Hans Gert Graebe /
Net Project






Networks and Social Collaborative Tools

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 or, even better, are involved with the creation processes of such tools.

Such a linkage is in the focus of the project, where a key role will be played by computer scientists, that have outstanding reputation in a view on computer science that is 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 side of thinking" and thus also as part of human sciences 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 invest.

Open source approaches and new business models for the development and improvement of the required tools 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 mainly knowledge mining.

Within the project the participants will 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 technical infrastructure. The main focus is on themes where the participants already have acquired experience and proved their expertize.

(4) Practically accompany selected community building processes in the local areas of the project participants (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, see, e.g. (Lewis 2006). Since all project participants are bound to such networks in the one or another form, the project outcome should be implemented in such regional networks to build experiences of best practice.

Main Goals

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, this project or project framework should address the relationship between forms of practice, of thinking and of knowledge organization within the ongoing transformation processes towards a "knowledge society".