A year of work in progress – day 155

Day 155 –11 September 2014

I struggled to get started this morning. I don’t know if it was because I gave blood last night or the mist that hung in the air. Today is pregnant with history, is it really thirteen years since the attack on the twin towers? The world seems to be caught in a constant struggle. Closer to home, yesterday saw the launch of a new ‘Durham at War’ website to commemorate those who served in the Durham Light Infantry during the First World War. There was an event in the Durham room at County Hall and we were thanked for the work we had done in developing the site. It was even on the television on Look North. At least we can now say ‘as seen on TV’.

We had our monthly North East ICT Managers meeting and this time we had a trip to see the Culture Lab in Newcastle University. I went there when I was at University which seems like a long time ago now and so things seemed a little familiar. Of course when I went there there were no such things as computers. We relied on books.

Patrick and John showed us around. Their focus is on human computer interaction and what is referred to as digital civics. They have two centres for doctoral training (CTDs) with fifty five PhD students (civics and cloud) which makes them the biggest activity in the wold focussed on local government services. There are so many exciting areas to look at for example how can digital technology support local services, improve democracy, engage people in planning, connect schools to communities and improve public health? They are moving ICT from a responsive toolset to a creative force and it’s all here in the North East and contributing to putting the region on the digital economy map.

They are currently working with Newcastle, Gateshead and Northumberland councils but this should be a great opportunity for the combined authority. I suggested that Patrick enter the projects for Dynamites.

There was too much to mention in this blog but here are a few things that whet my appetite: The concept of delegated democracy where you give your vote to someone else to vote for you as a way of increasing engagement and collaboration. The automatic generation of location based apps that can spread information around niche interest. The use of abstracted sensory data to learn how people do things and why some are better than others.

My favourite though (and one I would like to explore further) was the self-organising learning environment (SOLE) or school in the cloud. I’ve seen Sugata Mitra talk about this at Dynamo 14 and he is presenting at our conference next month. My interest though is whether this can be applied to the work environment to create a self-organising service delivery. I gave them my name to follow this up.

As and aside they work in an open plan environment and it was felt that the collaborative opportunities this present outweighed any distraction.

I got to wear Google glass. If I was to live my life again I’d like to work there.

In the afternoon, Jane and I went up to Gateshead to look at what they are doing with paperless council meetings.

Learning points for today: The PSN programme has been officially closed but I don’t know what that means; Newcastle University is 20th in the Russell group; high latency is a better way of saying it takes a long time for us to get going and; Polaroid is back in fashion.

Today’s enjoyment rating 10/10 – blown away.

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