Data, Algorithms and Enclosure – Time with Tim Klapdor

On Thursday 13 August, along with approximately ten #INF537 colleagues, I had the great pleasure of engaging in an online colloquium with Tim Klapdor, Online Learning Technology Leader, Charles Sturt University. Very early on Tim stated, “Networks are the key to life”, and quickly emphasised that the nodes/individuals within those networks determine their quality. At their best when individuals are empowered through ownership and autonomy of those networks. However, he soon pointed out that current systems and models don’t exist to support networks in their truest ‘co-operative’ form.

Tim expanded upon his argument by highlighting that there are questions about ‘Data Sovereignty’ such as, “Who owns the data?” and, (for companies who have your data), “How do they define your identity?” Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media groups can produce social graphs which map people to other people, places and events. Such companies then use ‘Algorithms’ to determine what information comes to you, say, for example, when you are on Facebook. Algorithms can also determine how Google ‘ranks’ your searches. The Licensing Terms we agree to when we join these groups, gives them the right to use your information as they see fit. They own the accumulation of information about you; however, do we really know what they do with this information?

Such actions of companies have brought about the question of ‘Enclosure’. Tim referred back to agricultural times gone by and use the example of the Land of Commons to explain ‘enclosure’. Over time, the land owned collectively by numerous people was transitioned to more and more individual and company ownership who put fences up around the boundaries of their land. This prompted the question, “Is the distributed networked nature on the world wide web becoming ‘fenced in’ and owned by persons or companies?” Tim’s argued that the ‘common space’ of the web is no longer there. Are we being fenced in? 

Tim encouraged the thinking, “We want people to own their own data and encourage more cooperative ways of sharing information.” Soon after, I asked Tim about the difference between the ‘co-operative’ and the ‘collaborative’. In responding, he made reference to the work of Harold Jarche. Soon after the colloquia, I went searching for a blog by Jarche, PKM in 2013 because I remembered this rich and descriptive graphic below…..

Some of the excerpts from that same blog help explain the graphic above. They are as follows….

“Both collaborative behaviours (working together for a common goal) and cooperative behaviours (sharing freely without any quid pro quo) are needed in the network era. Most organizations focus on shorter term collaborative behaviours, but networks thrive on cooperative behaviours, where people share without any direct benefit. PKM (Personal Knowledge Management) helps to add cooperation to workplace collaboration.”

“Communities of practice (are) a half-way space between work teams and social networks, where trusted relationships can form that enable to share more openly.”

“Connecting social networks, communities of practice and work teams, becomes an important framework for integrating learning and working in the network era. We seek new ideas from our social networks and then filter them through more focused conversations with our communities of practice, where we have trusted relationships. We make sense of these embryonic ideas by doing new things, either ourselves, or with our work teams. We later share our creations, first with our teams and perhaps later with our communities of practice or even our networks. We use our understanding of our communities and networks to discern with whom and when to share our knowledge.”

Dreaming about the possibilities of the ‘co-operative’ may require us to challenge the notion of data ownership when authentically engaging in true sense of distributed networks though the Network ‘Common’. As such, I am reminded of Elizabeth Stark, founder of Harvard Free Culture Group points out, who suggests that people who are engaged in traditional structures are often threatened by newer paradigms around ownership and control. My question is, “Are companies of the newer paradigm (such as Facebook and Google) capitalising upon old notions of ownership and control?”

Thoughts, comments and feedback would be appreciated.




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