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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

digital economy and innovation « Previous | |Next »
April 1, 2008

I see that the digital economy bit of the 2020 Summit has disappeared. So where are we on this? Anyone have any ideas? What is the connection to the creative economy and social networking and the innovation system in the changing media landscape? How do we begin to connect these diverse flows together? Is it through an information or knowledge society?

Let's begin with David Frith, who writes Doubleclick in The Australian. Those, like The Australian, who claim to have their pulse on the nation should have some ideas, shouldn't they? Firth has a post that considers and questions the telco's view of the infrastructure underpinning the digital economy:

WiFi hotspots - now spreading through cities worldwide like a virus - will become as irrelevant as telephone booths... WiFi is doomed because: (a) more and more people are switching to mobile third-generation (3G) phone services such as Telstra's Next G, and (b) support for high-speed packet access (HSPA) networks such as Next G is being built into more laptops.With a little 3G gizmo plugged into the USB port on our Apple MacBook, and an external antenna plugged into the module, we can log on to the internet wirelessly at very fast speeds just about anywhere in Australia, even in moving trains.Optus, Vodafone and Hutchison offer similar services, although without the geographic spread at this stage.

Well I have one of these 3G gizmo's for my Toshiba laptop and it works fine in metropolitan Australia--eg., when I was in Perth last week. I do not need to use a phone to blog, nor do I want to. Even Apple's iPhone, which connects to the internet via WiFi, probably won't change the fact that it is the laptop which is my mobile toolbox, not the phone. It was what I could do with the technology that was important.

Frith, who is arguing against the telco view of the digital economy, goes on to say:

Now it's true that if you have a 3G mobile broadband connection, you're unlikely to use an airport WiFi hotspot; simply because the airport monopolies charge mightily for WiFi, but there are a lot more WiFi users than 3G mobile broadband users, and we can't see the hotspots becoming the equivalent of unused telephone boxes for years to come.

The WiFi hotspots are free in most Australian airports in the capital cities --apart from Sydney. I've been heavily reliant on them in the past. What is noticeable is the lack of WiFi hotspots in our cities which is what drove me to get a 3G connection.

Firth's argument for WiFi amounts to this:

There are WiFi and 3G connections, a web browser and GPS navigation maps. So WiFi is far from dying, or even indisposed, but there's no doubt 3G mobile broadband is an up-and-comer that will make inroads in its market.

He has no argument. There is no mention of what Internode's Regional WiMax Network is achieving; what Internode is doing in Adelaide with hotspots, or how viable the strategy of building a series of hot spots into a wireless network is. Nor does Firth consider what Australians might do with their digital capability once they’ve got it, or how we will acquire the skills and motivations required to benefit fully from this new technological mode of being. As John Hartley points out:
The physical ICT infrastructure that has developed since the 1990s has not been matched by a concomitant investment in education – public or private – to promote creative uptake of digital technologies by entire populations. Usage across different demographics is patchy to say the least, continuing to reproduce the class and demographic divides inherited from the industrial era. The scaling up of digital literacy is left largely to entertainment providers and those who want users for their proprietary software applications. In other words, the market.

He adds that for the most part the education system has responded to the digital era by prohibiting school-based access to digital environments, apart from walled gardens under strict teacher control. From this, kids also learn that formal education’s top priority is not to make them digitally literate but to “protect” them from “inappropriate” content and online predators. Although schools and universities certainly teach “ICT skills” and even “creative practice,” so far they have not proven to be adept at enabling demand-driven and distributed learning networks for imaginative rather than instrumental purposes.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:28 AM | | Comments (14)


The John Hartley article at Creative Economy is a gem. Look at this paragraph, for instance:

with digital online media, there’s almost infinite scope for DIY (do-it-yourself) creative content produced by and for consumers and users, without the need for institutional filtering or control bureaucracies. The so-called “long tail” of self-made content is accessible to anyone near a computer terminal. Everyone is a potential publisher. Instead of needing to rely on the expertise of others, young people navigate themselves through this universe of information.

So they become digitally literate outside of the school. I'm having to acquire this kind of literacy in a DIY mode.

I forgot to add what Hartley means by digitally literate. It's important.

Today’s 13-year-olds – those who’ll be retiring from work around the year 2060 – seem almost a different species from modernists reared in the image of industry. Teens evidently don’t see computers as technology. It’s as if they’re born with an innate ability for text-messaging and gaming. And while they may not be able to spell they can tell you their life story on MySpace, entertain you on YouTube, muse philosophically in the blogosphere, contribute to knowledge on Wikipedia, create cutting-edge art on Flickr. If they’re anything like my daughter they can do most of these things at once, and then submit their efforts to an online ethic of collective intelligence (via msn, SMS) and iterative improvability that is surely scientific in mode.

