tisdag 16 december 2014

Future of the digital commons - invitation to final presentation & book intro

This is a two-for-one blog post (re-using last year's template). First an open invitation to tomorrow's (Dec 17) final presentation of The Future of the Digital Commons and the Sharing Economy, followed by the introduction to the limited-edition book we are publishing on that topic.

1) December 17 final presentation at 13.00-17.30 in lecture hall F1

You are invited to the final presentation in the course Future of Media. This year's theme is 
The Future of the Digital Commons and the Sharing EconomySign up here!

The course is given for the 12th year and I think this year's presentations might be the best and the most ambitious ever. Do note that the 12 project groups 
span a very wide area and will present concepts, ideas and scenarios that, for example, treat the future of trust and reputation online, the future of identity, of surveillance, piracy, shared energy, shared urban farming - and more!

Here are twelve trends for the next 10-20 years that we have identified and that has had an impact on the scenarios of different project groups [further developed in the book introduction below]:

- Always online
- More computational power
- Augmented reality
- 3D printing
- Automatisation, mechanisation
- Economic uncertainty, decreased economic growth
- Increased unemployment
- Higher environmental consciousness
- More sharing
- On- and offline identities merge
- Reputation as an alternative currency
- Reduced privacy


/Daniel Pargman & Malin Picha


Below are two of the 12 projects that will present their results on December 17 - and who isn't interested in the future sharing of 3D blueprints (left) or or the future crowdsourced self-surveillance (right)?

2) Book introduction, "The Future of the Digital Commons"

This book is the result of a project course, “The Future of Media”, given at the Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

Information, communication, media, and media technologies have become increasingly important in today’s society and in people’s everyday lives. Media technology can broadly be characterized as technologies and methods for supporting communication between people across distances in time and space.

The KTH Royal Institute of Technology has offered a Master of Science in Media Technology since 1999.

The Future of Media

In the project course “Future of Media”, advanced graduate students in Media Technology and Media Management explore the relationship between technology, economy and social factors in processes of technological innovation and development.

The course load corresponds to a third of a semester and runs throughout the autumn semester. This year, 2014, the course is given for the 12th time, and for the third time in English, with participating international students. A special effort has been made to document the work, and to make the results of the course available on the Internet. The results include this book, “The future of the digital commons and the sharing economy”, a webpage, as well as concrete practical “design representations” such as for example movies and prototypes that have been created by different project groups within the course. The results of not just this year’s course, but of previous as well as successive courses are available on the internet at http://futureofmedia.se/archive.

This year’s theme: The Future of the digital commons and the sharing economy

Each year, the theme of the course is different, although it always deals with a topic related to media and the future. Past themes have for example included The Future of TV, The Future of Books, The Future of Music, The Future of Radio, The Future of Magazines, and the Future of News. This year’s task has been to analyze, reflect upon, review, refine and further develop the Future of the Digital Commons and the Sharing Economy, from a media technology perspective.

The digital commons is a wide concept, including services and resources owned together rather than privately owned. It is difficult to draw a sharp line between what is included and what is not included in the commons, but as a guideline we think of the historic tradition of local communities that managed their common resources such as land, water or forests in a shared manner with everyone’s best interest in mind. The commons basically means “what we share” and refers to a wealth of valuable assets that belong to everyone. In present-day society, this could include the sky (the atmosphere), the earth, parklands, roads, sidewalks, museums, archives, scientific knowledge and the internet. Some elements of the commons are old, and some are new – for example internet services such as Wikipedia.

Everyone can use the commons, as long as there are enough resources left for everyone else. This implies that the commons must be sustainably managed. Here, of course, the theory around the commons connects well with the discussion of sustainability and sustainable development. The digital revolution creates a foundation for the modern form of the commons – in particular the digital commons with its non-rival resources that can be endlessly copied and shared. The Internet and people’s increasing access to this global communications network provides a necessary infrastructure to expand and innovate new services within the sphere of the digital commons. The digital commons also offer a chance to unite people who are concerned with the common good, such as environmental sustainability and the preservation of natural resources.

In the course Future of Media, we have this year thought long and hard about technological, economical and other aspects connected to the digital commons and the sharing economy – what it was (past), what it is today (present), and what it will become tomorrow (future). What are the effects of the expansion of the digital commons? Could the digital commons overthrow traditional business models? And what will the future bring us? How will the digital commons emerge and develop in the future? These are issues that have been discussed, leading up to our main question: what will the digital commons look like 10 or 20 years from now?

