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AI & Society is the cross-disciplinary jourmal of the human centred movement.

Human Centred Systems Book Series reflects new directions in interdisciplinary courses (e.g modularisation or semesterisation of course) , research and academic debates on human centredness.

Knowledge Networking (full text)

You may quote from this report, providing you acknowledge the author, the European Commission, and the University of Brighton. Thank you.

You can also download this thesis from here. (Adobe Acrobat PDF:145k)

The vision of social cohesion in this report is informed by the human centred perspective of information society. This perspective extends the techno-centric notion of information society to the social dimension, emphasising the interdependence between technology, knowledge and society. Social cohesion is about promoting a culture of shared communication, values and knowledge, seeking coherence through valorisation of diversity. It is about shaping of ICTs as tools for participation, human choice, reciprocity, subsidiarity and social innovation. Knowledge is a social and cultural resource. Sadly the dominant view in many circles sees knowledge as a commodity and an instrument of bargaining power. Knowledge networking is about creating new alliances of universities and the civic society. At the global level, it is about a symbiotic relationship between the local and the global.

The human centred philosophy seeks a symbiotic relationship between technology and society. It transcends the 'causal' view of technology to the 'purposive' view of social shaping of technology. It holds that the causal view, rooted in the separation of the objective and the tacit dimension of knowledge, leads to designing technology in which people adapt to the machine. The purposive view, rooted in the dynamic interdependence between the tacit and the objective dimensions, leads to designing technology in which the machine adapts to people.

The objective of this report is to transcend the techno-centric discussion of information society and propose a human centred framework for research into ICTs and social cohesion. It emphasises a new vision of social cohesion in which shared communication and shared knowledge drive cohesion and cohesion generates shared communication and shared knowledge.

Knowledge networking reflects a belief in the need for much wider diffusion of knowledge and experience in society. The discussion accepts the argument that whereas the notion of technology transfer has been central to the development of industrial society, knowledge transfer in the wider sense has become a cornerstone of innovation in the information society. Knowledge networking is not about increasing the quantity of information, the speed of its transmission and 'user friendly' interaction, it is rather about the quality, appropriateness and situatedness of information, and the processes of conversion of information into knowledge.

The 'techno-centric' focus of social and economic development is neither 'pre-ordained' nor predetermined. Just as technology can be shaped to serve human purpose, so we can shape social and economic innovations to meet the challenges of employment, health, welfare, inequality and poverty. But this requires a fundamental shift in our view of science and technology, a shift from 'causal' science to 'purposive' science. It also requires a fundamental value change on our part: a shift from the technical to the social, a shift from technical capital to social capital.

Central to the discussion on social cohesion are the concepts of participation, 'valorisation' of diversity, subsidiarity, human machine symbiosis, tacit knowledge, human purpose, dialogue, and coherence. The discussion draws upon current European research on Human Centred Systems, European Information Society, Learning Society, Telematics and Social and Economic Cohesion.

In the face of the widespread economic pessimism, personal uncertainty and social vulnerability prevalent today, a human centred vision of Information Society seems to be one of the most significant available catalyst on offer for renewal and innovation. The human centred approach provides a way forward for social cohesion which transcends the organised and managed participation of citizens. It induces an active citizenship rather than a passive claimant relationship. It argues for broadening the knowledge base of society by building new networks of alliances between the academic knowledge networks, the community (grassroot) networks and social actor (e.g. voluntary and trade union) networks.