Today I am at the Mykolo Romerio Universitetas in Vilnius, Lithuania, for the European Conference on Social Media 2017.
Welcome and Opening by the Conference and Programme Chairs: Aelita Skaržauskienė and Nomeda Gudelienė
Nomeda Gudelienė: I am head of research here and I want to welcome you to Lithuania. We are very honoured to have you here. Social media is very important for building connections and networking, but conferences are also really important still. And we are delighted to have you here in our beautiful Vilnius – I hope you will have time to explore our lovely city.
We were founded 25 years ago when our country gained independence from the Soviet Union. We focus on social studies – there was a gap for new public officials, for lawyers, etc. and our university was founded,
Keynote presentation: Dr. Edgaras Leichteris, Lithuanian Robotics Association – Society in the cloud – what is the future of digitalization?
I wanted to give something of an overview of how trends in ICT are moving – I’m sure you’ve all heard that none of us will have jobs in 20 years because robots will have them all (cue laughter).
I wanted to start with this complex timeline of emerging science and technology that gives an overview of Digital, Green, Bio, Nano, Neuro. Digitalisation is the most important of these trends, it underpins this all. How many of us think digitalisation will save paper? Maybe not for universities or government but young people are shifting to digital. But there are major energy implications of that, we are using a lot of power and heat to digitise our society. This takes us through some of those other areas…. Can you imagine social networking when we have direct neural interfaces?
This brings me to the Hype curve – where see a great deal of excitement, the trough of disillusionment and through to where the real work is. Gartner creates a hype cycle graph every year to illustrate technological trends. At the moment we can pick out areas like Augmented reality, virtual reality, digital currency. When you look at business impact… Well I thought that the areas that seem to be showing real change include Internet of Things – in modern factories you see very few people now, they are just there for packaging as we have sensors and devices everywhere. We have privacy-enhancing technologies, blockchain, brain computer interfaces, and virtual assistance. So we have technologies which are being genuinely disruptive.
Trends wise we also see political focus here. Why is digital a key focus in the European Union? Well we have captured only a small percentage of the potential. And when we look across the Digital Economy and Society index we see this is about skills, about high quality public services – a real priority in Lithuania at the moment – not just about digitalisation for it’s own sake. Now a few days ago the US press laughed at Jean Claude Junker admitting he still doesn’t have a smartphone, but at the same time, he and others leading the EU see that the future is digital.
Some months back I was asked at a training session “Close your eyes. You are now in 2050. What do you see?”. When I thought about that my view was rather dystopic, rather “Big Brother is watching you”, rather hierarchical. And then we were asked to throw out those ideas and focus instead on what can be done. In the Cimulact EU project we have been looking at citizens visions to look toward a future EU research and innovation agenda. In general I note that people from older European countries there was more optimism about green technologies, technology enabling societies… Whilst people from Eastern European countries have tended to be more concerned with the technologies themselves, and with issues of safety and privacy. And we’ve been bringing these ideas together. For me the vision is technology in the service of people, enabling citizens, and creating systems for green and smart city development, and about personal freedom and responsibility. What unites all of these scenarios? The information was gathered offline. People wanted security, privacy, communication… They didn’t want the technologies per se.
Challenges here? I think that privacy and security is key for social media, and the focus on the right tool, for the right audience, at the right time. If we listen to Time Berners Lee we note that the web is developing in a way divergent from the original vision. Lorrie Faith Cranor, Carnegie Mellon University notes that privacy is possible in a laboratory condition, but in the reality of the real world, it is hard to actually achieve that. That’s why such people as Aral Balkan, self-styled Cyborg Rights Activist – he has founded a cross-Europe party just focusing on privacy issues. He says that the business model of mainstream technology under “surveillance capitalisms” is “people arming and it it is toxic to human rights and democracy”. And he is trying to bring those issues into more prominence.
Another challenge is engagement. The use and time on social media is increasing every year. But what does that mean. Mark Schaefer, Director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, describes this as “content shock” – we don’t have the capacity to deal with and consume the amount of content we are now encountering. Jay Bayer just wrote the book “Hug your haters” making the differentiation between “offstage haters” vs. “onstage haters”. Offstage haters tend to be older, offline, and only go public if you do not respond. Onstage haters post to every social media network not thinking about the consequences. So his book is about how to respond to, and deal with, many forms of hate on the internet. And one of the recently consulted companies have 150 people working to respond to that sort of “onstage” hate.
And then we have the issue of trolling. In Lithuania we have a government trying to limit alcohol consumption – you can just imagine how many people were being supported by alcohol companies to comment and post and respond to that.
We so also need to think about engagement in something valuable. Here I wanted to highlight three initiatives, two are quite mature, the third is quite new. The first is “My Government” or E citizens. This is about engaging citizens and asking them what they think – they post a question, and provide a (simple) space for discussion. The one that I engaged with only had four respondents but it was really done well. Lithuania 2.0 was looking at ways to generate creative solutions at government level. That project ended up with a lot of nice features… Every time we took it out, they wanted new features… People engaged but then dropped off… What was being contributed didn’t seem directly enough fed into government, and there was a need to feedback to commentators what had happened as a result of their posts. So, we have reviewed this work and are designing a new way to do this which will be more focused around single topics or questions over a contained period of time, with direct routes to feed that into government.
