On May 14, I gave a talk at the Knowledge Media Institute in Milton Keynes, UK. It was an extended version of the presentation of the paper "A Socio-Technical Approach for Topic Community Member Selection" which I wrote with Anjo Anjewierden and will present at the Communities & Technologies 2007 conference in Michigan late June. See Anjo's blog for some details on the content of the paper. I will write more about that after the feedback from the conference.
KMI is an impressive institute, very well equipped and with a vibrant team of about 60 researchers. Like the Telematica Instituut in the Netherlands, they seem to be very much on top of the latest ICTs, while having a keen eye for the importance of the social context in which these technologies are to operate.
It was my first webcast talk. Cool technology, the archives of all these seminars are a most valuable resource for global collaboration and creating more egalitarian research starting conditions. I still remember when I was doing my master's project at the Agricultural University of Malaysia in 1991. There was only one e-mail connection to the outside world at the time, never mind that there was no serious Web, and the most recent accessible journals in the library were years old. It took me a long time to get up to speed after I returned to the Netherlands, since I had not been able to ground my practical findings in the latest insights. After all these years, my awe for what the Internet is achieving, literally bit-by-bit, in terms of truly, deeply transforming society, is still only growing.
True, the Digital Divide is there and needs to be taken seriously. However, let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater and acknowledge that ever more people in the periphery are starting to get empowered, and are becoming able to make a difference. "From Outcast to Webcast" might be a nice motto for this "socio-technical undercurrent" that is starting to pull ever more strongly!