends may provide an input for designing an open portal as discussed in the introduction.
Dimensions of portal
Based on the literature and conclusions mentioned above, I specified some dimensions that classify the trends mentioned above and scored the trends according to this classification. The result of this can be found in Table 1. Note that this is not a formal classification but a subjective one, which means that further study is necessary to present a more objective picture. Also, the classification system itself may be improved. My objective is to create an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of the concepts as applied to the creation of a single encompassing portal. The following dimensions have been specified, the recurring italic texts following the dimensions describe the preferred or ideal state. Viability; is the initiative or concept viable, i.e. can it support and develop itself without funding? The portal should be viable by generating employment and learning opportunities for its users. It will take persons and communities as a starting point of development: continued external funding should not be part of the business model. Effort and money put into it will in the end create benefits for the person, community, or institution responsible for that. Like a single person spending time to enhance or create something, and expecting something in return (directly or indirectly), the design of the portal itself should include mechanisms for improving its viability. Societal benefits; are societal benefits created? The portal has idealistic foundations, disseminating information and educational resources, and creating better, and more equal job opportunities. This idealism can sprout enthusiasm and willingness to cooperate, which is crucial in creating a lively and sustainable environment. Reward and employment; is effort rewarded, not only intrinsically, but also extrinsically? Can human resources be more efficiently matched to employment demand? Can market/transaction costs of employment be lowered? The portal has to combine intrinsic and extrinsic reasons of people to help develop and maintain it. Personal efforts, so the sum of all online activities, such as person’s connections, evaluations, experiences (learning and working), should form a person’s identity online. This identity, which is formed in a highly objective way, should then be aligned to employment (money), or other kinds of rewards. Educational aspects; is learning supported or stimulated? In our highly information intensive economy learning is essential, which is why it should form a significant aspect of the portal, and that it should be central to most communities evolving in it. Social communities and connectivism; do social relations play a role? Can individuals easily find each other and connect? People should be able to easily connect with the right persons, communities, institutions. Network creation should be part of online activities, because the value lies within it. Structure and search capabilities; structuring through folksonomies?
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A portal for our society Because the ability to find people and resources quickly and easily, it is essential to include services, such as tagbased folksonomies, enhancing this. Trust; Are there any trust mechanisms, so that people are more willing to share knowledge and cooperate? Trust towards possible employers or other people or organizations is created by the sum of all your online activities, and by the evaluations of your connections, accumulated in your online portfolio. Other trust mechanisms should stimulate online transactions, to address economical criteria. Evaluation and control; what is being evaluated, how is quality maintained? The evaluation of information and people should be done by individuals, organized in a community, with the goal of improving that specific community. After all, effort is rewarded by an increase in status (in your online portfolio), and an increase in community value, to which you are connected. Also, evaluation and control mechanisms should be present that can counteract undesirable side effects of an online community, such as unchecked opportunism.
OER*; I=Institution C=Community OSS communities Communities of Practice Social communities Online Marketplaces
Viability Societal benefits Reward and employment Educational Social communities and connectivism Structure and search capabilities Trust Evaluation and control
I = low C = medium High None High Low Low Rarely Institution (MIT) Community (Wikipedia)
High High Indirect Low Low Low High Community
Low Low Direct and indirect Medium Medium Low Controlled Community
High Low None None High High Medium Community, based on popularity
High High Direct None Medium Low High Individual
Table 1 - Combination of trends * Open Educational Resources; I and C concern the responsibility, development and maintenance of the resources
In the table the positive aspects of every concept are indicated in pink. One can see that none of the concepts address all criteria in sufficient manner. The next section will elaborate on how the portal will look like, and what kind of implications it will bring into society.
Towards a portal for our society
So far, this paper has described current educational, economical and social trends. Furthermore, it elaborated on innovative online initiatives, and discussed literature on successful Open Source Software communities. Employment patterns are changing, and learning, teaching, and working are becoming less and less distinguishable. By combining (aspects of) the described concepts and initiatives into one portal, and addressing them in current trends, some highly synergistic effects might arise that have a significant impact on the way we educate and learn, work, and connect to people and organizations. In this portal, people find a reason to invest time to improve their personal networks, to structure, label, and improve resources, because all (valuable) efforts are rewarded. To create this portal, nothing new has to be invented, it only calls for an excellent new combination of existing technology and organization, which, one can argue, is inventing.
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A portal for our society
Chaordic network of communities
The portal in mind is a chaordic network, a simultaneously ordered and chaotic system [van Eijnatten, 2003], of interconnected communities of interest, practice, and people. The offered content, in the form of Open Educational Resources, weblogs, wikis, podcasts and other Web documents will be extremely diverse, in quality, content, format and discipline, and available for everyone. The aim is to have content for free, but additional services, which can range from consulting to advertising, from production of specialized courses to the organization of a seminar, can be part of a community’s business model. The concept will be applicable and may be successful in almost any kind of industry, any kind of activity, in general content or more specific, as long as it is interesting or has value for society. Still, it deals with (the exchange of) information, which has different characters in different industries. Besides, the portal requires the user to have certain characteristics (i.e. physical accessibility, attitude of sharing), which makes it more or less attractive depending on the person. The basis of this concept is making yourself (and your community) more valuable by sharing your information and resources. The objects or Web documents within the portal will be structured and labeled by its users, making it worth more. This added value for the community is then turned into a higher popularity, better quality of the community, which can generate money (selling books, advertisement, giving seminars or online advice, doing collaborative projects, etc.). Your specific additions will bring attention to your work, and create trust amongst participants. These additions, accumulated in an e-Portfolio, may turn out to be very interesting for some companies, who will ask you to give a seminar, lead a project, or give advice.
