Prof. Barbara Townley: The first topic discussed was, how do, especially public organisations, use their assets particularly when there’s lots of data. What’s the balance between public interest, giving us information free, versus financial constraints on public organisations? And are they obliged to commercialise, have they commercialised? What are the investments and resources required for commercialisation? What’s the potential use made of the data that’s out there? How do you develop new systems that will help you use and benefit from the use of this data in the most productive way, and make it accessible? There are also then issues of ownership.
A second focus was very much on what’s meant by ‘business model’. In terms of our discussion, an issue that came up was the importance of language. How do you develop language that enables different groups, with different values, different epistemological bases, how do you develop language that allows them to have a conversation between each other? How do you get people to think clearly about the role of IP in business? How can we help staff understand the use of licences, legal issues, how do we make it simplified and accessible to them, that helps them? Also, value chains – how a value chain is constructed, and where do the creators and intermediaries lie in it?
The third topic that we picked up on was this idea of dissolving boundaries. The boundaries between producers and consumers are becoming very fluid. So who are the consumers? Are creators consumers? Do we have a definitive distinction anymore? In terms of dissolving boundaries, there are mixed models of private and public and the various routes that are there for access to be open.
Prof. Robin Williams: Our first observation was that different groups had invested very different meanings in things like business models and there are also quite sharp gaps in theory and practice in this area. So, we’re faced with a number of fragmentary, partial and incomplete views. The question is, then, do we seek to have intimate understanding? But I think the feeling in the group was that that’s not going to be single solution, but can we find ways of looking for solutions that don’t privilege one group, and don’t sabotage other groups.
We need to give support, we need to recognise the different states and interests, and keep track of different states and interests – it’s a complex system but a particularly distinctive kind of complex system and we need to find ways of helping that business take place.
The third point is that we’re in the middle of a trial and error process, so how can we research and intervene in a process which is still unfolding? I think that means we need a certain amount of humility, it means we need to be thinking about trajectories rather than outcomes, but also we need to find ways of identifying embryonic forms of future solutions which are becoming visible.
I remember we were doing some work in the late 1990s and everyone was asking, what’s going to be the killer application? Broadband made video on demand possible – but it was there already.