(e) Participating in Copenhagen

24. October 2008 – 16:20 by Maren Luebcke

The annual conference of the Association of Internet Researchers was held in Copenhagen last week. Under the title “Rethinking Community, Rethinking Place” 400 researchers visited the IT University of Copenhagen and presented their current work on Internet research on a broad range of topics.

Worth to mention - and probably the most successful key note at the IR 9.0 was Stephen Grahams speech on “Sentient Cities: Ambient Intelligence and the Politics of Urban Space”. He basically works on the relations between urban places and mobility, infrastructure and technology on the one hand, and war, surveillance and geopolitics on the other. In his recent work - and in his talk - he describes the implications of new media technologies for urban life and the proliferation of urban surveillance systems which are increasingly automated through computer software. His latest book on this topic will be out in March 2009 under the title “Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism”. It will be definitely worth reading it even if it will be a pretty frightening reading.

Interestingly most of the presented research on the conference followed a qualitative approach. Thus it was much more about giving a close description of areas like e-science, online games, religion online than providing statistical data on Internet usage, which I appreciate. Unfortunately the track on e-participation was a little bit disappointing.

But I was able to meet Thomas Hammer-Jakobsen, head of the Copenhagen Living Lab. Located close to the IT University the Copenhagen Living Lab tries to find answers how public administrations but also enterprises could meet the challenges of a changing society in terms of technological revolution and demographical changes through user driven innovations. I was very impressed how serious the Living Lab approach are taken by Thomas Hammer-Jakobsen and colleagues. They are really working on the concept of user driven innovations out of the daily users life by e.g. running a whole retirement community as a living lab. Currently they experiment with the development and the deployment of an online platform to support the process of user driven innovation on a variety of topics.

As mentioned earlier by Francesco here the combination of e-participation with the Living Lab approach might be a valuable idea. In particular, a potential benefit could be a careful preparation of the participatory trials by analysing the users needs to avoid - as Francesco stressed out - “the most common pitfalls of current eDemocracy experiences, such as: lack of active involvement from citizens and/or stakeholders, mistrust from the people, skepticism from the politicians, and ultimately a low reusability of upcoming results within the public decision making process.”

Lets hope that neither the promising area of e-participation nor the field of Living Lab research will suffering too badly from the current financial crisis.

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