RvK: The premise of DECODE is that tools are not neutral.

DECODE believes that people should have a choice about what happens to their digital identity, who uses their data online, and for which purposes. One of DECODE’s aims is to create local open and decentralized data platforms, where people can use data to guide meaningful decisions and actions.  One key reason cities and municipalities have so far failed to foster local alternatives to dominant internet services such as Uber or Airbnb is that they lack access to data. Another reason is failing to introduce tools that have extreme usability and user experience, coupled with educational – but not patronizing – stories explaining why the public tools are better.

The premise of DECODE is that tools are not neutral. Rethinking what we mean by 'knowledge representation', constructing “new forms of 'flows' between content and context, and exploring the balance between the 'global' and the 'local'”, requires a toolset that is able to allow new forms of ‘flows’ to emerge and codify them in a ‘beta’ way, so they can, be iterated upon. In The Myth of Neutral Technology, Jan Miller Polgar argues: “When technology is viewed as a tool, as something that is a necessary and integrated part of daily life, it becomes an enabler of activity. However, far too often, technology is a reminder that the user cannot participate in their community as they wish. Technology that is recommended without input from the consumer is in danger of being abandoned, at a cost to the user, their community, and society.”[i]

In Imagined Communities: Awareness, Information Sharing, and Privacy on the Facebook, the authors find in 2006 that “an individual’s privacy concerns are only a weak predictor of his membership to the network.”[ii]  Eleven years later these parameters have not really changed as “most of respondents, who seem to be active users of Facebook, do disclose a considerable amount of private information of themselves, and contrary to their own belief, are not too well aware of the visibility of their information to people they do not necessarily know. Furthermore, the privacy policy and terms of use of Facebook were largely not known or understood by our respondents.”[iii]  In The Effects of Perceived Functionality and Usability on Privacy and Security Concerns about Cloud Application Adoptions Makoto Nakayama, Charlie Chen, Christopher Taylor find that improved usability perception eases both privacy and security concerns. They cite a survey in a past study showing that user experience affects trust (Beldad, de Jong, & Steehouder, 2010). Trust in turn lowers the degree of risk perception (Kim, Ferrin, & Rao, 2008): “That is, as Google Docs users continue to use the application, they develop more trust on Google Docs and, in turn, have lower risk perception. These are driven by the user learning through continuous interaction with the cloud application over time.”[iv] This shows that educating users in the tools and language of the applications that pose the risk themselves will not lead in itself to a change in attitude or behavior, in fact it reinforces by the very nature of its familiarity the notion that it can be trusted.

This familiarity can only be broken by bringing in new tools.

In Key Elements and Enablers for Developing an IoT Ecosystem, Omar Valdez-de-Leon concludes that ecosystem will ultimately be the competitive unit in the digital transition. Building an IoT ecosystem, according to him “is a complex undertaking that requires many interconnected factors to be balanced. The challenge for businesses is to establish an IoT ecosystem strategy that is holistic, considering all the elements described above and adopt an ecosystem mindset that moves away from vertical value chains with one set of customers at the end of it.” [v].

To those who says that a 2 billion user network cannot be ‘defeated’ we can only point to the slow and purposeful growth of, for example, Facebook itself. Other networks were existing before Facebook launched in 2004. Club Nexus was too complex. Friendster became too slow as it failed to match the back end to the demand.  Marc Zuckerberg learned from this and controlled new registrations carefully to be always ‘working’, building the backend faster than the data flows. He thus added one school at a time.[vi]


[i] Jan Miller Polgar, The Myth of Neutral Technology. In M.M.K. Oishi et al. (eds.), Design and Use of Assistive Technology: Social, 17 Technical, Ethical, and Economic Challenges, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4419-7031-2 2, c Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010
[ii]                                 Acquisti A., Gross R. (2006) Imagined Communities: Awareness, Information Sharing, and Privacy on the Facebook. In: Danezis G., Golle P. (eds) Privacy Enhancing Technologies. PET 2006. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 4258. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
                  http://www.heinz.cmu.edu/~acquisti/papers/acquisti-gross-facebook-privac...

[iii]                                Virpi Kristiina Tuunainen, Olli Pitkänen and Marjaana Hovi In Users’ Awareness of Privacy on Online Social Networking Sites – Case Facebook. Telematics and Informatics. Volume 34, Issue 1, February 2017, Pages 412–424
                  http://aisel.aisnet.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=bled2009

[iv]                               http://jisar.org/2017-10/n2/JISARv10n2.pdf#page=4

[v] Key Elements and Enablers for Developing an IoT Ecosystem, by Omar Valdez-de-Leon. May 17, 2017 IEEE Internet of Things
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[vi]                               http://www.businessinsider.com/secrets-to-facebooks-success-2012-5?IR=T#...

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