Since last August, this blog has been silent. This does not mean that I have been out of action, far from it. Since the fall, I have been very busy with two contracts, both at Tilburg University. My main contract is as a project manager for the implementation of a student portal, the other one concerns assisting in the development of a blended learning videoconferencing system for law students doing their internships at different law firms in the Netherlands (see picture).
It's been a very busy half year, in which I have learned a tremendous amount. All of these years in academia have provided me with many high-level ideas and contacts, which I can put to surprisingly good use in my current work in the trenches. It is fascinating to see how trying to design and build real, useful systems, instead of just esoteric lab prototypes, helps in galvanizing thought, and, I am convinced, ultimately also in producing better theory. My scientific background helps me in capturing wicked (design) problems as socio-technical system puzzles. The complexity and pressure of real-world implementation, on the other hand, forces me to see much more clearly the intricate relations between relevant theoretical concepts, which often remain hidden in academic thought exercises.
One reason I left academia was that I strongly believe that community informatics requires a design science, in which theory gets injected into the design and implementation of actual systems, covering the full range from initial prototypes to large-scale systems-in-use, to be tested, refined, and reimplemented continuously. Unfortunately, the insane publication pressure in universities increasingly does not provide researchers with enough time and resources to go beyond the scantiest of implementations, and thus the adequate testing of their (design) theories. This is a very worrisome development, as it creates an ever widening gap between theory and practice, whereas they should be regarded as two sides of the same coin.
As I have stated before, my mission with CommunitySense is to be a linking pin between academia and practice , a conviction which has only grown stronger now that I have been in business for a while. To be continued...