Aspen Institute on Public Libraries

Last month, the Aspen Institute gathered about two dozen leaders and innovators to a workshop on the future of public libraries.  I was honored to be asked to participate.  I will be helping to develop the larger strategy, but I thought I’d share some immediate observations from the discussions and my reflections on them.

As a pre-condition to thinking clearly about the future of libraries, we need to leave behind legacy thinking. The libraries of today cannot be and shouldn’t be the libraries that we fondly remember from our childhood.  A library is no longer a building merely with books.  Even the addition of e-books to printed books is not a fundamental and sufficient change in the traditional library model.  

To escape that old mold, library services can now – and should now – escape the confines of the library building itself.  With the Internet, library services can be everywhere.

At one point in the discussion, someone put up a picture like the one below – which isn’t quite what I have in mind by going beyond the library building 😉

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The reaction of some people was a feeling that the “little free library” movement built cute little boxes but it is sad that library funding has been so diminished that we are left with such pitiful collections.

My reaction was a bit different.  I said I agreed that this little box was limited, if what you had in it was printed books.  But why not take all the outdoors and other locations which are targeted for “little free libraries” and make the real and much bigger digital library available to people there.  As a portal to the digital library online, the collection can be as large as possible even in this little box.

I also pointed out that our economy has been changing and more people earn a living in digital ways, based on knowledge and innovation.  In such an economy, you would think that libraries should be the key institution and hub of society.  I gave examples of how some libraries are providing support to entrepreneurs.  Another implication of this role for libraries is that the distinctions between public libraries and those labeled as specialized, school or university libraries will be weakening because often an entrepreneur or other innovator needs access to specialized technical knowledge as well as general audience information.

It was clear that the idea that Google and the Internet make librarians unnecessary was weighing on the minds in the room, as elsewhere in the library world.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been an unusually long time user of the Internet, but I’m waiting for help from good librarians.  What most of us face is TMI and TLK – too much information and too little knowledge.

Librarians can be the guide, curator, re-mixer, and knowledge creator for people who are drowning in a sea of information, or worse, swimming in the wrong part of the sea considering what they need to know.

Of course, it was clear from the discussion that many of us realize the users of libraries can also contribute, as in the pro-sumer model where a person is both consumer and producer of information.  So librarians should encourage and make space for people to self-publish.  Going beyond text, libraries should do the same for people making videos, music or even things (through the availability of maker rooms and the like).

Along those lines, there was a bit of discussion about the Douglas County (Colorado) Library model.  That library got fed up with the refusal of four major publishers to sell e-books to them and the tough conditions imposed by the other two big publishers.  So it reached out to many independent publishers to get their e-books in the library.  

A much wider possibility in the future is for the libraries to help authors to publish their works without the traditional publishers. Yes, I know there could be a lot of junk published, but there is no reason why book reviews, peer reviews, and other means couldn’t be used to help identify the junk without the need for editorial approval from the big six publishing companies.  The Public Library of Science (PLOS) has, as an example, established itself as a respectable medium for research using these techniques.

Finally, it seems that each library is trying to create the future itself.  Why can’t librarians and others in the library world work together nationally, enabled by the tools of the Internet.  If there is a librarian in Seattle who is an expert on Eritrea, why can’t she be available all over the US?  Someone described this as the library version of MOOCs.  This kind of federation, perhaps mutual aid pact, is a natural result when librarians realize their services are no longer limited to library buildings.

The Aspen Institute project is asking important questions not only for libraries, but for our country as a whole, so keep track of its efforts.  For more information now, see www.aspeninstitute.org/dialogue-public-libraries

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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Visual Images And Text

Summer is always a good time to catch up on some off-the-usual-track reading.  For me, that means reading a couple of books that look beyond the superficial surface of the Internet and related digital media to the deeper ways that these phenomena have affected people and moved us all to a post-industrial way of thinking and acting.

The books both demonstrate and elaborate on the ways that visual images, rather than text, are the ascendant medium of human communications in this Internet age.

The best of these books is Stephen Apkon’s “The Age Of The Image: Redefining Literacy In A World Of Screens” (2013).  Apkon is the founder and head of the Jacob Burns Film Center, just north of New York City.  The film center has a wide variety of programs, including education of children in visual literacy.  

