Monthly Archives: May 2010

Evolution of a blog

Defining the topic for this blog has been an on-going challenge for me since I started blogging in December 2004. And that is reflected in the way my blog has evolved over the years.

Starting out as a simple way of sharing my experiences as an exchange student in Manchester in 2005, the blog evolved into a more solid online presence, eventually hosting the observations and ideas gathered throughout my fieldwork and thesis writing.

Following my graduation, I redefined my blog as my outboard brain, borrowing an expression from Cory Doctorow, a random stream of whatever caught my interest or my fancy at any given time.

Once I began working at Socialsquare, much of my blogging was diverted to their blog, and my own blog saw only sporadic posting.

Now that I’ve started out on my own, I find it is time to define the topic of this blog anew, and much more clearly this time. Inspired by Josh Porter’s advice on small-company blogs I’ll focus on the fields in which I work, and on how the developments in these fields can make a difference.

I work at the intersection of two fields: social software and people-centred design.

Social software is the fuzzy field sometimes known as social media, social tools, or lately even social business. Fundamentally, it is software tools and services on computers or mobile devices that support social relations, sharing, collaboration and collective action.

People-centered design is a strain within another fuzzy field often called user experience design, design research, user-centered design or even user-driven innovation. But all of these strains still draw upon the same mother lode: The notion that it is vital to understand understand the practices, motivations and needs of the potential users in order to design new products and services that can offer lasting value.

What both of these fields have in common is the fact that they are opening up new avenues of user involvement in their own way:

Social software facilitates involvement by offering people tools to share, discuss and solve issues – either directly among one another or indirectly by engaging with an organisation dedicated to solving those issues.

People-centred design creates involvement by engaging with people in their everyday lives, exploring and analysing the issues they face and building on those experiences in design solutions.

So, to sum up: I write about user involvement through people-centered design and social software. Stay tuned for more.

Civic urges

Today, my friend Nadja Pass and I are launching the first part of our project “Borgerlyst”.

Borgerlyst logo

The word Borgerlyst is a Danish portmanteau of Nadja’s invention. It consists of the two words Borger (meaning citizen) and Lyst (roughly meaning lust, urge, delight, inclination). In short, a sort of civic urge. It is meant as a sort of play on the phrase ‘civic duty’. Whereas civic duty is all the obligations, rules and expectations society forces upon you, civic urge is something like the opposite.

It is the feeling that you get when you feel a positive connection to the society around you. It can both be a sense of privilige for being able to take part and act in democratic processes, but more often it comes across as a sense of positive indignation. Every time you experience something in your life that also affects others in the same way, and you think “this could be a whole lot better”, you’re feeling that positive indignation, a civic urge to improve the world around you for the benefit of all. And when you succeed in realising such improvements, you will feel a civic delight.

Borgerlyst as a project focuses on building greater awareness around such civic urges, and make it easier for us as citizens to connect with others who share our civic urges and initiate projects to realise our civic urges. We hope that by building a positive framing around such civic engagement and participation, people will be more likely to take positive action together, rather than resorting to skeptical complaining or cynical blame games whenever they come across something in need of improvement.

A fundamental idea behind Borgerlyst is the notion that neither democracy nor society will ever be perfected, but is in a state of continuous development. It is in beta. That is to say: We have certain structures and procedures that generally work but there is still plenty of room for improvement. It is an acceptable error state that depends on our being present and engaged. And the drive that keeps us engaged in this way is our civic urge.

Today, we launched our Facebook page and in the coming month, we’ll launch our website at borgerlyst.dk as well. The whole project is focused on Denmark and will be in Danish, but we’d be most happy if the project can be an inspiration for similar initiatives elsewhere. If you’re curious to learn more, let me know.