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Digital social tools for the city l New series: Social Toolbox

Category: new technologies+social toolbox+⚐ EN

Today we present a coming series of posts about digital social tools. With this term we mean digital platforms, software, and online projects developed for the improvement of cities and neighbourhoods through direct participation by their citizens. Digital social tools can be open platforms that allow anyone to sign up and collaborate or applications that can be applied to different participatory projects.

What is the social potential of information technology and of the development of open source software and web-based social projects? To answer this question we will begin by establishing a theoretical framework contextualizing this spreading phenomena in contemporary society. In the end we will propose a system for a graphic representation to help us better understand and compare their underlying structure.

 Marta Battistella

“Mente locale” in the “informational city”

A comparison between two concepts and books by the sociologists Franco La Cecla and Manuel Castells will help us to interpret digital social tools as interesting expressions of society.

The term informational city proposed by Manuel Castells explains how the space of the city today is organized by new dynamics and principles that reveal the shift from the industrial economy to the information and knowledge economy. The latter depends on web connectivity and develops in digital exchanges of information, services, and knowledge. The widespread communication networks based on digital devices give birth to the informational city and its “network society,” where economic and social relations arise and connect localities through the web. The potential of the Internet to offer simultaneous communication, and in a way ubiquity, enhances the tendency toward globalization in all its aspects, from global economy to global culture.

The Italian expression “mente locale” (“local mind”) has the meaning of paying attention to a particular situation by mentally placing oneself within it. Franco La Cecla uses the term to explain how identity, knowledge, and culture form in relation to specific places and local qualities, their genius loci. Being and living in the world with a body and a physical presence in discrete places, we can say with La Cecla that we are “made of geography.” Our thoughts and understanding of the world cannot be prescinded from the places we live in and the places in which events and experiences take place.

Franco La Cecla claims that with the coming of modern society and modern urbanism our ability to create deep knowledge and strong identities decreased, due mostly to the difficulty of familiarizing ourselves with surroundings that are planned on principles of functionality and economic productivity instead of identity and social relations. Individuals and communities gradually lost their cultural relationship to the places they inhabit.

The informational revolution seems to enhance this loss of roots. Everything that is mind (thoughts, information, communication, knowledge) has been “despatialized.” Connectivity to a digital network supersedes location in a specific place. When everything can happen on the web, and one can virtually be in different places at the same time, proximity and locality no longer represent a value for the economy. The process of informatization of economy and society seems to be neutralizing space and its values for everyday life.

On the other hand, social and everyday life has rediscovered the need for bodily presence, for sensory experience of real spaces, for face-to-face (or better body-to-body) relations. For instance, virtual education has enhanced rather than replaced traditional classroom-based education. Recent efforts to improve and publicize real public spaces seek to ensure universal accessibility and high quality in order to create opportunities for encounters and activities, for sharing experiences and skills, for building communities. A new kind of public life is arising, one based on grassroots networks between individuals whose independence from political institutions is often claimed by the founders of digital social tools. The aim is to catalyze bottom-up processes of direct democracy and the development of new communities.

Today, perhaps the most influential platform for creating real encounters and improving public spaces is paradoxically and interestingly the web, a horizontal/rhizomatic system with a high potential for quick dissemination of ideas and information where anyone can have access and act as individual. On the internet one can experience a powerful independence and freedom to speak frankly while remaining able to act publicly and maintain awareness of what happens outside.

According to Manuel Castells, social relationships today are characterized by two processes, individuation and communalism, both based at the the same time on physical proximity and online connectivity. The emergence of many public platforms on the internet related to specific places expresses the tendency towards a combination of global networks with local communities, of spaces of flows with spaces of places.

Zygmunt Bauman claims that our society has undergone a process of “fluidification”, becoming more flexible and context-specific, due to a higher displacement capacity of entities and to the development of information technologies.

The concept of identity has faced as well a process of fluidification. Increasing speed and digital connectivity created the possibility of being in different places (both physical and virtual) simultaneously. Therefore, we need to develop a “mobile” identity and flexible mentality in order to quickly adapt to new cultures and ways of living, to different spatial systems and various climates. Also, with the help of digital social tools we are learning how to familiarize with new surroundings, to understand the genius loci of the places we happen to live in, and we are discovering the possibility of belonging to different places, cultures, communities, and identities.

Within the framework of governance policies, where the private sphere seems to be prevailing over the public sphere and impoverishing public life, there is a need to re-think the public and the private as mobile/fluid entities, to accept the blurring boundaries between them and see this new hybrids of public-private as opportunity for new forms of democratization. A related theory is developed by Mimi Sheller and John Urry. According to them, it is possible to promote dynamics of democratization, by flexibly moving between the private and the public and recreating them.

Although risk for censorship and political control is always present, internet has the intrinsic potential for horizontal communication and independence from institutional hierarchies.

Information technology can give the means to open up to new flexible and mobile forms of communication and democratization. Sheller and Urry argue that “changes in democratic possibility that are usually related to macro-structural trends in the ‘globalization’ of markets and states are also tied into these everyday forms of dwelling in mobility and screen-mediated communications”.

Thus, being more flexible and mobile, individuals and communities can constantly re-define and re-build their public and private spaces, and possibly gain more freedom and choices in the definition of their boundaries.