While just 263 pages, the book describes the history, the language, the business, the techniques and the social and educational impact of visual media.  Apkon’s overall theme is that the dominance of visual media in this century means that all of us (not just children or digital natives) need to become visually literate.

As he states in his introduction:

“The power of visual media has been with us from the beginning of our species … With today’s visual technology, our work lives will be changed forever, and soon it will be as unfathomable not to know how to make a video as it is not to know how to send an e-mail.  The vocabulary of Hollywood is becoming the vocabulary of Main Street.  We must embrace these powerful tools …
“After each revolution, political or cultural, we can look back and see the elements that came together to make it possible and even inevitable.  Those who understand and prepare for these revolutions thrive, and those who don’t are left behind.  We are at one of those moments with regard to the ways in which we participate in society, democracy and the global economy, and visual images and story are at the heart of this historic change.”

A few weeks ago, I was involved in a radio interview with the author that is available on iTunes and also at   

http://wowididntknowthat.com/2013/08/08/the-new-literacy-special-guest-steve-apkon-author-director-jacob-burns-film-center/

A somewhat related book is “The Art of Immersion: How The Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, And The Way We Tell Stories” (2011) by Frank Rose, contributing editor at WIRED Magazine.  The focus of this book is much more on millennials and on the business impact.

Together these books are thought provoking and provide a richly detailed image of the world we now live in.

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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Changing GDP To Reflect The Digital Economy?

Previously on this blog and in my presentations over the last couple of years, I’ve pointed out that we are not adequately measuring what’s happening in the economy because GDP was developed during the 1930s to measure the industrial economy.  In significant ways, it underestimates the value of digital products and services.

I even referred back to a great old quote from Senator Robert Kennedy – http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/16816367505/robert-kennedy-on-measuring-the-economy-too-much

So it was with interest that I read earlier this week (“Getting Creative With the G.D.P.”) that the Federal government will be adjusting GDP this fall to better account for the new economy.  In March, the Government issued a report about this topic, entitled “Preview of the 2013 Comprehensive Revision of the National Income and Product Accounts: Changes in Definitions and Presentations”.

The BEA report says: 

Currently, expenditures for private R&D are not re­corded as final expenditures in the calculation of gross domestic product (GDP). Expenditures for purchased R&D are classified as intermediate inputs, and the costs of producing own-account R&D (that is, produc­tion of R&D by an enterprise for its own use) are sim­ply included with the other costs of production and are not identified as contributing to the output of a separate commodity.

Investment in R&D will be presented along with investment in soft­ware and in entertainment, literary, and artistic origi­nals in a new asset category entitled “intellectual property products,” … The recognition of R&D as investment will improve BEA’s measures of fixed in­vestment, allow users to better measure the effects of innovation and intangible assets on the economy, and make the NIPAs more consistent with recommenda­tions in the SNA [the government’s “system of national accounts”].

The strategic consultants, McKinsey, in commenting on this change this week, noted:

In our knowledge-based economy, this is a sensible move that brings GDP accounting closer to economic reality. And while that may seem like an arcane shift relevant only to a small number of economists, the need for the change reflects a broader mismatch between our digital economy and the way we account for it.

The change doesn’t fully address the under-measurement of the impact of the digital economy, but it does start to fix the problem.  Now, as both the public and private sector make investments in expanding the digital sector of the economy, the return on those investments will become clearer.

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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Is County Innovation An Oxymoron?

Last Friday, the National Association of Counties held an Innovation Summit as part of their annual meeting in Ft. Worth.  I was asked to give the keynote speech on what local government leaders can do to encourage innovation in their counties, but I also attended the other discussions.

As I listened, in the back of my mind were recent articles about the increasingly important role local government can play – in the face of a dysfunctional Federal government and the global connectivity that enables local governments to work together and provide better services.

So the first question is whether these county governments can step up to the challenge, or as the title of this post puts it: Is County Innovation An Oxymoron?

While certainly not all of them are innovating, it is striking how many are.  Because so little is reported about local government innovation and there is not an active peer network among these innovators once they leave their annual meeting, the counties often don’t know what each has done.  That, of course, limits the spread of these innovations.

