At the end of 2012 Oslo played host to a one day workshop focused on Innovation Through Social Media. Organised by Asbjørn Følstad, Anna Ståhlbröst, Esbjörn Ebbesson and Jesper Svensson as part of the SociaLL research project the workshop created a forum for researchers and practitioners to share experiences and perspectives around how social media can be successfully employed to support innovation.
The workshop theme represents several growing areas of research and papers covering a broad range of areas were invited, such as open innovation, user lead innovation, Living Labs, enterprise 2.0, participatory design, ideas generation and management and user and community and involvement. The focus of the workshop closely related to my PhD research into the impact of social technologies on participation in design. I had the pleasure of contributing as a member of the program committee, sadly I couldn’t make the physical trek to Oslo for the day but fortunately all the papers presented at the workshop are available at the ISM website.
The workshop papers that were presented covered three themes:
1. User involvement through social media which included papers on Living Labs and open service innovation
2. User feedback on novel concepts and designs which included papers covering design of software, customer service, sensor-based technologies and the impact of prototype fidelity in supporting user feedback
3. Engaged communities and individuals which included papers on engagement from a community perspective and social media for entrepreneurship
One particularly interesting paper was selected as an introductory talk. “The echoing paradox of SNS” questioned key assumptions that underpin social networking software algorithms. The paper points to the paradox that exists when we assume that diversity is important for innovation, yet homogeneity is what is promoted and drives most of our network connections online. I.e “connecting to people like you”, “connecting to other things you might like” “people with similar skills/interests”. Confronting this paradox has the potential to significantly impact how we might approach designing collaboration platforms with an innovation imperative (intranets and internal communications and collaboration platforms for example).
It’s great to see these kinds of opportunities being created to share and promote this growing research area thanks to the organisers and participants for making all the papers freely available. In terms of supporting diverse and remote participation in the design process these papers demonstrate a range of new and experimental approaches and a growing body of knowledge that we can draw upon to support co-design practices. While there are many aspects of face to face interaction and collaboration that are not replicated in online environments the opportunities they presents for mass, distributed and potentially anonymous participation are significant not only for innovation in a business context but also for health, civic and community focused work where participation and collaboration are essential, but not always practical and possible through traditional means at a large scale.