We can say that the reemergence of the value of locality is occurring thanks, in part, to digital networks, which give a new perspective to social and spatial relationships. With these new tools we are regaining and transforming the ability to familiarize with the surroundings we live in, turning the “local mind” into a glocal mind.

About digital social tools

Digital social tools apply a system called Web 2.0 – an intersection of web application features that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability and collaboration on the web. A Web 2.0 site allows users to interact with each other in a social media dialogue as creators – prosumers – of user-generated content. A “prosumer” is the combination of producer and consumer, since information here is not only consumed but also produced by users.

Many of these platforms and projects aim to build systems of direct democracy for a common definition of public issues. Within the wide context of online participation, our series will focus on those projects regarding the quality and status of urban spaces or regarding local initiatives of neighborhoods and urban communities. We will present different types of platforms where citizens have the opportunity to share knowledge about issues of accessibility, security, mobility and quality of public spaces, to propose solutions which can be developed in collaboration with local governments or with other actors (neighbors, communities, institutions, enterprises), and the opportunity to propose public events, projects and meetings.

The scale of the context concerned by these projects and platforms varies, but the scale at which users are supposed to act is usually small, from street to neighborhood to city.

The already explained relationship of digital communication with the rebirth of locality values and renewed concern about the quality of physical spaces is often enhanced by GPS technologies, which concretely and rapidly relate places to digital information. These technologies build around places an augmented reality, where new forms of social dynamics can arise.

Graphic representation

What is the scope of a certain tool? How is it deployed and implemented? Is it attached to a single project or can it be adapted and applied to other situations? Who is supposed to be using it? Is it a propietary, closed solution or an open source, free and adaptable software? Below we present a generic diagram showing the categories we will use to represent each project or software in the next posts, in order to provide the readers with a visual framework for comparison.

The variety of application types, projects’ variables and groups of actors will be represented following this basic configuration but flexibly changing it depending on the different structures and links of the projects.

If you know about any interesting project of this kind, please inform us at

info@ecosistemaurbano.com

We will be happy to add it to our list for the next posts.

REFERENCES:

Manuel Castells, The Informational City: Information Technology, Economic Restructuring, and the Urban Regional Process. Oxford, UK; Cambridge, MA: Blackwell (1989)

Manuel Castells, LOCAL AND GLOBAL: CITIES IN THE NETWORK SOCIETY, 2001 – http://es.scribd.com/doc/22571191/Local-and-Global-cities-in-the-network-society-Manuel-Castells

Franco La Cecla, MENTE LOCALE / IN ALTRO MARE, Per un’antropologia dell’abitare, Eleuthera 2011

Sheller, M., Urry. J., Mobile Transformations of `Public’ and `Private’ Life, Theory Culture Society, SAGE, 2003

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Un entorno de aprendizaje sin límites definidos

Category: arquitectura+educación+EntornoEducativo+⚐ ES

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Dibujo original: Jaime Eizaguirre

En este nuevo post  del tema EntornoEducativo les propongo desarrollar la idea de borrosidad, que para mí suponen los futuros espacios de aprendizaje. Con esto intentaré entender qué distancias físicas, mentales y digitales que habitualmente asocia(re)mos a estos espacios y, sobre todo, en qué momento el que aprende se “desconecta” de ese entorno.

Vivimos en una época invadida por soportes de transmisión y de visualización de la información que nos alejan desde jóvenes de los espacios que tradicionalmente la distribuyen y permiten su apropiación: bibliotecas, escuelas… Ya sabemos que el estar presente en clase no significa estar atento. Más aún cuando se tiene en el bolsillo un smartphone que vibra al ritmo de las notificaciones que indican lo que uno se está perdiendo fuera. Con este ejemplo notamos lo absurdo que es el oponer el proceso ultra-local de aprendizaje y el mundo exterior. Vivimos en una sociedad en la que nuestra atención está captada de manera permanente.  No creo que se pueda imponer la separación de uno u otro ámbito, y por esto me interesa la idea de un entorno con limites borrosos: fronteras que no se distinguen con claridad. Un espacio en el que los elementos próximos (olores, texturas, imágenes…) estén relacionados con un reto global.

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Campo de cebada, Madrid

El colegio, la universidad y la escuela (aunque ésta menos), tienen que actuar en calidad de filtros emancipadores que mantengan una relación permanente con los sistemas sociales, culturales, económicos, filosóficos y políticos que componen la complejidad de una localidad. Uno de los errores aún cometidos por muchos sistemas escolares es el disociar ocio y aprendizaje, un problema profundo. Si tratamos de referirnos a la etimología de la palabra escuela descubriremos una de las claves de la paradoja; Skholè, palabra griega, tiene el sentido general de una suspensión temporal. Se disocia aquel término de ocupaciones relacionadas con la subsistencia o el cotidiano. Tiene más que ver con la dignidad de la existencia que se caracterizaba por el control de uno sobre el tiempo. Así, aquel tiempo se podía consagrar al ocio (juego, gimnasia, teatro, arte, política…) que supone y ocasiona una cierta libertad. El estudio traduce perfectamente lo que implica la skholè : un tiempo libremente suspendido por una actividad cuya práctica eleva y ennoblece al que se consagra.