But that will change.  The counties are about to create a peer-to-peer online community, thanks to Bert Jarreau, NACo’s Chief Innovation Officer.  

Moreover, the cost of computer technology and networks is going down and becoming more widespread, which is great for counties with smaller budgets, who want to innovate, but have felt they didn’t have the money and staff skills to do so.

With “cloud computing”, where all kinds of software, hardware resources and data is available on the Internet, these counties don’t need to buy their own expensive equipment or hire large numbers if IT experts.  Instead, they can pay for what they use.

With many of their employees already owning smart phones and tablets, these counties can get access to mobile apps.  Since people have already figured out how to use apps on these devices, training is simple.  And software in the app market often costs dramatically less than traditional software. 

With videoconferencing, social media and other collaboration tools, it is also possible for these county innovators to support and help each other at any time.

These three big trends – widespread technology, cloud computing and mobile devices – may seem familiar to those in the IT industry.  But the reality is that this combination is relatively recent and still maturing.

All in all, however, this adds up to an unprecedented potential for innovation in local government.  It just needs the right platform and the people who will act as a catalyst for that potential to be realized.

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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The Lever To Accelerate Education Reform?

Although there has been lots of news this year about online education – such as massively open online courses (MOOCs) – as a proportion of overall spending on education these efforts are still quite small.  What will accelerate reforms like these and other, perhaps even better, changes to the ways that people can learn?

It has struck me that before this acceleration of innovation can occur, we must cut the Gordian Knot of education – the fact that, in general, the same institutions that offer education are also the ones who certify that a student has mastered the material.

If we could break that combination, people will be free to learn in the ways that are best for each of them individually.  Instead of one size fits all, each person could use one or more of these approaches: MOOCs, classroom, peer-to-peer, self-teaching, online video, hands-on or other ways that may be invented.  Then an authoritative independent organization can certify whether or not the person has mastered the material.  

So it was interesting to read in the New York Times, a few weeks ago, that:

“Working with Mozilla, the MacArthur Foundation and a consortium interested in virtual learning, former President Bill Clinton announced a project on Thursday to expand the use of Open Badges — online credentials that employers or universities can use in hiring, admissions, promotions or awarding credit. The badges serve as credentials that can help self-taught computer programmers, veterans returning to civilian life and others show skills they learned outside a classroom. ”

It remains to be seen how widely this particular initiative will go, but this or something like it – sooner or later – will provide that independent credentialing system that is needed for disruptive innovation in education to start happening.

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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Getting A Grip On The Future Economy

I’ve been asked by several people for the link to the video of my keynote presentation at the first Intelligent Communities Institute symposium last fall, on “Seizing Our Destiny: Getting A Grip On The Future Economy”.   This was the latest version of the future-oriented strategy to succeed in the world as technology and how people will make a living both change  –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlNxLmIQ4O8.

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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Big Brother or Fun Uncle?

The recent news about NSA collection of data and Google’s ever expanding collection of personal information have increased concerns about privacy.  So some people are worried the use of sensors all over – the Internet of Things or Everything – will lead to Big Brother.   

A few of my recent blog posts show creative uses of the Internet everywhere.

I think of this as more like your Fun Uncle than Big Brother 🙂

Happy Fourth of July!

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/]

US Mayors Pump It Up?

Along with Mayor Bill Finch of Bridgeport, Connecticut, I made a fun presentation at the annual meeting of the US Conference of Mayors.  More about that, but some background first.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been working with the Council on Metro Economies and The New American City of the US Conference of Mayors on a future-oriented, 21st century strategy for economic growth.   

This project recognizes the increasing proportion of Americans who will earn their living by providing digital products and services, on the one hand, and the increasing availability of high quality, casual video communications and collaboration on the other hand.  

Together these lead to some significant changes in the character of the economy and of cities.  (See my presentation at the ICF Institute for more about these changes –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlNxLmIQ4O8.)

In the early stages, the strategy focused on ideas for mayors as they respond to these changes on behalf of the residents of their cities.  More recently, with USCM staff, we’ve started to create pilot demonstrations of these ideas.

Recognizing that these changes in the economy enable many people to make a living almost anywhere, one part of the strategy is to provide a high quality of life, a “WOW” experience, that’s unique to a city so people come and stay there.  The by-product of this experience is that it can also inspire residents to innovate – a key factor in economic growth.  

