IFIP-WG9.2 Conferences, workshops and summer schools

Sand, Silver and Gold Plates

"Thales of Miletus in the first half of the 6th century was a member of a group of Greek philosophers who combined wisdom and intellectual inventiveness to find solutions to social problems. The group developed a process of philosophical analysis; first thoughts were written conceptually in sand and discussed; some were wiped away to be replaced by others. Those judged best by consensus were transcribed onto ten silver plates then the best of the silver were transcribed onto a single gold platter; this quintessence of wisdom was carried to the place of public pronouncements, the AGORA."

(See: Can Information Technology Result in Benevolent Bureaucracies? T.R.H. SIZER, L. YNGSTRÖM, J. BERLEUR & R. LAUFER, Eds., Proceedings of the IFIP-WG9.2. Namur Working Conference, January 3-6, 1985, North-Holland, 1985, Chapter 1)

WG9.2's conferences are based on this process of refinement, as drawn from the ideas of Thales of Miletus. Ideas are debated, distilled, and crafted. Entirely new ideas are also added to plates. The conference concludes with the public advocacy and debate of two gold plates (the final distillation of the sand and silver plates). A public choice of the most popular idea displayed on a gold plate is made during the final session of the Conference. Sand plates are written personally by different participants at the end of the first day; silver plates are the product of working group discussions. Gold plates are advocated in the Agora. But, at the end of a conference, there is only one "winning gold plate".

WG9.2's conferences have been:

Namur (Belgium), Working Conference, January 3-6, 1985
Can Information Technology Result in Benevolent Bureaucracies?

Namur (Belgium), Working Conference, June 6-8, 1988
The Information Society: Evolving Landscapes

Brighton, United Kingdom, Summer School, July 28 - August, 1991
Social Citizenship in The Information Age

Namur (Belgium), Working Conference May 20-22, 1993
Facing the Challenge of Risk and Vulnerability in an Information Society

Corfu (Greece), May 8-10, 1997
Culture and Democracy Revisited in the Global Information Society

Karlstad (Sweden), August 4-8, 2003, Second International Summer School organized by IFIP-WG9.2 & 9.6/11.7,
Risks and Challenges of the Network Society, in cooperation with Karlstad University and HumanIT, http://www.cs.kau.se/IFIP-summerschool/


Winning Gold Plates

1985: "Researchers take implicit decisions about the future of Society before the social and human consequences of their decisions are evaluated. In order to make bureaucracies benevolent, computer scientists must return from calculation to judgment. To judge is to say: 'That is good; that is bad'. Therefore, it is important to create a researchers' club in which members are aware of technological and research developments, are devoted to the appreciation, from an ethical viewpoint, of the relevance of their own research. As such a judgment is an holistic process they would consult scientists in other disciplines."

1993: "To reduce social vulnerability we propose IMBY (In My BackYard) groups participate in an interdisciplinary approach to ICT projects."

1997: "The information and communication technology society is potentially extremely inclusive, but in practice it is very exclusive, elitist, and sectarian. To empower people we need universal service and equity of access that provide meaningful, quality information via diverse channels. We want to create "free spirits". To promote in the long term a real democracy presupposes an information society where citizens are able to participate in the decision-making process. Civic experiments are therefore needed in the short term which are controlled by all reactive, anticipatory and, above all, participatory means. In others words, we need a critical mass which in turn is also a mass that is critical. IFIP-WG9.2/9.5 Corfu conference advocates at the highest level an "action plan" for an ethical global information society that supports:
- people-centered development and public advocacy, i.e., promoting discussion and participation,
- cultural diversity,
- universal low cost access,
- local civic networks,
- development of a framework of rights and responsibilities for a global information society favouring a responsible citizenship."

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Insitut d'Informatique - 04/30/98