Downing of Ukrainian Flight #PS752 on 8 January 2020: An Information Disaster?

In 1994, I helped organize a forum for the Programme on Information and Communication Technologies (PICT) on what we called ‘ICT disasters’. We described and compared three cases, including the shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 by the USS Vincennes, a US warship patrolling the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 people on the plane. It was incorrectly identified as an Iranian F-14 fighter descending towards the ship, when in fact it was a civilian flight that was ascending. We concluded it was an information disaster in that available information was not correctly communicated, interpreted and acted on in time to prevent this accident and developed explanations for how this was able to occur. 

Image from Business Insider

I dare not suggest whether or not the downing of Ukrainian Flight #PS752 is comparable to the disaster of Iran Flight 655 or other civilian flight disasters. The dynamics leading to these two events are undoubtedly very different indeed. However, I do believe this latest disaster in Iran is a case that is worthy of study in ways that will go well beyond assigning blame to particular nations or actors. 

There is a need to understand the social, organizational, and technological dynamics of these disasters as a means for improving policy and practice in the specific areas in which they are embedded, but also to learn lessons that could be informative for areas far removed from airline safety and defense. For example, our case study of Iran Flight 655 was studied along with two other case studies in entirely different areas, one involving London ambulance dispatching, and another the London Stock Exchange. The common denominator was the extreme circumstances that were involved in each incident that led them to be perceived as disasters. 

By studying extreme cases of information disasters, it might be possible to provide new insights and lessons that are applicable to more routine information failures that occur in organizations and society. Such disasters might help shape safer digital socio-technical outcomes. 

If you are interested, let me suggest these readings on the Flight 655 disaster case study and how such cases can be explored for broader lessons, include:

Rochlin, G. I (1991), ‘Iran Flight 655 and the USS Vincennes: Complex, Large-Scale Military Systems and the Failure of Control’, pp. 99-125 in La Porte, T. (ed.), Social Responses to Large Technical Systems (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers). 

Dutton, W. H., MacKenzie, D., Shapiro, S., and Peltu, M. (1995), Computer Power and Human Limits: Learning from IT and Telecommunications Disasters. Policy Research Paper No. 33 (Uxbridge: PICT, Brunel University). 

Peltu, M., MacKenzie, D., Shapiro, S., and Dutton, W. H. (1996), Computer Power and Human Limits, pp. 177-95 in Dutton, W. H. (ed.), Information and Communication Technologies  Visions and Realities. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Malaysian Airlines MH17: Studies of Information Disasters

Evidence is only beginning to develop about what led to the disaster that beset Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over the Eastern Ukraine. However, it is likely to be compared with other military and large technical system disasters, such as when the USS Vincennes accidentally shot down a domestic Iranian Airline, Iran Flight 655 on 3 July 1987. These have been called ‘information disasters’ by myself and colleagues, who have looked at studies of this and other related cases. See our chapter: Peltu, M., MacKenzie, D., Shapiro, S., and Dutton, W. H. (1996), ‘Computer Power and Human Limits,’ in Dutton. W. H. (ed.), Information and Communication Technologies – Visions and Realities, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 177-195. Specific treatment of the USS Vincennes is provided by Rochlin, G. (1991), ‘Iran Air Flight 655 and the USS Vincennes: Complex, Large-Scale Military Systems and the Failure of Control’, pp. 99-125 in La Porte, T. (ed.), Social Responses to Large Technical Systems. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

In the case of MH17, there seems to be mounting evidence that it was shot down by mistake. A domestic airliner was not the intended target. However, debate is huge over who shot the plane down, and who supplied the weapons. Needless to say, the analysis of such cases often deals with more than the specific information disaster – the mistake, such as in the earlier case: Why did the domestic Iran Flight 655 come to be perceived as a military aircraft descending toward the USS Vincennes, when it was actually climbing? In this respect, such studies do not always deal adequately with the broader political and military issues over responsibility. These broader questions have been the primary and immediate focus of debate over MH17. Rather than understand why MH17 was shot down, people worldwide are wondering who was responsible for putting particular weapons into the hands of the Russian separatists who are widely suspected of firing the missile that took down MH17.* But academics can and should devote their own talents to see if lessons can be learned from such disasters at any level of analysis.