Efectivamente, en el proceso de aprendizaje esta idea de “tiempo libremente suspendido” me parece esencial. Los nativos digitales  enriquecen el campo de sus conocimientos contribuyendo en línea sobre temas que les interesan y compartiendo contenidos hiper-enlazados (música, videos, artículos, creación colaborativa…). Este funcionamiento basado en la curiosidad de cada uno es precisamente el que hace falta en muchos establecimientos escolares. Mientras tanto, se están democratizando algunas formas de aprender según estos preceptos: los MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) son un ejemplo.

Algunos ven en el interés económico que suscita esta alternativa el peligro de un regreso al acceso pasivo a los conocimientos. Así, los inversores y promotores de las marcas universitarias mundiales podrían usar de un modo de difusión masivo para crear contenidos estandardizados que borren las particularidades locales. Pero otros tienen el optimismo de pensar que analizando los comportamientos de navegación a través de los datos digitales, los MOOC podrían proponer contenidos, ritmos y correcciones cada vez más personalizadas.

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Minerva University’s website

Hace unos días leí un articulo titulado La #educación tendrá pronto su premio Nobel y descubrí el Minerva Project, “Una experiencia universitaria reinventada para los estudiantes más brillantes, más motivados en el Mundo”. La idea es intrigante: Una universidad de prestigio (Ivy League) en que todos los cursos se llevarían a cabo en línea para permitir a los estudiantes tener un seguido personalizado. La primera promoción contará entre 200 y 300 estudiantes que vivirán juntos en espacios dedicados (que no son campus clásicos), pero cambiando regularmente de ciudad y de país durante los cuatro años que dura la carrera. San Francisco, Beijing, Sao Paulo y París ya se mencionan. Y además de “ofrecer la mejor educación posible” como lo hace hoy Harvard, el responsable de este inmenso proyecto, Ben Nelson, nos asegura que el precio de la carrera en Minerva University costará la mitad de lo habitual en universidades de prestigio.

Esta experiencia transforma totalmente la relación física que mantenemos con el entorno educativo. En su libro titulado “Le Néo-normadisme – Mobilités, partages, transformations identitaires et urbaines.”, Yasmine Abbas, arquitecta francesa, titular de un master al MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) y de un doctorado en la Harvard University Graduate School of Design, nos explica como el hecho de ser un neo-nomada influye sobre la concepción, la producción y la utilización de espacios hasta entonces presentes en la mente colectiva, afirmando que

“la movilidad digital confunde las definiciones espaciales”.

Una idea que comparto y que me conduce a imaginar entornos escolares con límites físicos borrosos. En el contexto actual, no tiene sentido considerar el circuito académico como el centro de una emancipación intelectual generalizada. En los espacios domésticos, en los espacios de ocio, en la calle, en los “espacios digitales” almacenamos informaciones que permanecen en nuestra mente por haber sidas adquiridas en momentos activos. En tales casos, nos damos cuenta de que el individuo es dueño de su tiempo, de su postura física, del orden de sus actividades y de las personas con quienes actúa. Así es que pienso que un entorno de aprendizaje eficaz sería un entorno que nos permitiese ser activos de distintas formas. De alguna manera, las oficinas de las empresas de Silicon Valley ya lo hacen desde hace unos cuantos años y exportan el modelo en otros países. Las más grandes de ellas proponen a sus empleados disfrutar de mini-pueblos que agrupan servicios, ambientes diversos y todo factor susceptible de fomentar la creatividad y de mantener las mentes relajadas. Podemos decir que el contexto de libre albedrío de estos empleados está diseñado.

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Frank Gehry y Mark Zuckerberg ante la maqueta de las nuevas oficinas de Facebook.
Fotografía: Everett Katigbak, Facebook

Pero entre diseñar una experiencia y condicionarla hay un solo paso. También pienso que hay que invertir la tendencia social que sujeta la identidad de un individuo a su recorrido académico. Desde el nombre del establecimiento, al origen de una caracterización socio-económica, hasta su implantación territorial, pasando por sus especificidades prácticas (campos de estudio, pedagogía…), todo tendría que ser flexible para el que esté dispuesto a definir sus ámbitos personales. Adaptar, modificar, crear nuevos caminos con una base común es precisamente lo que defiende la filosofía hacker. Y de la misma manera en que se desarrollan micro-modelos económicos según procesos de contribución derivados de la cultura digital, los espacios de aprendizaje podrían fomentar un uso alternativo de las tecnologías; más creativo, menos costoso, menos alienante y que provoque movilidad física. Pienso que esta sería una forma de curar lo que el Dr. Manfred Spitzer llama una demencia digital, sin suprimir las ventajas sociales de una semántica digital justa.

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FabSchool by Waag Society

Algunos como Ivan Illich ya sugirieron salir de los sistemas escolares, llegando a comparar edificios escolares con cárceles. Otros como Jean Piaget eran partidarios de terminar con la figura del profesor conferenciante y privilegiar métodos educativos activos, como la investigación interdisciplinaria, que fomentan la invención. Pienso que hoy podemos sintetizar colectiva y localmente estas ideas “radicales” para reparar, rehabilitar, los edificios escolares existentes. Se trataría de diseñar porosidades físicas entre actividades internas y externas ya que las actividades mentales y digitales viajan y se conectan de manera permanente. Y más que aumentar superficialmente las capacidades tecnológicas de los entornos austeros que conocemos, empezaría borrando lo que se pueda para que entre un aire nuevo en los pulmones de la comunidad escolar.