This is a very different world to that of the cultural conservatives who grew up in the 1960s. If Liberal education is understood to governed by a canon, a recognized body of knowledge considered essential for transmission from one generation to the next, then it is in big trouble.

It is the silences about the knowledge society that is so noticeable in the IT newspaper bloggers.They mostly write about the latest technology or the recent moves by industry. Society doesn't really exist for them, and so they have little to say about a knowledge society in which knowledge becomes a major creative force. Yet they must be aware of the profound impact the newly globalised and technology-driven economy is having on developed societies such as Australia.

The word that refers to knowledge society is innovation' ie fostering fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in the market economy. The focus is on its focus on science and technology policy, to deliver the innovation outcomes to which policy makers and business aspire.

The Society for Knowledge Economics does a lot of work in this area. It is a long away from the digital literacy of John Hartley's 13 year olds.

It's a mistake to get too carried away with technological determinism, and education offers a case in point. Gary notes the unhelpful classroom focus on walling kids in, which serves to turn them off doing their digital literacy learning in a classroom setting. Besides, by the time they've reached the point of doing anything seriously useful in the classroom they've already been uploading some fairly sophisticated stuff by themselves. They're long familiar with the advantages of collaboration.

The uses they make of the technology are extensions and enrichment of their everyday lives, not the other way around. Instrumental purposes are irrelevant because their own purposes have personal meaning.

The industry and the journalists who write about it have a whole other set of objectives. They're there to promote the technology and, as you say, protect and promote industry interests. The open access and exchange of content that underpins the stuff people actually do with the technology has a whole other economic logic.

So far, the two have been unable to reconcile their differences.

The people who write the reviews of technology (cameras, phones, laptops MP3 players etc) in the Australian and the AFR really hate WEB 2, and Facebook in particular. Facebook is the Other--teenage nonsense about their friends with lurking stalkers in the background.

They do not see it in produser terms at all, let alone encourage produsage projects. What's emerging here is no longer just a new form of content production, but a new process for the continuous creation and extension of knowledge and art by collaborative communities in the informational realm.

It appears to be a case of the barbarians taking over the castle. I'd like to know what else they expected people to do with all this lovely communications and content creating technology. What was the point of inventing the possibility of uploading content otherwise?

The News Ltd crowd are good at recycling the drip feed in the form of manufactured outrage and tabloid style journalism--crisis this crisis that ---but hopeless in informing us what is happening about the way people are using the internet.

It's amusing really. The people who are supposed to be informing us about ourselves are so bad at it we have to turn to the net to inform ourselves about ourselves. The same thing happened with the poll wars. If the public wanted an explanation of the polls that matched the poll results they had to go online and see what the public had to say about their own polled opinions.

I think that it is great that are doing this for ourselves and creating an alternative space. That is why I like the produser idea of Axel Bruns. he understands what is going on.

The giant access corporations such as Google and Yahoo, have grown by harvesting the creativity and communication activity of ordinary people.

In many states, YouTube, Flickr, as well as social media such as MySpace and Facebook, along with other web 2.0 applications, are banned from use on school computers. Without such a restriction, students could be engaged to learn about scaling up their vernacular creativity in ways that might fit them well for entrepreneurial activity beyond school.

infrastructure is still important for use generated content. Without it there is no way to acquire digital literacy Since a lot of people in regional and rural Australia do not have access to broadband--- hence the digital divide in the knowledge economy---they are not in a position to become a part of the digital landscape. They cannot learn how to acquire the core competences that would enable them to make the shift away from the passivity of the old media to being interactive and participatory.

Hmmm...I am afraid when I hear luvvies start banging on about "digital literacy" I reach for my revolver. If you want to see the ghastly Orwellian future where working class kids are totally locked out of opportunities y'all should read The Literacy Wars by Monash Education academic Ilana Snyder.

I had often wondered where high school English teachers got all this passe Frankfurt School/ Paris salon 'Otherness' and such, and now I know.

It is not just the AEU who is responsible for the current English teaching malaise, it starts in the uni. Education departments. The poor kids being shovelled this porridge simply would not have the skills to deal with it.

I agree. The literacy demands of texts that students need to be able to use and construct in today’s world has changed significantly in the last ten years with the internet. It is no longer a case of the elite reading Shakespeare and the flannel clad Westies in Sydney reading Mills and Boon to becoming better people.

Being multiliterate has become the new literacy benchmark. Being digitally literate involves having at your disposal the practices and processes of information literacy, print literacy, visual literacy and critical literacy. Being digitally literate enables students to piece together information from a range of different texts – written, visual, aural, across a variety of information sources found on the Internet.

This change will continue with the burgeoning use of the electronic medium, particularly the Internet, in classrooms and the work place.