*See the Financial Times: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a1dcc628-1010-11e4-90c7-00144feabdc0.html#axzz386tsBcsR

Inspiring a Startup Mentality in Legacy IT Organizations – FCC CIO at the OII on 19 June, 4-5pm

Modernizing and Inspiring a “Startup Mentality” in Legacy Information Technology Organizations

Speakers: David A. Bray, Oxford Martin Associate and CIO of the U.S. FCC, Yorick Wilks, and Greg Taylor

19 June 2014 from 4-5 pm

OII Seminar Room, 1 St Giles’, Oxford

By some estimates, 70% of IT organization budgets are spent on maintaining legacy systems. These costs delays needed transitions to newer technologies. Moreover, this cost estimate only captures those legacy processes automated by IT; several paper-based, manual processes exist and result in additional hidden, human-intensive costs that could benefit from modern IT automation.

This interactive discussion will discuss the opportunities and challenges with inspiring a “startup mentality” in legacy information technology organizations. Dr. David Bray, will discuss his own experiences with inspiring a “startup mentality” in legacy IT organizations as well as future directions for legacy organizations confronted with modernization requirements. The discussion will be chaired by OII’s Dr. Greg Taylor, and Yorick Wilks, an OII Research Associate, and Professor of Artificial Intelligence in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield, will offer his comments and responses to David’s ideas before opening the discussion to participation from the audience.

David A. Bray at OII
David A. Bray at OII

Information about the speakers:

David A. Bray: http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/cybersecurity/people/575

Yorick Wilks: http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/people/?id=31

Greg Taylor: http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/people/?id=166

Web Science 2014: CALL FOR PARTICIPATION

The 6th ACM Web Science Conference will be held 23-26 June 2014 on the beautiful campus of Indiana University, Bloomington. Web Science continues to focus on the study of information networks, social communities, organizations, applications, and policies that shape and are shaped by the Web.

The WebSci14 program includes 29 paper presentations, 35 posters with lightening talks, a documentary, and keynotes by Dame Wendy Hall (U. of Southampton), JP Rangaswami (Salesforce.com), Laura DeNardis (American University) and Daniel Tunkelang (LinkedIn). Several workshops will be held in conjunction with the conference on topics such as Altmetrics, computational approaches to social modeling, the complex dynamics of the Web, the Web of scientific knowledge, interdisciplinary coups to calamities, Web Science education, Web observatories, and Cybercrime and Cyberwar. Conference attendees will have an opportunity to enjoy the exhibit Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, meant to inspire cross-disciplinary discussion on how to track and communicate human activity and scientific progress on a global scale. Finally, we will award prizes for the most innovative visualizations of Web data. For this data challenge, we are providing four large datasets that will remain publicly available to Web
scientists.

For more information on the program, registration, and a full schedule please visit http://WebSci14.org and follow us on Twitter (@WebSciConf) or like us on Facebook
(https://www.facebook.com/WebSci14).

Nominate an Inspiring Digital Social Innovation: Deadline 16 August 2013

 I am trying to help colleagues identify some of the most inspiring social innovations supported by the Internet and related digital technologies. Are there critical social challenges that are being addressed through digital innovations? Help us identify them.

The innovations selected will become part of a on-going public database on digital social innovations that might inspire related projects, while recognizing the innovators. There is a good overview of the idea in Wired. To submit a nomination, just send Nominet Trust 100 a URL (nothing else is needed) in an email or a tweet with the hashtag #NT100.

The selection process is being supported and organized by The Nominet Trust, a trust established in 2008 by Nominet, the UK’s domain name registry. Nominet Trust set up the Trust to ‘invest in people committed to using the internet to address big social challenges.’ To accomplish this, they set up a steering committee, headed by Charles Leadbeater, to help create a list of the 100 ‘most inspiring applications of digital technology for social good …’.

I am delighted to be part of that committee and would appreciate your thoughts on any application that you have found to be creatively addressing a social challenge. You can read more about the process, called Nominet Trust 100, but before you move on to other activities, I really hope you can share your own perspective on what you believe to be an inspiring digital social innovation. Don’t hesitate to nominate a project with which you are associated. Nominations will be a very important part of the selection process, but they will be reviewed and discussed by the steering committee. There are only a few more days before the nomination process closes.

More information on the Nominet Trust 100 at http://nt100.org.uk/

 

Collaboration on Social Networking for Health: Dr Huipeng SHI’s Visit to Oxford

There are a growing number of older people who have been injured from falls, often with factures or other orthopaedic problems caused by the fall. The UK has Fall Nurses that visit homes and advise patients and families. The numbers in China make this less feasible, and large numbers of victims from falls have a recurrence. Dr Huipeng SHI is visiting Oxford through our Heath Collaboration Network, and working with us to discuss the feasibility of developing a social network that would enable people who have suffered a fracture to gain more support in their home or care centre. An orthopaedic doctor is most often the first source of information when they reach a hospital, maybe the only source, but it should not be the only source, and nurses are also a scarce resource. Can patients and their families help each other more online?