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whatif | 2.0 beta version and new official site

Category: open culture+social software+⚐ EN

Some weeks ago we announced here the coming release of the Whatif web application and commented on its main features. Today we are pleased to be launching the new Whatif 2.0 version and the official website of the project, Whatif.es.

Next you can watch (in spanish) a short video presentation we recorded at the office:

At Whatif.es you will find the following content:

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whatif | versión 2.0 beta y nuevo sitio oficial

Category: cultura abierta+software social+⚐ ES

Hace ya unas semanas anunciamos aquí el próximo lanzamiento de la herramienta web Whatif y comentamos sus principales características. Hoy tenemos por fin el placer de presentaros la nueva versión Whatif 2.0 y la web oficial del proyecto Whatif.es.

A continuación os dejamos un breve vídeo de presentación que hemos improvisado en el estudio:

En Whatif.es encontraréis el siguiente contenido:

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Whatif 2.0 beta | novedades

Category: software social+work in progress+⚐ ES

Como anunciamos en una entrada anterior, en estos últimos meses se han introducido cambios importantes en la aplicación web de mapeado participativo Whatif. Tanto por las mejoras internas como por las características añadidas de cara a su instalación, personalización y uso, nos ha parecido buen momento para dar un salto completo de versión, de 1.0 a 2.0.

A continuación pasamos a describir de forma más detallada las características que se han desarrollado o mejorado:

Cambio de plataforma

Panel de WordPress

La versión 2.0 de Whatif ha sido reescrita enteramente para funcionar sobre WordPress, un popular Sistema de Gestión de Contenidos publicado como software libre, habitualmente utilizado para crear blogs avanzados y páginas dinámicas de todo tipo.
Este cambio estratégico facilita su proceso de instalación y puesta en marcha (que se realiza como cualquier otro tema de WordPress), aumenta la capacidad y facilidad de personalización y permite su desarrollo modular futuro mediante la adición de plugins.

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Aprendizaje en la ciudad: #urbanedu

Category: espacios sensibles | sentient city+urban social design+⚐ ES

Unveiling data sources in BCN walkshop. UrbanLabs WalkShop. – Citilab Cornella CC by-sa Fuente

En la experienceEntorno digital y aprendizaje urbano” Enric Senabre y yo daremos un marco metodológico sobre técnicas de participación online/offline vinculadas al espacio urbano. Trataremos de espacios sobre los que volcar la filosofía digital (procomún, compartir, software libre etc.) generando nuevos entornos de aprendizaje colectivos. Este post comparte el trabajo previo que hicimos para preparar el curso y desarrollar sus conceptos.

No trabajaremos exclusivamente sobre “lo digital” como puede entenderse del título que escogimos. Por eso hemos querido concretar con el hashtag #urbanedu la intención que queremos darle a los contenidos de esta Experience.

En este curso recorreremos conceptos clave de la cultura de Internet y de nuevos enfoques sobre el aprendizaje, para luego adentrarnos en cómo se está fundiendo lo digital con lo presencial en los espacios híbridos que componen el contexto urbano, generando innovaciones sociales y nuevas posibilidades de aprendizaje situado.

Los nuevos entornos de aprendizaje producidos por estos cambios son oportunidades para operar en la ciudad más allá de lo inmediato. Para ello, el curso se centrará en el aprendizaje como factor principal que impulsa esos cambios de paradigma que alcanzan al contexto urbano.

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El amor en los tiempos de las nuevas tecnologías

Category: espacios sensibles | sentient city+urbanismo+⚐ ES

Desde hace un tiempo el debate sobre temas de innovación y cultura contemporánea va incorporando, cada vez con mas frecuencia, conceptos como el de sensorialidad y el de espiritualidad. Este fenómeno me ha llamado la atención y creo que en su base se encuentra un asunto bastante complejo: la relación entre la revolución contemporánea de la esfera tecnológica y el mundo emocional del ser humano. Eduard Punset, en un recente artículo de National Geographic [PDF], intenta explicar las razones que nos llevan, hoy en día, a centrar nuestra atención sobre estos conceptos. Según este escritor y divulgador científico, una de las razones reside precisamente en la revolución tecnológica, “que está permitiendo medir por primera vez procesos internos tales como el estrés, la actividad cerebral y hasta la propia capacidad de aprender e imaginar.” Esta afirmación puede interpretarse como la expresión de una transformación cultural generalizada que traslada nuestro conocimiento desde un sistema racionalista, caracterizado por el orden y la lógica, hacia un sistema donde el conocimiento funciona por síntesis y estructuras complejas, sin limitarse al proceso analítico.

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Digital drive- Technological breakthroughs are changing scholarship all across campus

Category: ⚐ EN

At Harvard Business School (HBS), students use a software program to tap into a virtual Wall Street trading floor. At the Graduate School of Design (GSD), a computer-driven, robotic arm assembles walls and carves stone. At the Widener Library, digital specialists use high-resolution cameras to electronically capture everything from ancient Chinese manuscripts to Harry Houdini’s handcuffs.

Across its Schools and academic centers, Harvard is embracing cutting-edge technology that is rapidly changing the nature of scholarship, redefining research, opening doors to information, fostering collaboration, and revolutionizing classroom learning.