With the Internet everywhere across a city, blending the physical and the virtual can create new WOW experiences.  The presentation showed various examples that included displays and projections on walls and other physical structures, on a controlled mist from Long Island Sound, etc.

Bridgeport is a good example of a city that can benefit from this – an older industrial city of 150,000 that is cut by an interstate highway.  It has locations and structures that wouldn’t normally be considered attractive, but offer great potential in a blended virtual/physical world.

Consider this smokestack that is the first sign of Bridgeport that drivers see on Interstate 95.  

image

Why not make it a video screen? 

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This blending of the virtual and physical makes it possible to show what’s happening in real-time in another part of town or from another time in the same place.

Consider the multi-modal transit center that people see when they arrive by train, bus, ferry or even a car.  It certainly could be more welcoming.

image

Each summer, there is a big music festival in Bridgeport – the Gathering of the Vibes.  My last example showed how this wall could be transformed so it presents one of the star acts, Elvis Costello.  

image

The song he’s singing, “Pump It Up”, is also the message to mayors and what they can now do with what used to be dreary places.

I left the mayors with this final thought: this is not primarily about something artistic or a way of getting advertising or even promoting big events.  In a fundamental way, this is how cities need to think about urban design in this century.

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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How To Be The Most Intelligent Community In The World?

One of the questions I was asked about the awards given by the Intelligent Community Forum is what does it take to become an intelligent community.  I’ll try to summarize what I’ve learned from participating in the ICF as a keynoter, juror and (before Cisco) a leader of a Top 7 community.

Among the few hundred communities that apply in this contest, it is clear the first step is make sure the community has sufficient broadband.  Almost all of the things that intelligent communities can do for and with their residents depend upon that connectivity in one way or the other.

Second, high-speed connectivity is not enough to stand out in this global competition.  The next question is what a community does with the technology.  Is it transforming: 

  • The way that residents interact with their government?  
  • How residents – from pre-kindergarteners to seniors – are educated?
  • How well the physical aspects of the community are managed?
  • How residents are kept healthy and safe?
  • The local economy and the income opportunities for residents?

… Just to name some of the evidence that ICF is looking for.

Third, an intelligent community is reflected in the collaboration of all parts of the community.  Is everyone getting the benefit of the technology?  Are they working together to build a better future?

Fourth, there is an intangible, but important, element: the culture of the community.  Is there a sense that the culture of the community encourages innovation and encourages the sophisticated use of the technology that they have invested in?

Fifth, ICF looks for progress.  Many of the communities, who have been in the Top 7 and have won the top spot, did not win the first time they applied.  But over the course of a couple or more years, they showed continued commitment to making themselves intelligent communities and they showed great progress.

None of these five factors should be all that surprising.  Of course, as we’ve seen, succeeding at each of these takes a community effort and leadership that is both visionary and effective.

Here is the list of the Top 7:

Taichung City was selected as the winner.

 

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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Does Innovation Destroy Or Create Jobs?

The Intelligent Community Forum just completed its annual summit, which celebrates the Top 7 most intelligent communities in the world.   These are the global leaders who have already made investments in broadband and in community building – and who are now looking to see how they can build on those advantages.

This year’s theme was innovation and employment, so I was asked to give the keynote presentation on the question of whether innovation destroys jobs and how sub-national governments should respond.  

This is a summary.  The video of the presentation will be available in a couple of weeks.  [Note: there was a foreshadowing of this presentation in my earlier blog post “Are Jobs Disappearing?”]

The current argument that technological innovation is killing jobs has a long tradition, going back to the Luddites.  But today we even have that herald of the Internet age, WIRED Magazine, portraying a near term future in which robots do all the work.    I pointed out that there is still a lot of work to be done whether or not robots are “on the job”, for example curing diseases.

More relevant to the question is whether the new kinds of work that innovation makes possible can be handled if people do not have the skills needed for that work.  The need for training is obvious, but my focus was on the need for life-long learning for the adults, rather than the usual investment in K-16 educational institutions.  In building a platform for lifelong learning, local governments can draw upon the numerous online resources for learning.  Indeed, the local public libraries should be given the task of organizing and making sense of all of these online learning opportunities.

