Written by Digital Social Innovation
Tactical Technology and Digital Collaboration
1st August 2016
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Technology can be perceived by some as opaque, or as something that can be used against you. Tactical Technology fights this perception, and hopes to empower users. Rather than offering a manifesto on what technology should or shouldn’t be used for, Tactical Technology is practical.
Tactical Technology borrows its name from the Tactical Media movement of the 1990s, which argued that ‘To challenge dominant (strategic) structures in society, it was necessary to develop new (tactical) means of producing and distributing media’.
Our conversation in Brussels discussed technology which facilitates collaboration. We can break it down into four main areas:
1. Technology currently used for collaboration
The majority of session participants use the familiar big names, Google and Microsoft, for document creation, cloud storage & collaboration. Skype & Google are used for communication. Open source solutions are used by a minority of participants; OpenOffice is used by several people for document editing and Jitsi for voice communication.
There are a number of barriers to using open source technology for non-users. Firstly, it is too challenging for new users. The design is often not as user friendly or familiar as Google, Skype or Microsoft, and the software can require more technical ability to use than the mainstream solutions.
Secondly, there is no single source of information to find these open source solutions. Sandstorm.io and Unihost were both recommended for cloud hosting and as sources to find open source software.
Thirdly, there is a shortage of reliable developer support for open source software. Open software solutions are not always maintained or developed beyond basic capabilities. Incentives are needed for developers or users to maintain and improve open source software.
2. Keep using familiar technology
Most participants use Google and Microsoft because they are more comfortable with familiar technology. Organisations with links to industry feel forced to use the big platforms like Office365 and Facebook as these are preferred by industry. User familiarity with a certain brand of software is important, with low barriers to use and perceived time savings. If people are power users for a particular software, forcing them to use another less-familiar platform will take their power away.
Schools are beginning to use Google for a lot of their needs this is training a new generation to be familiar with one platform. Moving away from the big platforms would also present a problem for the job market, where big platforms are king. However using these big platforms can be expensive, particularly for small start-ups with no money for technology.
3. Interoperability & portability
The best option for software is to use open source standards for platform roll out, with a free community version at entry level and a charged enterprise version at a certain tipping point in usage/storage. This would support start-ups and minimize costs for small organizations.
The risk of uniformity of using one platform was discussed. It’s an illusion that one system can be a solution for all needs. A better option is to use a range of tools that are interoperable. However standards for software are not all shared, for example commenting on documents does not transfer between formats. This is something that W3C are looking at developing standards for.
4. Identity management
Identity management and data ownership were discussed. Big platforms currently maintain ownership of any information you share, which is perceived as undermining privacy and personal ownership.
EU General Data Protection Regulation introduces data portability as one of its new rules. This applies to personal data but reflects the wider movement towards returning data ownership to the individual. Collaborative software solutions should consider this approach to bring the data back to the users.
Technology use is dictated by a minority of platform corporations, rather than by platform cooperatives. We can use CAPs projects to support and create platform cooperatives by creating a working group across CAPs project to select collaborative tech, and by using the software generated as part of CAPs.