Camera Operator Edith Young scans a rare Chinese book with the help of special, high-resolution cameras. Young is one of many digital specialists across campus who are playing a major role in digitizing Harvard.

Examples abound across campus, and often involve stitching the Schools together. Recognizing the need for more digital interactivity, for instance, the Library Implementation Work Group, building on the work of the Task Force on University Libraries, two weeks ago recommended adopting a system that emphasizes a more harmonized approach to the global strategic, administrative, and business processes of the libraries.

The University’s leadership in information technology dates back more than 65 years to the Mark I, which is considered the first mainframe computer. It was the brainchild of Ph.D. physics candidate Howard H. Aiken, who envisioned a newer, faster, more powerful calculating machine.

The original Mark I, considered the first mainframe computer, holds court at the Science Center. Photo by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Technology in the classroom
Aiken’s mega-computer was the prototype that paved the way for the Blackberrys and iPods of today, the powerful handheld digital devices that are ubiquitous in Harvard’s classrooms. In those classes, the fans and adopters of such technology say, electronic devices aren’t driving education, but instead are supplementing the pedagogy.

Eric Mazur, the Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, has used wireless technology in his introductory physics class for 17 years. His students use clickers, their own handheld devices, or their computers to send answers to a common website that registers the responses on a screen in the front of the classroom. Mazur introduced the clickers to ask questions of students, to get them to discuss their answers in small groups, and to have them try to convince each other of their own reasoning.

“In the end,” said Mazur, “learning and research is a social experience. It’s people, it’s not sitting in front of a book, or sitting in front of a terminal.”

Harvard professors increasingly engage their students electronically by using clickers, virtual office hours, videos and transcripts of their lectures online, and comprehensive course websites.

In the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), Katie Vale, director of the Academic Technology Group, and her team help instructors to enhance their curricula through technology. Together, they have created a virtual model of Harvard Yard in the 17th century and a three-dimensional visualization of a virus and its reaction to certain drugs.

“What we want to be able to do is make sure the teaching is driving the technology,” said Vale. “We want to be able to solve educational problems through the use of technology and encourage faculty to try new and different pedagogical methods, such as using clickers for active learning.”

In the HBS course “Dynamic Markets,” students emulate the New York Stock Exchange through their computers.  Joshua Coval, Robert G. Kirby Professor of Business Administration, and Erik Stafford, John A. Paulson Professor of Business Administration, developed a software program that simulates the financial markets. The program allows students to trade with each other, compete for opportunities, and learn the principles of finance.

“It’s a very powerful learning vehicle,” said Coval. “When it clicks, it gets imprinted in their psyche. The hope is that it will remain with them for many, many years.”

Martin Bechthold is a professor of architectural technology and director of the GSD’s Fabrication Lab, which is home to such digital devices as a computer numerically controlled, six-axis, robotic manipulator. Attached to a high-pressure water jet, the electronic arm blasts a mixture of water and garnet dust at, for example, a piece of marble to slowly carve it.

“Robotic fabrication of architectural components is, I think, one of the most exciting activities here with regard to the innovative use of technology,” Bechthold said.

Elsewhere, Harvard’s Initiative for Innovative Computing, an interfaculty effort, has developed ongoing projects that include the Scientists’ Discovery Room Lab. Part of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), under the direction of Chia Shen, the lab focuses on human-computer interaction. One promising project involves tabletop touch-screen technology that aids occupational therapy for children with cerebral palsy.

Efthimios Kaxiras, the John Hasbrouck Van Vleck Professor of Pure and Applied Physics at SEAS, and a team of collaborators have developed computer-generated simulations to model blood flow in the human cardiovascular system, work that may help to understand diseases.

In another example, involving a group of physicists half a world away at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, Alán Aspuru-Guzik, assistant professor in Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, has used a quantum computer to determine the energy of a hydrogen molecule.

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society, which created an early prototype podcast, is at the center of much of the University’s web research, exploring, analyzing, and enhancing cyberspace. And the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s (HGSE) Technology, Innovation, and Education program “prepares students to contribute to the thoughtful design, implementation, and assessment of media and technology initiatives.”

Harvard’s Center for Geographic Analysis buttresses University research projects with geographical information systems that use a combination of cartography, statistical analysis, and database technology. “When we try to bring time and space together, we start to be able to look at change taking place over time in many places at once, and that’s only possible with computation,” said Peter Bol, the center’s director and the Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

During Harvard Extension School’s final CS 175 class for the semester, students present their final projects, which required the use of graphics applications. Course administrators shoot live video from the Maxwell Dworkin classroom for students taking the class remotely. Photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Spread of distance learning
Thanks to technology, this year students at the 101-year-old Harvard Extension School can access 150 courses through its distance-learning program. Of those, 37 are Harvard College courses, and three are HGSE courses, all taught by Harvard faculty.

Students watch streaming videos of lectures and remotely interact with classmates and professors through real-time, virtual “chat” discussion boards, as well as through web-conferencing software and video conferencing. In smaller classes, students can dial an 800 number to take part in class discussions.

“By opening up its teaching expertise to a global audience, we are demonstrating how Harvard can contribute to the public good,” said Henry Leitner, associate dean for information technology and chief technology officer at the Harvard Division of Continuing Education. “It enables busy Harvard faculty, whose scarcest resource is time, to make their first-rate teaching accessible to a wider audience.”

