What Is a Digital City? It is Interconnected Collaboration and Flexibility
When you hear the words “Digital City” what comes to mind? Is it a virtual city created from ad hoc groups of people converging in an electronic marketplace? Is it an actual physical city boasting all the amenities of technology? Or is it a combination of the two? For me, when I hear “Digital City” I usually find myself thinking about the third option, an actual place that sustains a physical population but who are networked to conduct virtual lives that interface with physical lives on a perpetual basis.
This is kind of the case with Songdo City, the recently new international business district/hub city where everything is interconnected on a manmade island off the west coast of South Korea. Architects and planners designed the city to maximize interaction in the marketplace, the city was built for collaboration. Collaboration is one of those ideals that has become a necessity for survival in any discipline. Check out this speech from IBM’s CEO at SmarterCities in Chile last month
“We will have to become far more collaborative.” - Samuel J. Palmisano at SmarterCities Santiago, November 23, 2010
This might sound a little obvious, in fact, we all know that our technologies are enabling collaboration by design, and little things like Google sites, Social Bookmarking, smart phones, even Wii and games like World of Warcraft these are obvious examples of our collaborative training wheels. If we can learn collaboration through habit-forming activities that are pleasant and result in a return benefit on our collaborative contribution then we will start to bring more and more collaboration into our professional lives. I think collaborative technologies are purpose-built to encourage collaboration to permeate all domains of our lives, not just the domain in which we use the technology. Anyway, Palmisano is right, we have to augment our collaborative efforts. I encourage you to also explore IBM’s vision of how the world is becoming more instrumented, interconnected, intelligent. Also, collaboration has interesting transformational effects, consider this talk by Clay Shirky about how we collaborate to produce culture-shaping content and products through cognitive surplus.
Obviously collaboration is important in our future, and clearly the decisions we make today produce distinct futures, it is wise then to start to consider how we can become more future-oriented in our approach to collaboration. What are some resources for developing a more collaborative life? I drafted this list of basic activities in the process of becoming more collaborative:
- Situated yourself in an ecological context; your niche should include vast amounts of systems oriented thinking
- Enforcing your own flexibility – collaboration depends on your ability to tolerate ambiguity
- Actually start collaborating on things in your non-work life
- Practice the skills of “Multifaceted Learning for Multifaceted Living” (May 17, 2010)
- Draw up a strategic plan for your personal life and drive it from policy based decisions; act like an enterprise
In addition to developing these activities in your life, keep abreast of current news in your domains of expertise, but also keep up with the mediums that transmit knowledge about your domain of expertise. Check out resources like the top ten list for downloads in the SSRN eJournal of Computer Mediated Communication.
In desiring to be more of a system thinker with a slant towards collaboration I would encourage you to start learning about the creative process of architects, because their process is very closely linked with ethnographic inquiry to understand the spaces in which people have interactions, experiences, problems, successes, collaborations. Find an architect in your network and take him or her out for a cup of coffee. Ask them about how they design. Or, check out architects like Helsinki based NOW and their music video lecture about history and systemic change. Another great collaborative architect produced this film about the contrast between static and dynamic elements in the urban environment, it shows relationships as an interaction, the essence of collaboration.
When I was an ethnography intern in Papua New Guinea the ethnographer I worked with encouraged me to consider that “relationships are everything and giving is the basis of relationship”. That no relationship can exist without giving. This is how it is in Melanesian societies and I feel that this is how it is in all societies, we have to give to relate. I argue that collaboration is a form of giving; it is a cooperative joint action that requires both parties to give a little. Remember what Clay Shirky said in the TED talk: “And critically, the social constraints created a culture that was more generous than the contractual constraints did.” Collaboration breeds generosity. This is exactly in line with the wisdom I learned 10 years ago from that anthropologist; relationships ARE everything. Explore some of my other posts that deal with relationships and giving:
- Relationship is Everything & Giving is the Basis of Relationship (June 25, 2010)
- The First Shall Be Last: a shift from the First Person to the Third Person in the Scientific Enterprise (December 1, 2010)
- Perspectives on Hierarchy in Society – Ongka’s Big Moka (August 28, 2010)
- The Unity of Complexity – In Defense of Hierarchy (June 3, 2010)
One of the positions I am taking with this blog in 2011 is an equipping position to share more about how to utilize the underlying foundations of cognition that we see in language to foster collaborative creativity. I will be outlining tool sets for structuring project design, for structuring knowledge, for relating conceptualization strategies to real life problems that people face in the workplace, in schools, in life in general.