Another, little discussed part of the employment picture is the relative inefficiency of the labor market itself.  I suggested that, at least for their own metro areas, these local leaders use or enhance some of the new software that better matches the talents and temperament of their residents to the needs of the economy.

Any discussion of innovation and jobs also needs to provide the big picture, the context of what is happening.  So I briefly summarized my work on the future-oriented economy, with its twin trends of (1) a more service-oriented and digital (intangible) work and (2) ever increasing high quality visual communication over the Internet that enhances collaboration among people across the globe.

Among the several implications of these trends is that the nature of work itself is changing.  People will still have lots to do, but they will not necessarily be making a living in a traditional 9-5 job at a fixed work location.

Innovation is one word with two forms.  One, that Clayton Christensen called “sustaining innovation” is the kind of innovation that does increase productivity so that fewer people are needed to do the work – in other words, jobs decrease.  The other is what he calls “disruptive innovation”, which can lead to the growth of new industries and companies providing greater income for everyone associated with that growth.  Clearly, it is this second kind of innovation that public officials need to encourage.

In an excerpt from Steven Johnson’s TED talk on “Where Good Ideas Come From”, the audience was reminded that “chance favors the connected mind” and innovation is really a network phenomenon.  This is reflected, as well, in the open innovation movement among many corporations and even the US Government.

To accelerate disruptive innovation and the economic opportunities it can generate, local governments need to connect their residents to the global economy, global flow of new ideas and new services.

Successful innovation also requires a supportive culture, including accepting the failures that are part of innovation and experiment.  Failure is something that many public officials feel comes with a high price, although the historic success of public sector innovators tells a different story.  And, of course, the best path for disruptive innovation is not huge projects that require huge investments, but many smaller experiments.  As the saying in Silicon Valley goes: “fail early and fast” to maximize learning from the experience. 

For their part, public officials can help build a local culture of innovation by using government itself as a model of innovation.  They can even use the experience of being in their city as a continual reminder and inspiration for innovation.  I gave some examples of simple, not very costly ways of taking even the less beautiful parts of a city and turning them into exciting, artistic lessons on innovation.

Finally, using the 19th century example of the reaction of different cities to the railroads, I noted that they should not just wait to see what happens with technological innovation.  Their decision to lead innovation or not to decide will have long-term consequences.

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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Perceptive Radio?

I’ve written before about how technology and the Internet makes possible individualized, personalized experiences that weren’t possible in the past.

Now comes along an experiment in one of the iconic mass media of the 20th century – radio.

The folks in the R&D lab of the BBC have been working with what they describe as “perceptive radio."  It is something that looks like an old radio, but has a computer built into it.  That computer, in turn, is aware of its environment and will adjust the audio delivered by the radio.

See and hear this at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p018pj2c and http://futurebroadcasts.com

This is personalization in not quite the way that Google and Facebook do it, which is by analyzing the text you enter into your computer.  Instead the BBC’s Perceptive Radio senses the environment you’re in.  

Of course, it won’t be too long before the "radio” can also sense your body’s vital signs and adjust to the physical signs of your mood.

I’m not sure where this experiment is going, but they are onto something.  In this form and/or in other forms, we will be seeing more of this kind of personalization.

Here’s the picture from the BBC website …

image

Are you ready for it?

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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Are Jobs Disappearing?

There have been articles and much discussion over the last year or so about how the economic recovery and more generally technological innovation have not generated many jobs.  Indeed it looks like technology is enhancing productivity to the detriment of job creation.

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, both of MIT, wrote a somewhat scholarly op-ed article in the NY Times several months ago that noted the traditional increases in jobs and income that have followed productivity increases no longer seem to be happening.  See “Jobs, Productivity and the Great Decoupling”.

WIRED Magazine devoted its December 2012 issue to the impact of robots on jobs and life.  It led with an article by Kevin Kelly entitled: “Better Than Human: Why Robots Will — And Must — Take Our Jobs” and a sub-head “Imagine that 7 out of 10 working Americans got fired tomorrow. What would they all do?"  The magazine even presents a two-by-two matrix about jobs that makes the same point:  many of us won’t have a job for very long.

image

Despite the sensational nature of the issue, there is a lot more to this question than robots and technological advances.  One small provocative aspect has only begun to get attention – maybe the traditional, 9-5 job in an office or factory is just disappearing.