Stanley Hoffmann, the Paul and Catherine Buttenwieser University Professor, several years ago agreed to open a class that he co-taught on U.S.-European relations on the condition that it be available to students in the Extension School and at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, a prestigious French university.

“It was very instructive and enlightening for Harvard College undergraduates to learn firsthand the opinions of peer students in another part of the world.

Instead of engaging with an on-campus classmate from, say, Paris, Texas, they could discuss ideas with someone from Paris, France,” said Leitner. “It worked magnificently.”

Hunting for new online tools
John Palfrey, the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law and vice dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School (HLS), has spearheaded an initiative to create a “library of the future” that uses technology to help the stacks “come alive in a virtual environment.”

HLS lab initiatives include Library Hose, a Twitter feed of what’s being acquired by Harvard’s libraries; Shelflife, a web application that researchers can use to access and comment on work, using common social network features; and StackView, a visual rendering of the library shelves.

Palfrey also is faculty co-director of the Berkman Center, which in 2003 created a free blogging platform for the University that now hosts more than 700 blogs. The blogs are critical, said Palfrey, because they offer scholars an important way to exchange information, allowing researchers to engage, solicit feedback, refine arguments, and “improve the quality of their work.”

Blogs can also reveal important social and cultural undercurrents, as in the center’s ongoing project evaluating the blogosphere in restrictive societies such as Iran and Russia. With these projects, “We can gauge what the reaction is to the state — what the state is blocking, who is starting these important conversations, and who is setting the agenda,” said Palfrey.

Imaging technician Lily Brooks photographs a Theodore Roosevelt manuscript in the digital lab in Widener Library. Photo by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Sharing the University’s collections
Using digital tools, the University is widening access to the massive collections in its museums, libraries, and archives, providing connections to ancient documents and prized holdings for anyone with access to a computer.

At the Harvard College Library, which consists of 11 allied libraries, items that have priority for digitizing include those that are at risk of deteriorating, that are unique, that are used often, or that are likely to fit well into existing class curricula.

A five-year collaboration with the National Library of China is digitizing the Harvard-Yenching Library’s vast collection of rare Chinese books. Another of its many projects involves digitizing more than 5,000 scarce 19th century Latin American pamphlets containing political and social commentary.

“It’s a benefit to Harvard, but much more broadly to the world at large,” said Rebecca Graham, associate librarian of Harvard College for preservation, digitization, and administrative services. “It promotes scholarship not only for the researcher and scholar, but also for those who are simply curious about a particular topic.”

Through the Open Collections Program, Harvard’s libraries, archives, and museums have created six online collections that support teaching and learning anywhere.  The collections bring more than 2.3 million digitized pages — including more than 225,000 manuscripts — to the web.

In addition, virtual visitors to the Harvard Art Museums can browse through images from its vast collections by tapping into its extensive online archives.

Harvard also has a key role in creating the Encyclopedia of Life, a one-stop information shop spotlighting the 1.8 million known living creatures on Earth, in collaboration with five partner institutions. The project is creating web pages with multimedia information, when available.

A collaboration between the Museum of Comparative Zoology and College of the Holy Cross biologist Leon Claessens is creating an online database, Aves 3D, that shows the museum’s 12,000 bird skeletons, including 3-D digital models of each species.

In addition, the Harvard University Archive is processing and digitizing 17th and 18th century holdings about Harvard in a program that carries special relevance. The documents, including papers and manuscripts from the School’s earliest presidents, shed light on the origins of the institution, and also on the country as it was struggling to come into its own.

“In this collection,” said University Archivist Megan Sniffin-Marinoff, “you see these parallels between the activities and the intellectual life and the public discourse here and in the emerging country at large, and the role that Harvard played in that evolution.”

The ambitious Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard project, under the direction of Stuart Shieber, provides an open-access repository for the work of University academics.

“We want to take things into our own hands and make sure people can read the things that we write,” said Shieber, the James O. Welch Jr. and Virginia B. Welch Professor of Computer Science, who heads the Office for Scholarly Communication, which spearheads campuswide initiatives to open, share, and preserve scholarship.

The program, created two years ago following FAS passage of an open-access policy, has put more than 4,000 articles online. Active for just over a year, the site has recorded hundreds of thousands of downloads.

Keeping the information highway open
What keeps Harvard’s digital engines running is a massive underlying structure that many users simply take for granted.

“There’s a critically important infrastructure that goes along with digital Harvard that people do not see,” said Anne Margulies, Harvard’s new chief information officer.

Harvard’s web system is one of the largest and most sophisticated private networks in the country. The fiber-optic backbone of the University links close to 500 of Harvard’s buildings on campus as well as the affiliated hospitals and other medical facilities. There are thousands of servers, tens of thousands of desktop computers, and uncounted mobile devices in the digital grid.

Tasked with maintaining what is underneath the computer platform, Margulies is also helping to develop Harvard’s digital future. One aspect has already risen to the top: video.

“Currently, 40 percent of traffic on our network is video. Some predict it will be 80 in a few short years,” said Margulies, who hopes to expand the network’s bandwidth to keep pace with the rising demand for video conferencing in classrooms and streaming of courses online. “We are seeing this explosion in the demand for video, and we need to make sure that our infrastructure is able to keep up with that and support it.”

