A 21st century infrastructure?: Broadband, daily life and an Australian digital economy
Venue: Brown Theatre, Electrical Engineering (Building 193), University of Melbourne
When: 5-6 pm, Tuesday 16th March
ABSTRACT: When the Commonwealth Government announced the National Broadband Network in April 2009, in addition to being confronted by a massive civil engineering program, they were confronted by the challenge to make high speed broadband relevant to all Australians. Remaking the internet into an essential service for our homes, offices and school and also into a meaningful part of our daily lives and rituals is going to take a lot of work. This work must be grounded in a strong understanding of Australian every day practices, as well as the possibilities and problematic of new technologies. It will also need new forms of policy, regulation and stakeholder management, as well as new metrics and analytics for measuring progress and success. This talk examines current Australian socio-technical practices, and the prospects for a digital economy.
BIOGRAPHY: Named one of the top 50 most creative people in Business (Fast Company,) Genevieve Bell is an Intel Fellow and director of the User Experience Group within the Intel Digital Home Group. Bell joined Intel in 1998 and has come to lead an R&D team of social scientists, interaction designers and human factors engineers to drive human-centric product innovation in Intel’s consumer electronics business. Prior to joining Intel, Bell was a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. In 2009, she was South Australia’s 15th Thinker-in-Residence and her work investigated the barriers and drivers for broadband adoption. Born and raised in Australia, Bell received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Bryn Mawr College in 1990. She received her Masters and Doctorate degrees in anthropology from Stanford University in 1993 and 1998, respectively.
My notes and thoughts from this seminar …
(The time codes relate to my recording of the seminar)
… in Australia right now, we can imagine the internet as a destination. We can imagine it somewhere you wait, it would be a kilometre away. (3m50s)
This is a really good starting point to have a conversation about a Digital Economy in Australia. To move from a point where the internet is a destination to where broadband is ubiquitous.
The interesting trends around the world against which the NBN is happening. People will bring their old stuff with them … we are not starting from scratch.
(14m55s) The South Korean ‘U ARE HAPPY LIFE’. Korean government web site about their next 10 year plan which the call U-society (U for ubiquitous). the image shows Stylised Korean apartment buildings, satellite [future], and a book [past].
the future also has a past (16m20s)
Signal Statistics: Twelve years ago (1998) 72-75% of all internet users were based in the United States, ten years later (2008) less than 17%. In that ten year period the internet went ‘rest of world’ and those populations brought with them totally different expectations about information, notions of knowledge (ideological shifts: freedom of information, democracy, secrets). China, India …
In the last few years the internet has gone Feral, in the classic Australian sense of the word, it has run off our desktops and laptops and turned up in lots of places. Phones, games consoles, Televsions, information to electrical meters, parking meters, houses, streets, public signage … All kinds of things have the possibility of being connected to the internet this gets some people thinking in terms of
the moral equivalent of the dog fence, rabbit proof fence (19m00s)
vis the Great firewall of China, an attempt to contain the internet. But also during this time a great proliferation of where the internet turns up and how we think about the internet
In Western tradition most internet was first experienced on a desktop or a laptop. For big areas of the world with big user populations the internet exists on cell phones, it is text based not Flash heavy so it is not visually rich, but it still delivers the kinds of things that the internet does. No need for a mouse and graphic interface to participate in the internet.
The internet collapsing time and distance (20m30s)
People imagine that their Government and ISP already know a lot of information about them. People don’t want people to know ‘what they are they doing’. (Phone where you are, TV what you are watching, devices smart enough to tell other devices what you are doing).
people don’t want their television NOT to tell the truth to face book … they want the television to tell a ‘better story’ (22m45s)
* Privacy is still important
* Peoples opinion of them also important – reputation
* what is the story that gets told
The role that lies and secrets play in our digital lives: In real world people tend to have a shame reaction when they tell lies, in the online world there is a glee, happy reaction. eg. 100% of people lie on online dating services.