So Douglas Rushkoff on CNN’s website had an article entitled ”Are Jobs Obsolete“ in which he argued that the standard industrial-style job we’ve been used to is an historical anomaly and not likely to last in a post-industrial society.

You can find books with similar themes and some self-help advice on what to do about the trend, such as "Making A Living Without A Job: Winning Ways For Creating Work That You Love” by Barbara Winter.

This line of thought also counters the robots-will-do-all-the-work argument.  As James Lee put it in the March 2012 Futurist, “Jobs are disappearing, but there is still a future for work."  See his article ”Hard At Work In The Jobless Future“.

By the way, this is not an altogether new idea.  In 1994, William Bridges wrote "Job Shift: How To Prosper In A Workplace Without Jobs”.

So part of – certainly not all of – the explanation for the elimination of jobs is their replacement by less structured forms of making a living.  I’ll write more of the story in a future post.

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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Citizenville?

I’ve written a couple of times about Carl Skelton’s Betaville software for citizen engagement in urban planning and design, so my eye caught the title of a book that came out a few months ago – “Citizenville: How To Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government” by current California Lt. Governor and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.  (Alas, Citizenville is a name based on the popular game, FarmVille, not Betaville.)

When the book came out, there was a little bit of publicity and reviews in a few newspapers.  Perhaps the largest audience Newsom had was an interview on the Colbert Report, which unfortunately was fairly cynical in tone.  Many people, even those who are interested in better government, haven’t read it.

Let’s first get the criticisms out of the way.  Some critics have dismissed Newsom as a lightweight and clearly he does not write in an academic style.  It’s more journalistic, even breezy.  (Many people might consider that a plus.).

The tone in places is somewhat clichéd and sometimes annoying to those of us who are much deeper into the role of the Internet in government.  For example, the implication that the private sector is almost always better than the public sector is too broad a view to be worth much as a guiding principle.

Some of it is too much about him.  And not all of it is correct or well thought through.  But then that would also be true of authors with more prestigious academic credentials.

Ok, now to the more important positive side.  The book is a reasonably good compendium of the various ways that the Internet is being used in the public sector.  It should be read. 

For me, the most significant thing about the book is that an incumbent, leading politician wrote it.  In a way, that’s also why the book is useful to other public leaders.  Newsom shares his experiences – both good and bad – and outlines at least some of the minefield facing other elected officials who wish to use digital technologies in public service.

In addition to writing a book that can help to educate public leaders, Newsom, along with Code for America, has created the Citizenville Challenge (http://citizenville.com/challenge/) that has enlisted cities such as Philadelphia and Austin.  

Over the last several years, I’ve seen more elected officials who understand the role of technology in better citizen engagement and better public sector outcomes.  My own experience has led me to realize that technologists, in and out of government, can really only succeed when the top elected official leads the way.  Ultimately, that’s why this book is important.

In a recent review, Pete Peterson summarizes this key to success:

Of course, technology can facilitate these opportunities — but not without public-sector officials who see governments as more than “service providers” and citizens who regard themselves as more than “customers.”

[Note: If you want to get a quick idea of what he’s been saying, take a look at this video from the Commonwealth Club of California.  http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/311166-1 ]

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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Art In The City Or The City As Art (Part 2)?

Last week, I blogged about the blending of physical and virtual space to create new places and experiences in a city.  This way the city itself is the art form, not merely the backdrop for some unrelated, unintegrated work of art.

There are a few examples of this blending of the virtual and physical already happening in various ways.  