Margulies relies on support from the Harvard Academic Computing Committee, a faculty and senior administration committee that explores academic information technology issues, principles, and policies for the University.

One technology effort under way is the collaborative group known as iCommons. The Provost’s Office created the initiative in 2001 after a number of deans expressed a desire for more cooperation in online learning among the Schools. Paul Bergen, director of Harvard’s iCommons, said the group offers a suite of online resources for teaching and learning. It includes iSites, an easy-to-use web publishing and collaboration system used by about 90 percent of courses at the University.

The humanities embrace digital
Digital scholarship in the humanities is a young but robust and expanding field. Authorities say that, while past research in the humanities was largely focused on qualitative methods of inquiry, digital media and web-based technologies are being brought into the mix more often.

“There is an increasing importance of visualization in humanities scholarship, and of geospatial components like mapping and other means of organizing knowledge, rather than in narrative form,” said Jeffrey Schnapp, visiting professor of Romance languages and literatures, visiting professor of architecture, and a fellow at the Berkman Center. At Harvard, Schnapp is collaborating with the libraries and museums to explore ways to animate their archives.

For the past three years, the Digital Humanities program has worked to raise awareness of the Harvard groups that offer digital services and support. As part of that effort, the program organizes a yearly fair in collaboration with Harvard’s social science division.

At the event, Elaheh Kheirandish, a fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, presented a Micromapping Early Science project that offered a nuanced look at the development of science in Islamic lands through interactive maps that chart the transmission of scientific works and concepts.

“I am interested in the ways technology can drive the research,” said Kheirandish, a science historian. “Ideally, my hope is that this work generates research questions we would not have thought of without this technology.”

This article was published by the Harvard Gazette

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physical + digital | what if cities…?

Category: daz+ecosistema urbano+⚐ EN

What if cities project is an ambitious urban social design project. Its aim is to bring citizenship to the design and management of their physical and social environment.

Social solidarity and quality urban space together with efficient public services are the main factors to ensure that a city provides a good quality of life. To achieve this, it is necessary to leave aside the conventional schemes which consider citizens as mere users without any possibility to participate in the design and management of their city beyond voting every four years.

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Taller the commons factory :: plug ins at santa ana

Category: diseño+espacios sensibles | sentient city+⚐ ES

Imagen 01: The commons factory / Mutant Brush, instalación en Plaza de Santa Ana 2010.10.25

En el actual contexto de la sociedad red ¿podríamos describir la metrópolis como la fábrica de los comunes? ¿the commons factory? Entendiendo los commons como recursos que son generados, gestionados y mantenidos por el conjunto de la comunidad; comunidad que también se beneficia colectivamente de ellos; recursos como son la lengua, la cultura popular, el conocimiento, los cuidados, los estilos de vida, el ambiente urbano, el espacio público, los llamados medios de innovación… [Benkler, 2006; Castells, 1997]

La propuesta del taller consistía en la creación de una librería o catálogo de “plug-ins urbanos” para ser instalados en un primer momento en la Plaza de Santa Ana de Madrid. Los plug-ins fueron diseñados y fabricados digitalmente durante los días de duración del taller, usando la cortadora láser del recientemente inaugurado Absolut Lab [con sede en el número 7 de la plaza]. Tras un intenso proceso de prototipado y testeo los diseños digitales fueron subidos a a thingiverse.com, una plataforma online en la que se comparten diseños digitales – de forma que pueden ser descargados por los vecinos, próximos o lejanos, y fabricados en el fablab de la esquina más próxima. La librería de objetos se propone como el lanzamiento de un proceso en el que los habitantes de la metrópolis fábrica alrededor del mundo, puedan descargarse los diseños y fabricarlos localmente, modificarlos y volverlos a subir, – y también diseñar y subir nuevos plug-ins  para ir ampliando la librería [Gershenfeld, 2005; Pérez de Lama, 2010].

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Weweb Madrid – taller sobre identidad digital y web social

Category: comunicación+⚐ ES


De la mano de ZEMOS98radarq.net llega al espacio CAMON de Madrid, el taller WeWeb. WeWeb es un taller sobre identidad digital y web social.
WeWeb permite tener una doble aproximación al usuario: la presencial -de valor insustituible-, y la online, debido a que se completa con una tutorización a través de las herramientas de la web social, al mismo tiempo que se garantiza el acceso a unos recursos que se van mejorando con cada uno de los talleres que se llevan a cabo.

Comments: (2)

Web 3.0 y la trasformación del espacio (físico)

Category: eco-blog+espacios sensibles | sentient city+⚐ ES


Cambio de paradigma.
Se ha hablado y mucho sobre el fenómeno de la Web 2.0 y de sus consecuencias culturales y sociales. No creo que exagere al afirmar que ha sido uno de los grandes hitos de nuestra historia reciente y que sus consecuencias a todos los niveles (social, cultural, psicológico, etc.) han sido, están siendo y serán decisivos.

En un mundo como el actual en el que se fomenta el ultra-individualismo, la web 2.0 ha resultado ser a la vez un revulsivo y un incentivo de esta tendencia. Ha supuesto un nuevo espacio de expresión de lo personal (sobredimensionado, si se quiere) pero también un lugar de encuentro que ha fomentado la capacidad de catalización social democratizada, donde todos -al menos los que poseen una conexión a internet y un ordenador, móvil o dispositivo similar que permita transmitir información- tienen su oportunidad de expresarse y de interactuar. Si bien es cierta la tan criticada banalidad o superficialidad de este nuevo tipo de relaciones no es menos cierto que también ha generado movimientos de calado profundo tanto personal como colectivamente.

