Archive for November 2007

Designing an affordable content ecosystem

November 20, 2007

Jaron Lanier speaks up in the (now free Opinion section of the) NY Times about the problematic evolution of free content on the Web. Ten years ago, we all envisioned a brave new world that would open up opportunities for creative people to originate and innovate their work for a fair price. I thought this would happen as well – but the Web has devolved into a consumerist ecosystem paid for by infinite advertising. Jaron asks: “what will be left to advertise once everyone is aggregated?” The guts of the piece follows:

There’s an almost religious belief in the Valley that charging for content is bad. The only business plan in sight is ever more advertising. One might ask what will be left to advertise once everyone is aggregated.

How long must creative people wait for the Web’s new wealth to find a path to their doors? A decade is a long enough time that idealism and hope are no longer enough. If there’s one practice technologists ought to embrace, it is the evaluation of empirical results.

To help writers and artists earn a living online, software engineers and Internet evangelists need to exercise the power they hold as designers. Information is free on the Internet because we created the system to be that way.

We could design information systems so that people can pay for content — so that anyone has the chance of becoming a widely read author and yet can also be paid. Information could be universally accessible but on an affordable instead of an absolutely free basis.

The current and ongoing media writer’s strike has some roots in the same fundamental problem. As media companies move content to the web, and have show snippets moved to YouTube for them, the authors behind the newly mobile content are left out of all negotiations. Whatever content owners can derive from writer’s works they retain, and author rights have not been extended to the repurposed content. While DRM schemes are a heavy-handed control mechanism, they have been designed with “owners” in mind, not originators or inventors. Authors and musicians are largely left out of the deals, and have less motive, not more, to spend their time participating for free. Producing that content takes time and production skill, but also the intangible wonder of talent and inspiration. A libertarian web culture of “information wants to be free – of charge” will be hard to roll back.

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Dialogue as Participatory Design

November 3, 2007

(Insert standard excuses for blog slipping here).

Torch Partner Robin Uchida hosted the second year of Juice Dialogues at Ontario College of Art and Design, October 25-27. Wit the theme of Making the Invisible Visible, I kicked off the Friday night session, followed by Gary Gray, founder of Carder Gray agency. I was delighted to accept an invitation to present, as well as participate in the open dialogues with faculty, students, and design community professionals like myself. This is the kind of exploratory educational venue all universities should hold regularly, and the type of informal program design schools in particular need. Provocative presentations with Q&A, followed by a circle of dialogue for everyone who stayed on, hosted by insightful, caring facilitators that easily generated the space for listening and understanding to emerge. Each night’s dialogue lasted well over an hour, and afterward, I physically felt energized, inspired, and buzzed, like I had been at a great party.

My talk was on Dialogue as Participatory Design (see on Slideshare), which is my first attempt at integrating the concepts of structured dialogue as participatory design for social systems and public domain issues. While I”m sure we could use which have many stakeholders and where no single “answer” is possible. a way of facilitated design thinking with stakeholder groups holding a complex problem in common. While we at the Agoras Institute and at the Blogora wiki have written books and pages about SDD as a model of participatory design and decision making, we have not shared these ideas with designers who practice Participatory Design as a school of design. I have not seen similar tools employed in transformation design practices yet either, but perhaps unstructured dialogue is preferred for front end conceptualization of problems. I would like to know what the experiences are of other design teams that have employed facilitate dialogic methods in problematizing, conceptual design, scenario planning, or even in visual sensemaking and generative ideation.

Here’s a brief summary of the concepts from the talk:

A participatory design approach based on structured dialogic design is presented. Dialogic design represents a developing perspective toward design for complex or techno-social systems where stakeholders must own the design planning, solutions, and take responsibility for action. Where participatory design methods engage “users” in design play and process as a generative design approach for creating the right products, dialogic design requires participants’ deep contribution to the outcome of the designed solution or service itself. Think of the significant need to involve community stakeholders in transformative solutions for public policy, transportation, urban planning, or infrastructure. Consider the need to involve medical practitioners and even patients in healthcare delivery or service solutions. Consider dialogic design a means of radically democratic design, guided by principles such as requisite variety, requisite learning, and requisite authenticity.