  • In Aarhus, Denmark, the public library opened a public space for residents to use their mobile devices and create a collective work of digital art that could then be “posted” on the walls.
  • In Times Square in New York in 2010, the retail outlet Forever 21 put a fashion model on a display screen.  She took pictures of the real crowd below and then showed it on the screen.  (See www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtLX52z4kPU)  The story goes that it was so successful, the police asked the company to shift the angle of the screen because drivers were stopping to look.
  • Just as in a connected world, we say that “work goes to people, instead of people going to work,” so too have retailers started to bring the store to where people are instead of trying to entice them into stores.  As an example, PeaPod converted the walls of the Chicago Transit Authority into virtual supermarket display cases where people can use their smart phones to buy food that will be delivered to their homes later.  
  • In Australia, partly as a public health measure to encourage walking instead of escalator use, the city painted some stairs to look like piano keys and then linked that up to computer generated sounds.  As people walked on the stairs, they were playing music.  Another “Wow” experience that is not expected by residents and visitors – http://www.chordstrike.com/2009/11/piano-stairs.html
  • Mercedes Benz has demonstrated “transparent walls”, on which is projected what is happening on a side street a car is approaching.  That way a driver can see something coming before it would normally be visible.  The safety benefits are pretty obvious.  For a video, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LqCMv3Nz4ZQ#

Of course, each city is different so there is still a large element of creativity in developing an appealing and appropriate blend of the virtual and physical.  That will be a challenge for artists, technologists, planners and even local government leaders.  It will be lots of fun to see how this all develops.

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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Art In The City Or The City As Art (Part 1)?

New forms of lighting, optics, connectivity and computer technologies have enabled artists to use the outdoors and other unusual settings as a new kind of canvass for their artwork.  Sometimes called projection mapping, here are some of the more interesting examples:

These are wonderful works of art.  BUT – all of these are expressions of art in a city, merely using the cityscape as the surface upon which an unrelated piece of artwork is laid.  These are not fully integrated with the city and don’t transform the city itself into art.

When I’ve spoken to audiences about the blending of physical and virtual space, I’ve had something much more ambitious in mind – the creation of new destinations and new experiences in a city which are attractive because they combine what’s there with virtual capabilities.  

This blending also provides residents and visitors a way of stretching and replicating time and space in the city.  Imagine showing in a location at night what it looked like in the morning or six months ago.  Imagine showing what is happening in another part of the city – particularly useful if you want those embarking trains or planes to learn of an event taking place elsewhere. 

Think about augmenting reality not through a smartphone camera or fancy glasses, but by augmenting reality in its place.  I’m certainly not alone is seeing the potential.  In his article “Augmented Reality Will Make Boring Cities Beautiful” [http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/cities/video-how-8216augmented-reality-will-make-boring-cities-beautiful/691] Christopher Mims notes that: 

“Once augmented reality is widespread, the difference between a great and a mediocre city won’t just be its built environment. To some extent, it will also be the degree to which that environment is a suitable tapestry for the creatives who will paint it with their augmented reality brush. Digital artists who learn to re-appropriate the city with the most innovative augmented reality add-ons won’t just bring themselves fame and fortune — they’ll also be attracting others to the places they love.”

Next week I’ll share a few examples of what has already been started.

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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What Is WATPA?

What Is WATPA?

Citizens Participating In Budgeting?

This week, the New York State Technology Leadership Academy will take place in Albany, New York.  As I posted two weeks ago, I’ll be speaking about deep citizen engagement – the ways that government leaders can get the benefit of citizen co-creation and co-delivery of public services.

Note: the new website for you to contribute to and assess ideas is at https://claritypresales-13df0e80fac.secure.force.com/ca_idea__ideahome .

A timely article by Governing magazine appeared Monday – Tax Day, appropriately enough – about a “Study: Citizen Budgeting Related To Better Outcomes”.  (http://www.governing.com/blogs/view/gov-study-citizen-budgeting-related-to-better-performance.html)

The study was published in The American Review of Public Administration and focused on the relationship between the degree of citizen participation in highway budgeting and outcomes, such as road fatalities and road surface quality.   The researchers found that the greater the citizen participation, the more positive the outcomes.  This effect was strengthened the earlier the citizens had a chance to participate.

While there have been increasing reports about participatory budgeting, this is the first study that shows that citizen participation is not merely a democratic ideal, but is also a way to get better government.

Go to http://arp.sagepub.com/content/43/3/331 , if you want to read the original article, “Citizen Input in the Budget Process: When Does It Matter Most?” by Hai (David) Guo and Milena I. Neshkova, The American Review of Public Administration, May 2013; vol. 43, 3: pp. 331-346. 

Some other reports about citizen participation in budgeting can be found here:

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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Government-to-Government Services?