No less than twelve groups of students have explored twelve different futures for the digital commons and the sharing economy during the autumn of 2014. The students presented their suggestions and the results of their projects in front of a live audience on December 17, 2014, but the results are also available here, in this book, as well as online, http://futureofmedia.se/digitalcommons

A framework for all project groups has been to aim for a future that will happen sometime in the next 10-20 year, i.e. sometime between 2023 and 2033. All projects have also had to limit themselves to, or at least orient themselves towards, a Swedish (Western, relatively affluent) context

Despite widely different ideas, there are still a number of trends that the twelve project groups have to position themselves in relation to.

Trends within the digital commons and the sharing economy

Below are 12 trends that we have identified in the course and that are of importance for The
Future of the Digital Commons and the Sharing Economy. Each trend is important for at least a few groups, and sometimes for many project groups.

Technological developments

1. Always online
People will “always” be connected to the Internet all the time in the future. This will make it possible to monitor and record a lot of information, including actions and transactions of various kinds. It might be that today’s smartphones will be replaced by more “intimate” technology - for example a chip in the wrist.

2. More computational power
Computation will more powerful and more plentiful in the future. This means that computers will be able to do much more than today, including voice, image and pattern recognition and other tasks where humans were previously thought to have unique advantages compared to computers.

3. Augmented reality
Augmented reality will be widespread in the future through some variety of today’s Google glasses or through contact lens that can display a layer of information “on top of” the world around us.

4. 3D printing
3D printing will be faster, less expensive and therefore more accessible in the future. It will be possible to print larger objects quicker and to combine materials much easier than today.

5. Automatisation, mechanisation
Blue-collar work has been automatized during the 20th century. This trend will continue and will be joined by increased automatization also of white-collar work replacing people with algorithms wherever possible.

Societal developments

6. Economic uncertainty, decreased economic growth
Economic uncertainty, decreased economic growth
Due to climate change and more scarce (expensive) resources, we will see decreased economic growth, no economic growth or negative economic growth (shrinking economies). Due to higher energy prices, food and transportation costs have increased. It therefore makes more sense to provision more goods and services locally.

7. Increased unemployment
Due to the previous two trends, there will be very high unemployment and especially so for youths. This trend can already be seen in several countries in Southern Europe today (Greece, Spain etc.)

8. Higher environmental consciousness
People are more aware of and concerned about environmental issues. Sustainability has a higher priority both on a personal and political level and such thinking is better integrated into peoples’ every lives.

9. More sharing
Due to the previous three trends, there is an increased impetus for bottom-up sharing of information and other resources (gadgets, physical space). Some sharing (e.g. physical objects) works best on a local level and other sharing (e.g. information) works fine on a regional, national or international level.

Developments online

10. On- and offline identities merge
On- and offline identities merge
Our identities will tend to become a combination of online and offline identities. I can be hard to distinguish between them or to separate them. What you do offline has effects on your life online and vice versa.

11. Reputation as an alternative currency
Reputation will rival financial capital as a currency to be taken into account in online transactions. Your reputation and your track record online will at times determine if people are willing to cooperate, share or make business with you. There might be one universal reputation currency or a variety of platforms that calculates your “reputation capital” across multiple platforms, perhaps issuing “certificates” that vouch for your character.

12. Reduced privacy
Intense sharing of information and resources also means that you willingly (or unwittingly) share a lot of information about yourself online. This means that people will also expose and reveal more information about themselves, leading to reduced privacy. No entity (government, corporations) can know everything about everyone, but more entities (including private persons) over time can get to know more about more people. 

Work process
During an intense six-week long start-up phase (beginning of September – mid-October), the whole class read selected literature about the digital commons and the sharing economy, worked with related issues in seminars, and welcomed around 20 guest lecturers from industry and academia. These guests had a variety of backgrounds and presented us with a wide variety of perspectives, over-all giving us a well-rounded picture of the history of the digital commons and the sharing economy, the present situation, as well as suggestions for trends and possible future developments.

At the end of this start-up phase, twelve project groups were formed around the course participants’ emerging interests. During the second half of the autumn semester, these groups independently explored different aspects of this year’s theme; The Future of the Digital Commons and the Sharing Economy.

The result of each group’s effort is a proposal and a scenario connected to the theme. The results are presented as a chapter in a book (printed in a limited edition), as well as in a presentation that was held on December 17 in front of a live audience of more than 200 persons, consisting of younger students at the educational program as well as teachers, guest lecturers and people from the industry.

The texts in this book

The twelve scenarios that are presented in this book are not written in a purely academic form. They aim at being somewhere in between an academic and a popular text. These texts are meant to inform and entertain, but should also be grounded in references to relevant literature and the students’ own original research and inquiries.

The chapters in this book have been produced as a part of a university course and under many constraints and severe time pressure. We apologize for any errors in the texts.


Daniel Pargman and Malin Picha Edwardsson,
Head teacher and assistant teacher for the course DM2571 Future of Media.


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