Cornell research showed that 100% of online daters have lied (usually about height or weight). The rest of us lie for a variety of reasons: 40% to conceal misbehaviour, 14% to keep our own social world ticking over; 9% to increase popularity.
This is an issue if you are a Government collecting information online.
(25m40s) Over connected
* Carving out a site that is free of technology
* Motivated by absence of technology; eg. holiday location
* How do you manage use of devices
(28m30s) Hyper connected
* Hyper connected youth ~300 text messages per day
* What the internet is and isn’t. Parents use the internet, they use Facebook from their phone … definitions.
* Computers at school ‘crap’ compared to home/library
* Firewall issues at school causing issues, eg. We’re studying cancer and I have breast cancer which is blocked at firewall
* Systems of things in school which are inadequate to the task
* Teaching a technology as a product such as MS Powerpoint or MS Excel rather than ‘how the internet works’
* A push from school that the internet is for homework
* Police explaining that the internet is paedophiles, a dangerous place to be
Hyper connected kids are statistical outlayers
(33m20s) I don’t understand IT, but …
* Tacit knowledge not formal, does not view self as an expert
* Self description; sophisticated users that don’t know how to describe themselves
*Policy framework impact
(37m20s) My Dad thinks I’m Google
* Intermediate use, access via other people, via other peoples connection
* A step away from the internet, access via a proxy person
* A mode of access
(39m00s) When it doesn’t work?
* what happens when it doesn’t work?
* Rollout with built in redundancy
How do we imagine the moral equivalent of the panel beaters and the plumbers of the NBN?
(42m00s) Vital signs or life overheads
* Cost of phone, mobile phone, Foxtel, …
* Public policy challenge
(42:30s) Digital Economy ~ what does it mean?
* 28% of Australian households do not have internet [ABS]
* Of those that do have access a large number are still on dial-up rather than broadband.
21% of those with access to the internet in South Australia (17% of state) are on dial-up; this is not always because they cannot get broadband but a cost management/financial strategy.
(45:40) Nothing in it for me
* Choosing not to use the internet, or to stop using the internet
* Material arriving with the internet
* Half of Australian internet users only access the internet once a week, not daily access. Far from ubiquitous access.
* Using the internet for email, games, porn (#3 with a bullet), gambling
* 5:1 Television:Internet time
* Laptops in front of TV ~ social viewing
* Within a household equal users, or a dominant user with peripheral users?
(48m00s) The research problems
* Tasmania is the first site for the NBN, and also the highest on dialup.
Base Line required:
What is it that Tasmanians think the internet is?
* Use will follow the pipe
What is the ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ campaign for broadband?
* The language; the stories we tell ~ An Australian digital economy that is different than others; having a go, fairness, sheds
(52m30s) The Perils & Dangers
* cling feeds
Compare to studies on transportation (needs/requirements) which have good models
*Location based services ~ what happens when systems automatically propagate your location?
* Blazingly fast network reduces the need for personal storage ~ Sth Korea no requirement for iPod with entire music collection when can have instantaneous download to phone from ‘mega library’
* “The arms race of digital deception” — James Katz (Rutgers)
* “The shifting locus of social connection”, too complex for automation/robot/algorithm?
(59m00s) Too much information?
There is a thin line between a service knowing enough or too much about them, too much is “creepy”
‘Tivo Guilt’ ~ the guilt of not watching what is recommended; is issue of the recommendation engine knowing you better than yourself.
ISSUE: Broadband being described as technology rather than infrastructure (electricity, water, roads)
Conversation – ‘what it might be’ compared to the roll out of electricity in America.
We are still having the conversation about the trenching, the Civil Engineering …
 Adelaide Thinkers in Residence – Genevieve Bell [sa.gov.au]
 Intel Fellow – Genevieve Bell [Intel]
 A Glimpse into the Future of TV Genevieve Bell (2010-Mar-11) [Technology@Intel]
 Digital Economy Forum: Presentation by Dr Genevieve Bell (Intel) (2009-Apr-28) [YouTube]