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II European Conference – "Strategies for Development of the European Digital Space"

Category: espacios sensibles | sentient city+⚐ EN


Our current everyday lives reflect a panorama of global, political, social and economic uncertainties and therefore raises the need to respond with imaginative initiatives that might help to develop new models in response to the economic downturn and the new paradigms and opportunities offered by the digital age.

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Redes sociales, identidad digital y espacio público

Category: espacios sensibles | sentient city+⚐ ES


Según Giovanni Sartori los factores y los procesos que forman a la persona y que la transforman en adulto, dependen de cuatro factores determinantes: 1) los padres, 2) los coetáneos (el peer group), 3) la escuela, 4) los medios. Desafortunadamente, según Sartori, en la actual sociedad occidental los padres están en quiebra y lo mismo se puede decir de la escuela. Nos quedan el “peer group” y lo medios de comunicación. Sin embargo a bien mirar, podemos asociar el “peer group” al contexto de los medios de comunicación de masas puesto que en muchos casos refleja casi exclusivamente la cultura (audiovisual) propuesta por estos medios. Cuando el peer group no tiene capacidad de producir información se limita a reproducir o replicar la información propuesta por lo medios. Resumiendo , la opinión pública sigue estando atada a los medios y especialmente a la comunicación audiovisual.

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Identidad (reputación) digital y comunicación estratégica

Category: ecosistema urbano+internet+⚐ ES

En Ecosistema Urbano llevamos algunos años experimentando de manera cotidiana  procesos de innovación y estrategias de comunicación basados en el uso de nuevas tecnologías.

Hablando con muchos compañeros de trabajo me doy cuenta que esta labor de experimentación sigue siendo algo poco común en los estudios de arquitectura. Todavía hay mucha gente (y muchas oficinas) que ni siquiera sabe que es la web2.0, no conoce google docsflickrtwitter: en muchos casos el uso de Internet se limita a google para las búsquedas, youtube para los vídeos y facebook para comunicarse con los amigos.

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¿Hasta dónde vas a soportar el abuso de la SGAE?

Category: cultura abierta+video+⚐ ES

Me he encontrado este vídeo buenísimo. Una parodia del canon digital. Enhorabuena a los que lo han grabado.

Comments: (2)

Reflexionando sobre la piel digital de los espacios urbanos

Category: eventos+nuevas tecnologías+urbanismo+⚐ ES


Esta tarde hay una interesante conferencia de Juan Freire integrada en el Seminario VISUALIZAR’08: DATABASE CITY (3-18 noviembre, 2008), que se está celebrando en el Medialab Prado de Madrid.

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ARTECH 2008 – 4th International Conference on Digital Arts

Category: art+⚐ EN


Nas Fronteiras do Imaginário
7, 8 | November Portuguese Catholic University | Porto

Artech 2008 is the fourth international workshop held in Portugal and Galicia on the topic of Digital Arts. It aims to promote contacts between Iberian and International contributors concerned with the conception, production and dissemination of Digital and Electronic Art.

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Mapa digital de "La Semana e la Arqutiectura 08" de Madrid

Category: arquitectura+eventos+⚐ ES

Los chicos de “Proyecto Sinergias” acaban de lanzar un mapa digital con todos los eventos de la Semana de la Arquitectura 2008 del 6 al 12 de octubre.

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convocatoria abierta del pabellón independiente del move new media 008

Category: arte+eventos+⚐ ES

¿eres digital?, ¿estás seguro?, ¿utilizas los nuevos medios de manera no banal?, ¿tu trabajo explora la dinámica digital aunque el resultado no lo parezca?, ¿no sabes vivir sin conexión?

foto(info)grafía / video(info)grafía / code.art / cacharros / ambientes / presencias

algunas obras serán exhibidas por invitación, pero el grueso de la muestra estará constituida por obras elegidas tras convocatoria abierta

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¿Frank Gehry es un arquitecto digital?

Category: arquitectura+internet+Uncategorized+⚐ ES

Hace algunos días aparecía en soitu.es un articulo con este titular: Frank Gehry, el último arquitecto tradicional.
Este articulo me ofrece una buena oportunidad para promover un debate que creo puede ser muy interesante y que va más allá del juicio sobre Gehry y sus proyectos. En el articulo de María Fullaondo ( doctora arquitecta y miembro del estudio IN-fact arquitectura) emerge una duda que siempre he tenido y que me gustaría comaprtir con vosotros: ¿Frank Gehry es un arquitecto digital? Quizas la pregunta es mal puesta, quizas deberiamos preguntarnos antes de todo a que nos referimos cuando hablamos de un arquitecto digital.
Yo estoy de acuerdo con María. Gehry se puede considerar como el último de los arquitectos tradicionales, más que el primero de los arquitectos digitales. Creo que es importante evitar de asociar lo digital al mero uso de herramientas digitales. La arquitectura hoy en día debería tener en cuenta nuevos factores que trascenden la mera composición de los espacios. Existen diferentes capas que los arquitectos deberíamos tener en cuenta, empezando por la capa digital de las informaciones y de las redes sociales.