Friday, May 31, 2013

First Professor of Connectivity

Google was lost for words.

No results found for "Professor of Connectivity" on 31 May 2013.  Zero.

Today, 1 June 2013, I am taking up my new position of "Professor of Connectivity" in the Graduate School of Management at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

I am grateful for this honour and excited by the notion of being the first person with this title (as far as we know) in  the world.  It is wonderful to be associated with an issue of such relevance for our time.

‘Connectivity’ captures the essence of what it means to be connected on multiple dimensions—from physical space and face-to-face interaction to wired and wireless communication environments.  In short, connectivity incorporates all the ways that we technically, socially and economically engage with others. Historically, this has involved physical travel and trade, but increasingly we ‘travel’ and trade via information and communication technologies, which are rapidly evolving and greatly affecting every layer and level of business and society.
‘The great driver of scientific innovation and technological innovation has been the historic increase in connectivity.’ In short, ‘chance favours the connected mind.’

Steven Johnson, author of Where good ideas come from: The natural history of innovation

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Internet of everything

The Internet has become so 'social' that we tend to think of it solely as a communication tool -- for humans.

But, the Internet began and remains also a network of connected devices.  In fact, there are more devices on the Internet than there are humans on the planet.  Indeed, this is MIT's Technology Review's 'Year of the Internet of Things.'

Meanwhile, Cisco's chief technology and strategy officer, Padmasree Warrior, in a recent interview with McKinsey and Co, suggests there are two types of (technical) connectivity. One is the high-bandwidth, e.g., video and media-based connections and the other are the low-bandwidth data gathering, monitoring and analytic services.  In her words,

"We believe that today only 1 percent of what can be connected in the world is actually connected. As an industry, it took us about 20 years to connect 1 percent of the world. And in the next ten years, we believe that number will go up dramatically. We’ll make significant progress in connecting the 99 percent that’s still unconnected. That will be people, that will be devices, and that will be a lot more information on the network.

So when we say “the Internet of Everything,” we mean an intelligent way to connect processes with data and things. Not just the Internet of Things, not just connecting the devices onto the network, but how can you use the information that’s being collected to drive better processes, better decision making for businesses, and better lifestyles for users and consumers? And we mean more efficient ways to analyze that data through analytics from the network—which is our expertise—to make every single vertical (manufacturing, retail, transportation) significantly different than what it is today.
So if I drill deeper into this, one of the things that I think we find to be inevitable is that there will be a lot more connectivity, and there will be two kinds of connectivity. One kind of connectivity will deliver very rich media experiences to us, through video. Video will be much more prevalent than it is today.
There will be another set of data or implications, which is all of these sensors that will connect— not necessarily high bandwidth data, but low bandwidth data, continuous streaming of low bit-rate data. And the patterns in these two kinds of data and applications are going to be very different."
Elsewhere, in a bizarre experiment, one human, T. D. Moore, decided to contact ('ping') every device on the Internet... from a room in his home.  See the article in MIT's Technology Review.

And, for more on mass pervasiveness of inter-connected systems, there is a new book from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard.  See here.

Update: November 2014

The dark side of the Internet of things: For a view on how corporations own 'things' indirectly due to ubiquitous and continuous connectivity, click here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Life beyond email?

Most of think of email as a given, taken-for-granted way of communicating; the default medium for business communication, the lifeblood of bureaucracy.  What you might not know is that there is a small, but keen movement (or at least experiments with moving) away from email. 
The Information Overload Research Group  (IORG) recently held an excellent webinar where three thought  leaders in the "Zero Email" quest shared their vision and experience, you can now view it online.  I attended the webinar and highly recommend it, if you are interested in considering a future without email.

The link is:   

In this recording, IORG Director Prof. Marty Bariff moderates a panel comprising:

Robert Shaw, Global Director of the Zero Email program at Atos, a 77,000-person multinational IT services and consulting firm. This program has a goal of completely replacing email as an internal tool by the end of this year. See here.

Luis Suarez, Community Builder and Social Software Evangelist at IBM. Luis renounced the use of email in his work five years ago, and is evangelizing this approach across IBM. See here

Prof. Paul Jones of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prof. Jones has completely dropped email in favor of social media two years ago. See here.

A trillion and growing - mobile devices are just getting going

MIT's Technology Review has published a series of articles on the rapid and extensive growth of mobile devices.  See this link for the article, which has links to other interesting facts, like where the money is in mobile technologies.

Recall that the cellphone has just turned 40 years old and that not long ago, everyone thought of computing as PCs - personal computers.  Again, my favourite quote from Manuel Castells applies:

"The key feature in the practice of mobile communication is connectivity rather than mobility. This is because, increasingly, mobile communication takes place from stable locations, such as the home, work, or school.  But it is also used from everywhere else, and accessibility operates at any time.  So, while in the early stages of wireless communication it was a substitute for the fixed-line phone when people were on the move, mobile communication now represents the individualized, distributed capacity to access the local/global communication network from any place at any time.  This is how it is perceived by users, and this is how it is used.  With the diffusion of wireless access to the Internet, and to computer networks and information systems everywhere, mobile communication is better defined by its capacity for ubiquitous and permanent connectivity rather than its potential mobility (Castells, Fernandez-Ardevol, Qiu and Sey, Mobile communication and society: A global perspective. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007, p. 248) (emphasis added)."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Tyranny of the Instant

I never thought the Zen (New Age) mantra 'be here now' could have a down-side.  But, a preoccupation with the 'here and now' to the exclusion of historic perspective and sensible moderation can be dumb, if not downright dangerous.

Consider the hoax Tweet last week that President Obama had been injured in an explosion at the White House, which sent the stock markets tumbling. See NY Times story, 'Twitter Speaks, Markets Listen, Fears Rise.' Of course, in that case, the culprits were micro-trading high-frequency algorithms not human agents.  And, when humans checked the hoax out, the markets regained their losses.

One of the fundamental problems with Twitter is its one-dimensional concentration on the present tense to the exclusion of all other time and place perspectives.  Tom Chatfield discusses this in his book, How to Live in the Digital Age, where he observes: 'In an age of constant live connections, the central question of self-examination is drifting from 'Who are you?' towards 'What are you doing?'  Much as we hunger for connection, if we are to thrive, we need some sense of ourselves separate from this constant capacity to broadcast.  We need tenses other than the present--other qualities of time--in our lives.'

Chatfield recalls watching Jaron Lanier at South by Southwest in 2010, where he (Lanier) told his audience, 'The most important reason to stop multitasking so much isn't to make me feel respected, but to make you exist.  If you listen first, and write later, then whatever you write will have had time to filter through your brain, and you'll be in what you say.  This is what makes you exist...'

So we are back to being here now, not broadcasting here now.