Facilitating Technologies

There are two kinds of "facilitating technologies" that are of particular interest to the founding members of the Kororoit Institute Proponents and Supporters Association, Inc. The first kind are those technologies used to extend the cognitive capacities of individuals and their social and economic organizations to form "sociotechnical" organizations. The second kind are those used to model and experiment with various aspects of emergence, complexity and organizational structure. The founders have substantial experience with both kinds, and to some extent have been brought together by commonalities in our approaches to understanding and using these technologies. Some of these ideas behind the first kind of approach are expressed the papers:

The evolution of today's humans has seen several technological and cognitive revolutions that fundamentally altered the way we interact with and control our environments: i.e., using mechanical tools to extend our reach, the development of speech to enhance and coordinate social action, managing fire to extend what we can eat, domesticating plants and animals to extend our metabolic capacity, writing to extend our memory beyond individual life-spans, printing for the preservation and wide dissemination of knowledge, and within many of our own lifetimes the development of the complex of computer-based information and communication technologies that extends our individual cognitive capacities to sense, remember, process, communicate, decide and act far beyond the capabilities of any single human brain. We can term these technologies that extend human and organizational capabilities as "supporting". Such supporting technologies have so changed who we are and what we can do in the world that some have claimed that we are now in a "post-human" stage of evolution, e.g., N. Katherine Hayles in How We Became Posthuman, R. Pepperell in The Post-human Condition, and A. Yahklef in Towards a post-human distributed cognition environment.

By appreciating the importance of the interactions of humans and technologies, Kororoit's founders are more concerned than many may be to understand and deal with these issues when introducing new technologies or in exanining how they are used by people individually and in their organizations.

Supporting and extending human cognition

We have first hand experience with specific technologies in the following areas:

  • Sensing. By sensing, we refer to bring information about the world as it exists from beyond the unaided reach of our human senses. Surveillance and remote sensing technology would apply here. Google Earth as used in our Japan Tsunami: Knowledge, Risks & Management and Nuclear Power Disasters: Knowledge, Risks & Management projects to view close at hand the consequences of the Japanese Tohoku Tsunami of 2011 is one example. NearMap is another tool that provides frequently updated views of Australia's urban and suburban areas and at least some coverage of agricultural districts down to resolutions of one meter.
  • Remembering. Remembering covers a broad range of technogies for capturing data, information and knowledge, managing and retrieving it where and when needed. Beginning with paper filing systems and libraries and their content indexing and retrieval systems, our founding members have had hands on experience using and implementing most memory technologies from the dawn of computing up to some of the most modern indexing and compression technologies for textual databases. Examples range from authoring systems (e.g., Wordstar, MS Word, and structured authoring systems such as Framemaker and Dreamweaver), engineering enterprise product lifecycle management systems to those for mapping personal knowledge and crowd-sourced observational information on the distribution and biology of native species. The Web has become the most powerful aid to memory so far. Most academically and culturally formalized knowledge that has been written in books and journals has now been uploaded into vast memory stores in the "cloud", and can be searched and retrieved in fractions of a second (see Hall et al. 2010. Using Google’s apps for the collaborative construction, refinement and formalization of knowledge). Members have worked with all generations of these technologies in a wide variety of commercial, social, academic, engineering and voluntary organizations.
  • Processing. Processing is what happens when information of different types and different sources are logically transformed to produce new or modified information products. This is what we do internally to express a thought or make a decision, and it is what computers do in a programmed way vastly faster and more precisely than can be done in human minds. Some of our members have worked with computer technology from first generation systems that had to be programmed at the level of object code, and personal "microcomputers" of the earlhy 1980's (before Microsoft and IBM distorted the developing technology), to today's most advanced supercomputers.
  • Communicating. Until the mid 1800's people could communicate with one another only via face-to-face contact or by the slow physical transport of paper from the sender to the receiver ("snail mail"). Today most (and probably the most important) communication beyond the physical face-to-face space involves the light-speed transmission of electronically mediated messages of all kinds ranging from telephony and video (face-to-face anywhere in the world) to the full gamut of textual documents (ranging from tweets, text messaging, Facebook and email, to peer reviewed journal publications) and even informaton from biometric monitoring. Several of our members have been involved with the evolution of these kinds of networked communications since the late 1970's through the emergence of standardised internet protocols and their use in both formal (e.g., intranets) and informal communication networks via the Web.
  • Deciding. Deciding is a complex process that greatly benefits from ready access to current and accurate information about the world. Herbert Simon, the Nobel Laureate explored the factors limiting the effectiveness of human decision making and introduced the concept of bounded rationality. The concept of bounded rationality in a time-critical environment provides a framework for our studies of decision/knowledge support systems that need to provide the maximum information in the most useable way to assist human decisions. Our work with facilitating technologies is done with this understanding in mind.
  • Acting. Acting involves giving effect to human decisions to change the world. These changes may increasingly be mediated via communications and computing technologies, e.g., via "fly-by-wire" systems in aircraft. Some of our founders are particularly interested in user interfaces and human-technology interactions

Supporting and extending organizational cognition with technology

Complex organizations involving many people operate and are coordinated by cognitive processes that function at a hiearchical level of organization higher than that represented by the human individuals who may participate in the organization from time to time. Following Nelson and Winters' 1982 book "An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change" highlighted the importance of organizational level structures in effecting its responses to the world. These included things like tacit organizational routines, layout of plant and equipment, networking relations amongst staff and even specialized organizational jargon facilitating rapid and effective communication. When Nelson and Winter developed their ideas, informaton technology was primarily centralized and dealt mainly with numbers or involved telephones, fax and telex. Information capture was still done with the assistance mechanical typewriters or card punch machines and the physical transport of paper carrying captured information, perhaps to be collated using punch card readers. Subsequently, this ponderous largely mechanical techology has been replaced by computer-based technology able to interact at light speed and to automate many simple decision making processes for organizations. Our understanding of the nature and management of knowledge at different hierarchical levels in complex organizational systems gives us kinds of understanding of the kinds of knowledge intensive business processes involved in organizational cognition that many workers and organizations working in this space lack (see Dalmaris, P., Tsui, E., Hall, W.P., Smith, B. 2007. A Framework for the improvement of knowledge-intensive business processes).

Our members have hands on skills with most kinds of systems supporting organizational cognition and are able to focus on many levels of organization in hierarchically complex systems. Our systems experience ranges from organizatinal systems for coordinating personal work on a wide variety of personal productivity tools such as wordprocessing and spreadsheets to large enterprise resource planning and content management systems at scales ranging from community action groups and small and medium enterprises to large distributed organizations and multinationals in the public and private sphere. In implementing organizational level technologies we are particularly concerned to understand the roles and needs of individual humans interacting with these technologies as considered in the following papers.

Our concept of organization is broad and we consider it at different hierarchical levels of organization, as expemplified in.

Simulation and modelling