Social and Professional networks
People will choose their own career, life-path, from the moment they start interacting and connecting. They will at a certain time get to know their interests, their abilities, and will follow a certain path of study, within one or more domains. They will (on- or offline) meet other people (and organizations) with the same interests, the same goals, the same problems, and possibly start their own subgroup. These subgroups (or communities, forums, working groups etc.) will evolve organically and distributed. People will share their information with others, create knowledge with their peers, and increase the quality and quantity of their network. This is one of the most essential points; the users of the education network will be the creators of knowledge, courses, new technology, and new domains. Evaluation will apply to not only persons, but takes on everything that can contain quality or value, such as books, articles, weblogs, organizations, jobs, reviews, etc. This evaluation, through individual rating and collaborative tagging, is not only crucial for the determination of the quality of (information) objects and communities as a whole, but also for the hierarchy of objects, like people and organizations, books and articles, and communities. The interaction between users will bring new insights, technologies, value into the network in a cheap and controlled way.
Transformation of roles
There will be a total transformation in the roles of involved persons and institutes. Universities will change into knowledge institutions that have very close relations with the labor market, offering their education in a much more granular and flexible fashion, with large parts online. Research activities can take place, and the education that needs physical interaction, or practical things for which online services cannot provide for, will be the domain of these institutes. It will also serve as the physical meeting place of professionals/students and companies through seminars, lectures, workshops, and discussions. People will go to universities (rather: specialized buildings) with a specific purpose, with real interest and enthusiasm.
Companies will be flat and networked, smaller and more flexible, and outsourcing will represent a large part of the economy. In other words, boundaries between companies and the external world will disappear. The labor market will be strongly affected. The new education system is much more flexible and
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A portal for our society adaptable/responsive to market, people are more self-reliable, more responsible for their actions, which are documented in their online portfolio. It is very likely that employers, which can be public or private, do not even have to search that intensively, because they are part of a community themselves, giving direction to the content, employing people on a short term basis, knowing people because of the interaction within the community. Just like Tapscott’s ‘naked organization’ [Tapscott, 2003].
Global competition on information
Connection of developing countries to the internet [Stecklow, 2005], in combination with the free or cheap availability of qualitative e-learning will enable a more global competition on information, and the historical domination of the West on good education will cease to exist. The competition between possible employees for a certain project becomes worldwide, as companies look on the Web for persons that comply with certain specifications. It is impossible to have this portal developed by one or more companies/universities, neither is it ethically desirable. The very nature of the educational-professional-social community requires that it will develop from several sources at once, it cannot be mandated by one single organization. People will be able to download software (OS and for free), and put their interests, knowledge, into content or media. These objects are open for alteration (or comments) by others, protected by an open license, such as the creative commons license, so quality will increase through collaboration. The alteration and additions, may be subject to control from a community manager or the portal itself. The best example for this can be found in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which in less than 8 years evolved with the help of its users into one of the most comprehensive and accurate encyclopedia in the world. The portal likewise has to evolve organically with the use of it. This portal could be the answer on the question stated by in “The Hacker Ethic” (2001): “Could there be a free market economy in which competition would not be based on controlling information but on other factors – an economy in which competition would be on a different level (and, of course, not just in software, but in other fields, too)?” – Pekka Himanen – Competition would be then based on the contrary, the sharing of information and resources!
Changing society, and helping restructuring the Web are not easy tasks. The table below portrays the transition from our society and economy to the portal’s, from the perspective of competition.
Based on NOW (Our society) PORTAL Rivalry Openness and collaboration Activities Protecting knowledge Share ideas Communicate Collaborate Between Organizations Persons
Table 2 - Competition
Another relevant issue can be derived from above that concerns education. The transition will be the same, from institution based, to network based, meeting the same requirements discussed earlier. The described portal, and its related issues, has to be investigated in detail to come up with the “right” initial design. Of course, there is no right design, because new technologies constantly arise, creating new opportunities and changing demands. The only “right” aspect will be the openness of the design (technology and process), to
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A portal for our society allow the portal to evolve along with these new technologies and demands. Crucial design issues and criteria have to be determined first, and subsequently researched within concepts and initiatives where these issues and criteria have been addressed. An initial step towards has been taken in the Table 1 in section 6.1 on the combination of the described trends and concepts. This initial research framework should be worked out, and defined in detail. Issues concerning the connection between the different dimensions, such as the technical and organizational implementation, need thorough attention. Further research can be divided into different domains, explained briefly below: Matters regarding governance mechanisms, trust and online collaboration, assignment of roles and quality management can be found in literature on Open Source Software Communities and Communities of Practice. New learning paradigms, the added value of networked learning and connecting, are to be addressed to make learning an integrated and significant part of the portal. Open Educational Resources are significant in providing initial content for the portal. It is crucial to investigate the possibilities of using these resources, without harming the licenses under which these resources are registered. Current innovation done in Open Source Software for education may be significant for the educational technological foundation. The organization of the portal, and the way objects and people are structured, labeled, and connected, is crucial in order to easily and purposefully navigate through and search people, resources, communities, and organizations. Research on folksonomies, its use in communities, and their impact within the Web, can provide the right input for this. Finally employment and economical trends should be considered. Exact definitions of a networked company and a knowledge worker that would be successful in the described portal should be made, besides defining in detail the means of making money. Looking at the organization of successful employment sites, such as e-Lance and Rent-a-Coder, as well as the thorough investigation of networked companies, should result in certain design criteria.
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Employment, Economy and Open Source Communities
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