Dr SHI is experimenting with ways to develop a network community in China, over the Internet, perhaps organized by an orthopaedic unit, that would enable physicians to guide patients over an extended period of time. Older patients, often living at home or alone, could help themselves through such a network, complemented by other activities. They can share their personal experiences of participating in training to strengthen their limbs and suffering another fall. Such a network might also help prevent them from isolation, loneliness or boredom, and create a bridge to other networked communities and services.   

Dr SHI is first medical professional to participate in the OII’s Health Collaboration Network: http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/microsites/hcn/Dr. SHI’s profile is online at: http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/people/?id=324

Bill Dutton and Dr SHI
Bill Dutton and Dr SHI

 

 

Business Models in a Mobile World: a one-day workshop at Oxford Brooks University, 12 September 2013

I’d like to bring your attention to a workshop that Paul Jackson is organizing at Oxford Brooks University:

9:00 to 5:00, 12 September 2013
Wheatley Campus, Oxford Brookes University

– What threats and opportunities do new mobile technologies present to your organisation and industry?

– How could mobile devices help you reach new customers, provide new sources of value and enable you to do business in more innovative ways?

These are just two of the questions Oxford Brookes will help you answer in a free one-day workshop. The aim is to guide an invited group of businesses through the ‘big issues’ involved in mobile innovation. At the end of the day, we believe you (and your organisation) will be better placed to understand the strategic threats and opportunities presented by mobile technology – as well as having ideas for new projects, products and services.

**Mobile technology – and why it’s important**
Smart-phones and tablet computers (e.g. iPads) have seen a rapid rise in recent years. Along with developments such as wifi and remote sensing equipment, a range of devices have emerged that allow people to work with a radical degree of flexibility. Customers, too, can consume products and services in entirely new ways (just think of books and music). In response to these changes, many organisations are already rethinking their products and processes – what they produce and how they do it – to take advantage of the new technology.

**Mobile adoption will often involve ‘business model’ innovation**
Business model innovation is about more than just new access and communications channels – important though these are! It’s about reconfiguring organisational designs and infrastructures, partnering in new ways, rethinking cost structures and pricing models, and generally developing new value propositions, perhaps for new customer niches. Such changes allow for a new ‘businesses logic’ to emerge – challenging established ways of meeting customer needs. Such developments can spur completely new markets and industries (think Facebook and the Internet). At Brookes we’re keen to look at these big, strategic issues, as enabled by mobile technology.

**How the workshop will work**
The workshop is aimed at practitioners who are interested in exploring these issues for their organisations. We are still looking for companies to express an interest in taking part (see below for more details). The first of these events takes place at Oxford Brookes’ Wheatley campus on 12 September, but other events will follow.

In taking part, you – or one person from your organisation – will work alongside some 10-15 other businesses. On the day there will be a few introductory and feedback sessions, but most of the time will be spent in small groups (just 3-4 people) working through a facilitated set of tasks. These will help you – and the others in your group – understand what mobile technology will mean (and is meaning) for your business and industry, and what you can do in response.

**Why will we be working in groups?**
Group working will provide an opportunity to learn from, and share ideas with, people in non-competitor organisations. Groups will be facilitated by academic members of staff from Brookes, representing a range of different subject areas, including: business strategy, digital marketing, information systems and innovation management. All will be helping you to work through a common methodology and set of exercises.

**Why is Brookes doing this?**
The workshop is an initiative of the Oxford Digital Research Group, based at Brookes. Mobile technology – and its implications for business models – forms part of the group’s research. By working with you, we will be better placed to understand where businesses are on this agenda, and to test and improve our ideas and techniques for helping organisations address it. Put another way, it’s about engaging with businesses in order to generate findings that will have practical effects while adding to the stock of academic knowledge.

**OK, I’m interested. What do I do now?**
Just email Dr Paul Jackson at Brookes on pjackson@brookes.ac.uk expressing your interest. You should also say who might attend the day on your organisation’s behalf, if not you. Please also say why you’re interested and what you’ve done to date on this agenda (if anything). The team at Brookes will then form suitable groups of businesses for the workshop. Note that we’ll be doing our best to have a good spread of organisations and industries, as well as avoiding potential competitive conflicts. There will be other events, subsequent to the 12 September event, so if we can’t fit you in this time, we may suggest a later workshop.

**What else do I need to know?**
If invited to attend, we will ask you to sign a document about ethics and confidentiality. This is just to ensure that everyone understands what will (and will not) happen to the information and ideas they share. Our aim is to make sure you feel comfortable in participating and able to do so in a constructive and open way. Further details on the structure of the day will also be shared at a later date.