There was an interesting article in the New York Times, “Police Surveillance May Earn Money for City” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/04/nyregion/new-york-citys-police-surveillance-technology-could-bring-in-money.html).

Because it focused on law enforcement, much of the article dealt with privacy and other issues raised by police use of technology.  These issues are indeed challenging, but not that new.

A newer part of the story is that this is a good example of something I’ve been expecting to see for a couple of years: government to government software-as-a-service.   

Here are some relevant excerpts from the story:

The policing system is making New York safer and it will also make money for the city, which is marketing it to other jurisdictions. 

Buyers would pay to access the software (at least several million dollars and more depending on the size of the jurisdiction and whether specifications have to be customized). New York City will receive 30 percent of the gross revenues from the sale of the system and access to any innovations developed for new customers. The revenue will be directed to counterterrorism and crime prevention programs. 

This government-to-government service allows less technologically skilled governments to get sophisticated services they could create for themselves.   It also enables the most technologically advanced governments to spread out their development costs over a larger base and to save some money for their taxpayers.  A win-win as the old expression goes.

Even beyond law enforcement – or maybe I should say, especially outside of law enforcement – the logic of this situation is likely to lead to an expansion of these government-to-government technology services.  More examples in future posts.  Please let me know if you have any examples.

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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New York State Technology Leadership Academy

In two weeks, the New York State Technology Leadership Academy will take place in Albany, New York.  This event brings together hundreds of the technology executives who try to make technology serve, ever better, the needs of the people of New York.

I’m on a panel Thursday, April 18, talking about Deep Engagement with the citizens of New York, enabling them to co-create public policy and deliver public services.  

As befitting the topic of the panel, there is now an opportunity to direct the conversation.  You can share your ideas or participate in the live conversation on April 18 at 11 AM Eastern Time.  Go to http://bit.ly/11LSR5U 

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/47030097497/new-york-state-technology-leadership-academy]

The Personalization Of Work?

Seven years ago, Chris Anderson, recently retired editor-in-chief of WIRED magazine, wrote a groundbreaking book, “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More”.  He contrasted the one-size-fits-all, mass media world in which he grew up with the new Internet-enabled economy that requires business to target increasingly smaller niche markets  – ultimately to a market of one unique person.  The phrase “long tail”, which has become a catchphrase in business, refers to the decreasing percentage of any market that is commanded by the best-sellers.

This book and others before and after it have influenced the strategy of increasing personalization of products and services.  In the industrial era, up to 1970 or so, one-size had to fit all because it was too costly and difficult to do otherwise.  Today, that is no longer true, so personalization is a major focus of consumer products corporations.

But the concept of personalization does not have to limited to the consumer realm.

Last week, I met with one of the most respected and innovative California state government agencies.  (Yes, there are some stellar public agencies even in a state government that has had more than its share of fiscal and management problems for quite some time.)

The focus of the four-hour meeting was the workforce of the future.   

During the course of the discussion, only partly in response to a mini-debate on teleworking, I was prompted to point out that technology today enables different styles of work to occur.  It is not like the factory of old where every task was monolithically prescribed.  

Instead, those who want to work in an office can do so.  Those who want to work at home can do so.  Those who want to work in some co-working space with others, who may or may not be in the same organization, can do so.

When we say that many people are now in jobs where they can work anywhere – that even means working where they have always worked.

The results oriented work environment (ROWE) that often accompanies telework program is the sort of program that makes it possible for this to happen.   (See my earlier post “Telework: Good For Productivity, Bad For Innovation?http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/44219104836/telework-good-for-productivity-bad-for-innovation .)

ROWE focuses on work outcomes, not work patterns.  While ROWE is neither an all purpose solution to all corporate problems nor yet fully developed, it is a useful way to think about work.  From a management viewpoint, it is the outcomes produced by an employee that we really want, even if we would not personally do things the way that employee does.  

So this story isn’t just about teleworking.  It is true for other aspects of work that we have always assumed required rigid patterns.

This is all not an earth-shaking insight, but just the application of a trend – personalization – that we all know about to an area of life we haven’t thought about in that way.  Yes, it is possible to personalize the nature of work. 

© 2013 Norman Jacknis

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