Derrick de Kerckhove on Citizen Innovation

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Video interview at CitiLab Cornellia - Barcelona

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"What would happen if the Connected Intelligence methodology was applied not to small groups, but to extensive networks of citizen innovation?

Well, I think that would be an extremely good thing, and I think it will happen, there is, one of my colleagues at the University of Toronto is a very famous commentor on this sort of thing, his name is Richard Florida, did you ever hear about him? Florida has written a book called the Creative City and it is how, he has measured and compared 100 cities in the United States in their output in innovation and he says there are four big criteria for the innovation: one, for a city to have lots of innovation one is obviously the right equipment, good infrastructure, good communication, this is essential. Then he judges a number of innovations that have happened in that city over the last 10 years by counting the patent's that have been delivered or requested and then he counts the number of social, of people who work with information, whoever works with information, so this is all very clear.

It's like, you know, technology, innovation culture, information people, but he has a fourth criterium is how many artists are in that city? And artists and alternative lifestyle, these are the things that he finds are the ingredients that make actually the most intelligent cities. And not surprisingly San Francisco is one of the top cities in the United States, New York is number 10 only, which is strange you know, I think it has to do with infrastructure and things, but yes, I think that connected intelligence is something that is happening whether we want it or not already with social networks, user generated content -- Wikipedia is one of the most amazing examples of connected intelligence applied anywhere.

McLuhan, who was my teacher and thinking master, had the most amazing prediction in 1962, in understanding media he says, "The next medium, whatever it is, will not be television, but it will use television as its content," so, in 1962 he predicts YouTube, and then right in the same situation he says, "It will mean the obsolescence of all the classification of libraries because everything will be in a single environment" that's the era of the tag, he predicted that. But the most incredible prediction, and it is he predicted Wikipedia in 1962 by saying, "...and this medium will take advantage of the encyclopaedic knowledge in each one of us." This is amazing! To have been able to see it, and he said, "...and what it will also do, it will be allowing people and business to create tailored data that will be sold to people". So he predicted the economy and the technology of that economy, which was connected intelligence.

In what way is the new digital culture transforming basic social and cultural concepts such as collective identity, privacy, individuality and so on?

I disagreed with Marshal McLuhan on this issue because he felt that electricity, because for him everything is not electronics, this electricity is the key, is the ground, the real ground, from the invention of the telegraph to the invention of the most sophisticated forms of Internet, it is always the basic thing, behind is the electrical current. And so he felt that the destiny of electricity was to eliminate identity, private identity, that would turn us all into public people. He is half right about this, Facebook is the externalisation, the publication of the inner self. Some of the inner self, not the whole thing, but most of it, a lot of it anyway. You publish, you know, your group of friends, you publish your thinking, you publish your tastes, you publish -- you make what was a private thing, which you were writing in a diary, you know, like, today I did this, a diary that you keep to yourself, that you wouldn't give to your parents, you wouldn't give to anybody, it was very secret -- now you do the inverse one, you put it online, you make everybody accessible -- twitter, twitter knows where you are! I mean basically we are publicising ourselves and publicising our identity and shifting from "this is me, secret, guarded", to "this is me, have it, help yourself", and this is a very interesting reversal of the old identity structure.

Privacy is less and less important, it is important, continues to be, especially in militarily or a situation like the Homeland Security in the United States privacy has been a very big issue, but not as big as you would want it to be. It appears that people don't really care. It's not like the 19th-century attitude, where people were very strongly individualised. Today people are not quite as obsessed or worried about identity but if we had a war situation, and if we had a very strong, if we had a big danger, a bit like the Americans did with the whole terrorism business, then suddenly everything you thought was not, was completely innocent, suddenly, you suddenly think, oh wait a minute, maybe that is now becoming very sensitive data. It all depends on the context.

But I still don't fully agree with McLuhan that identity will be wiped out, that the sense of self will disappear, I don't think so. I think we have learned, we have identified two very strong conditions of humans, which is to be with people, group, social, oriented with a community, and then to be ourselves. And I don't think we are going to abandon being private, being private citizens because we are also so much involved with groups. I think we will keep both of them."

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