**Contact**
Please email pjackson@brookes.ac.uk or visit www.oxforddigitalresearch.org.uk if you have any more questions.

Scholarship in the Networked World, Professor Christine Borgman, 6 June 2013, 5pm at Balliol College

 Scholarship in the Networked World

Oliver Smithies Lecture

 6 June 2013, 5pm

 Lecture Room XXIII, Balliol College

Christine L. Borgman

 Professor & Presidential Chair in Information Studies

 University of California, Los Angeles

 and

 Oliver Smithies Visiting Fellow and Lecturer

 Balliol College, University of Oxford

Scholars are expected to publish the results of their work in journals, books, and other venues. Now they are being asked to publish their data as well, which marks a fundamental transition in scholarly communication. Data are not shiny objects that are easily exchanged. Rather, they are fuzzy and poorly bounded entities. The enthusiasm for “big data” is obscuring the complexity and diversity of data and of data practices across the disciplines. Data flows are uneven – abundant in some areas and sparse in others, easily or rarely shared. Open access and open data are contested concepts that are often conflated. Data are a lens to observe the rapidly changing landscape of scholarly practice. This talk is based on an Oxford-based book project to open up the black box of “data,” peering inside to explore behavior, technology, and policy issues.

Christine L. Borgman is Professor and Presidential Chair in Information Studies at UCLA. Currently (2012-13) she is the Oliver Smithies Visiting Fellow and Lecturer at Balliol College, University of Oxford, where she also is affiliated with the Oxford Internet Institute and the eResearch Centre. Prof. Borgman is the author of more than 200 publications in information studies, computer science, and communication. Her monographs, Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet (MIT Press, 2007) and From Gutenberg to the Global Information Infrastructure: Access to Information in a Networked World (MIT Press, 2000), each won the Best Information Science Book of the Year award from the American Society for Information Science and Technology. She conducts data practices research with funding from the National Science Foundation, Sloan Foundation, and Microsoft Research. Current collaborations include Monitoring, Modeling, and Memory, The Transformation of Knowledge, Culture, and Practice in Data-Driven Science, and Empowering Long Tail Research.

 

Information Communication and Society

Our journal, Information Communication and Society (iCS), has had a step-jump in its readership and role in the field over the last several years. The editor, Brian Loader, and I were recalling our first meeting in the late 1990s, when Brian first proposed the journal. We are in the midst of the 16th volume with subscriptions continuing to rise, particularly online, indexed in 18 abstracting and indexing services, including the Social Science Citation Index, up to 10 issues per year, but with a healthy backlog, and with an increasing number of articles winning prizes and other forms of recognition.

The two most outstanding aspects of the journal to me, as one of the editors, are first, its international – global – reach. We have contributors and readers worldwide. For example, we received submissions of articles from authors in 38 countries from 2010-12. This was always an aim of the journal, but it has become a clear reality.

Secondly, the title remains broad and contemporary – it is not being overtaken by the pace of technical change and is as relevant today as when it was first proposed. I sometimes worry about the potential fragmentation of my field of Internet Studies, given the number of increasingly specialized journals, but iCS remains broad enough to encompass all aspects of my field and more, providing one mechanism for integrating work across a wider field of research.

iCS was Brian Loader’s idea, so let me thank him, but also my associate Barry Wellman, our Editorial Board, and many contributors and readers, as well as Routledge Taylor & Francis for helping us realize Brian’s vision. It is great to see this journal develop.

iCS
iCS

 

 

 

See: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rics20/current

 

 

 

Ada Lovelace Conference: A Call for Papers

While I have no involvement in this conference, I want to help draw attention to this CALL FOR PAPERS:
Celebrating the Achievements and Legacies of Ada Lovelace
18 October 2013
Stevens Institute of Technology, College of Arts and Letters

An interdisciplinary conference celebrating the achievements and legacies of the poet Lord Byron’s only known legitimate child, Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852), will take place at Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, New Jersey) on 18 October 2013.  This conference will coincide with the week celebrating Ada Lovelace Day, a global event for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).  All aspects of the achievements and legacies of Ada Lovelace will be considered, including but not limited to:
-Lovelace as Translator and/or Collaborator
-Technology in the Long Nineteenth Century
-Women in Computing: Past/Present/Future
-Women in STEM
-Ada Lovelace and her Circle

-Please submit proposals or abstracts of 250-500 words by 14 May 2013 to: Robin Hammerman (rhammerm@stevens.edu).
-Visit the conference website: http://www.stevens.edu/calconference

Ada Lovelace