And I wanted to talk about the right tools for the right audiences. I have a personal story here to do with the idea of whether you really need to be in every network. Colleagues asked why I was not on Twitter… There was lots of discussion, but only 2 people were using Twitter in the audience… So these people were trying to use a tool they didn’t understand to reach people who were not using those tools.
Thinking about different types of tools… You might know that last week in Vilnius we had huge rainfall and a flood… Here we have people sharing open data that allows us to track and understand that sort of local emergency.
And there is the issue of how to give users personalised tools, and give opportunity for different opinions – going beyond your filter bubble – and earn profit. My favourite tool was called Personal Journal – it had just the right combination – until that was brought by Flipboard. Algorithmic tailoring can do this well, but there is that need to make it work, to expose to wider views. There is a social responsibility aspect here.
So, the future seems to look like decentralisation – including safe silos that can connect to each other; and the right tools for the right audience. On decentralisation Blockchain, or technologies like it, are looking important. And we are starting to see possible use of that in Universities for credentialing. We can also talk about uses for decentralisation like this.
We will also see new forms of engagement going mass market. Observation of “digital natives” who really don’t want to work in a factory… See those people going to get a coffee, needing money… So putting on their visor/glasses and managing a team in a factory somewhere – maybe Australia – only until that money is earned. We also see better artificial intelligence working on the side of the end users.
The future is ours – we define now, what will happen!
Q1) I was wondering what you mean by Blockchain, I haven’t heard it before.
A1) It’s quite complicated to explain… I suggest you Google it – some lovely explanations out there. We have a distributed
Q2) You spoke about the green issues around digitalisation, and I know Block Chain comes with serious environmental challenges – how do we manage that environmental and technological convenience challenge?
A2) Me and my wife have a really different view of green… She thinks we go back to the yurt and the plants. I think differently… I think yes, we consume more… But we have to find spots where we consume lots of energy and use technology to make it more sustainable. Last week was at the LEGO factory in Denmark and they are working on how to make that sustainable… But that is challenging as their clients want trusted, robust, long-lasting materials. There are aready some technologies but we have to see how that will happen.
Q3) How do you see the role of artificial intelligence in privacy? Do you see it as a smart agent and intermediary between consumers and marketers?
A3) I am afraid of a future like Elon Musk where artificial intelligence takes over. But what AI can do is that it can help us interpret data for our decisions. And it can interpret patterns, filter information, help us make the best use of information. At the same time there is always a tension between advertisers and those who want to block advertisers. In Lithuanian media we see pop ups requesting that we switch off ad blocking tools… At the same time we will see more ad blocks… So Google, Amazon, Facebook… They will use AI to target us better in different ways. I remember hearing from someone that you will always have advertising – but you’ll like it as it will be tailored to your preferences.
Q4) Coming from a background of political sciences and public administration… You were talking about decentralisation… Wouldn’t it be useful to differentiate between developed and developing world, or countries in transition… In some of those contexts decentralisation can mean a lack of responsibility and accountability…
A4) We see real gaps already between cities and rural communities – increasingly cities are their own power and culture, with a lot of decisions taken like mini states. You talked a possible scenario that is quite 1984 like, of centralisation for order. But personally I still believe in decentralisation. There is a need for responsibility and accountability, but you have more potential for human rights and
Aelita Skaržauskienė: Thank you to Edgaras! I actually just spend a whole weekend reading about Block Chain as here in Lithuania we are becoming a hub for Fin Tech – financial innovation start ups.
So, I just wanted to introduce today here. Social media is very important for my department. More than 33 researchers here look at social technologies. Social media is rising in popularity, but more growth lies ahead. More than 85% of internet users are engaging with social media BUT over 5 billion people in the world still lack regular access to the internet, so that number will increase. There have already been so many new collaborations made possible for and by social media.
Thank you so much for your attention in this exciting and challenging research topic!
Stream B: Mini track on Social Media in Education (Chair: Nicola Osborne and Stefania Manca)
The use of on-line media at a Distance Education University – Martins Nico, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Towards a Multilevel Framework for Analysing Academic Social Network Sites: A Network Socio-Technical Perspective – Manca Stefania, National Research Council of Italy and Juliana Elisa Raffaghelli, University of Florence, Italy
On Linking Social Media, Learning Styles, and Augmented Reality in Education – Kurilovas Eugenijus, Julija Kurilova and Viktorija Dvareckiene, Vilnius University Institute of Mathematics and Informatics, Lithuania
Stream B: Mini track on Social Media in Education (Chair: Nicola Osborne and Stefania Manca)
Digital Badges on Education: Past, Present and Future – Araujo Inês, Carlos Santos, Luís Pedro, and João Batista, Aveiro University, Portugal
Exploring Risk, Privacy and the Impact of Social Media Usage with Undergraduates – Connelly Louise and Nicola Osborne, University of Edinburgh, UK
Building Virtual Team’s Collaboration Environment Using Social Media – Hvorecký Jozef and Monika Dávideková, Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia
Social Media as a Tool for Microlearning in the Context of Higher Education – Grevtseva Yana, Julie Willems and Chie Adachi, Deakin University, Australia