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The Netzprojekt Networks and Social Collaborative Tools

The Netzprojekt is a long term low budget project to promote Semantic Web infrastructure development at different levels. In several aspects it relates to short term high budget projects and the data cemeteries left by those projects as heritage. "long term low budget" means rare project funding; the main personal resources come from different teaching activities (seminars, practices, small students' projects).

Motivation

One of the characteristics of the ongoing transformation processes is the increasing role of cooperative forms of practice, where independent actors with heterogeneous motivations and backgrounds cooperate in collaborative structures. Such structures commonly called networks - can be observed on different levels of social stratification; territorially stratified at transnational, national, regional and communal levels, but also at areas structured by profession or by concern as, e.g., in modern science in a strict sense or in the wider area of reproduction of the knowledge base of our society at large.

Even more, also in the business area the increasing importance of such structures compared to classical producer consumer relations can be observed both in the mass market (flexible reaction to changing and out-specializing consumer requirements "Nachfragestrukturen" in German, to avoid the word "consumer") and also in the area of specialized services (agile processes). And even in the management area, the classical area of hierarchical structures organized by the principles of personalized leadership and responsibility, network structures together with reevaluation of elements of self-definition and self-development are advancing.

To put it in one sentence, we address the relationship between forms of practice, of thinking and of knowledge organization within the ongoing "digital transformation processes".

Short Description

The target of the investigations and activities forced by this project are the theoretical and practical dimensions of the ongoing transformation processes towards a "Knowledge Society". This requires an interdisciplinary approach linking together specialists in human sciences and computer scientists, including "hard core computer specialists" that understand the technical aspects of "social collaborative tools" on a sufficient detailed level, but also specialists in the different application areas, that understand the technical aspects of the application area on a sufficient detailed level.

Such a linkage requires computer scientists that have a view on computer science not restricted to a "science about the systematic processing of informations in particular about the automated processing of data using digital devices" (Duden Informatik), but understand computer science as the "technological aspect of thinking" and thus also as part of humanities without neglecting the technological aspects of their profession.

The project focuses on the following four big aspects:

(1) A detailed analysis of the increasing importance of infrastructural aspects that can be observed within the ongoing transformation processes. The reproduction of infrastructure is increasingly an important condition of welfare and economic activities.

Such an increase of importance can be observed in both the private (customer and supply chain management, quality aspects, product lines) and also public domains. Typically, in both spheres evolve cooperative forms of practices, where independent actors with heterogeneous motivations and backgrounds are acting together in a collaborative way.

(2) A thorough analysis and classification of the standards and the social and technical tools, that are used within the organization of such collaborative structures.

Coherence, standardization and usage of compatible tools are essential prerequisites and aspects within the successful development of collaborative structures. The resulting effects of homogenization on the one side and free access without or with only small barriers as functional prerequisites for networking lead to economic conditions where the allocation of resources cannot be treated within classical frameworks of return on investment.

Open source approaches and new business models for the development and improvement of the required tools, concepts, and for decentralized operating infrastructures without classical separation in "producers" and "consumers", see, e.g. (O'Reilly 2004) gain increasing importance.

(3) The joint development and improvement of corresponding approaches and tools in selected areas of Linked Open Data.

Within the project we practically contribute to the ongoing worldwide distributed development processes of the required tools and concepts addressed in (2) both for gaining practical experience and input and to contribute to the development of a common socio-technical infrastructure.

(4) Practically accompany selected community building processes in the local areas of the project (hence the affiliation to Dorfwiki).

This goes beyond (3) since territorially organized collaborative structures (i.e., structures of community economic development) have to acquire and develop competency to organize the corresponding processes in the full range and to develop and improve the infrastructure required for sustainable networking. With regard to the situation of communal finances it is a big challenge to local networks to mobilize the necessary resources and creative forms of cooperation and SME with local roots play an important role. The project concentrates on such processes within the Leipzig region to implement elements of a sustainable socio-technical infrastructure and to systematize experiences of best practice.


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