New portfolio, please access: raularantes.com

This is a research blog for my MA in Visual Effects @ Ravensbourne, UK.

The 50 Year Horizon

For the conclusion of the Business and Innovation unit, we should produce a paper setting out a strategy for taking a business to the market, securing early stage investment and taking in consideration the long term horizon. We had to answer how the project would evolve and respond to potential economic and political changes in the future, more precisely looking 50 years ahead, when radical innovation would likely to be necessary.

For this exercise, I’ve “developed” a multidisciplinary company focused on brand content, digital media and creative software tools. By analysing current trends such as 3D printing and future projections in macroeconomics and production, the company would evolve to product development. Important to notice that this was an exercise and it shouldn’t be taken as too too serious. First, I am not a futurologist, I’m quite bad in predicting things, but I must say, I had good fun reading and thinking about “stuff”.

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- Posted by rrraul on 23/05/2013 | PG03 |

No one is in control

Originally published here.

Zygmunt Bauman: “No one is in control. That is the major source of contemporary fear”.

Power has evaporated into cyberspace, fragmented. Polititcs remain at local level as before. Everything finance capital terrorism, weapon, that ignores national sorvengty are global. But powers that could eventually can control that are still local. The gap ability to do things and ability to decide things.

- Posted by rrraul on 16/05/2013 | PG03 |

The man who would monetise the web

From the Financial Times, fascinating:

Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist who first rose to fame for his work on virtual reality. Once a devoted advocate of the free content model of the internet, he now believes that without a comprehensive monetisation of the network and the information it transmits, the future is bleak for consumers and technology companies.

A contrast to my previous post.

- Posted by rrraul on 12/05/2013 | PG03 |

Private companies, public infrastructure

Great post by Paul Krugman about Google’s decision to shut down Google Reader. He cites Ryan Avent, who argues that Google has been providing crucial public infrastructure — but doesn’t seem to have an interest in maintaining that infrastructure, which indeed seems to be a quite interesting thought.

Whether you agree with Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt defending Google tax affairs, saying that the firm plays a key role in the UK’s high-tech growth or not, I do think this poses an interesting conflict to the whole notion of open innovation, social value and the idea of private companies working, collaborating and offering solutions in the public sphere by applying certain models of governance that generate benefits for a large number of people.

I think as we slowly see more companies adopting socially inclusive business models, becoming increasingly aware of their responsabilities in generating social benefits and moving away from a “shareholder value”, we will become more familiar with issues like this one. To be fair, to a certain extent, I do think Google enables a number of businesses around the country to operate, which generates social value. Notice that I’m not interested on the discussion about which conduct is the correct or wrong one.

As I’ve mentioned before here, the transition from a “shareholder” to “social” may be contradictory. The question in the future will be what form of autonomy is desired for a company to have in the economy and in the public sphere.

- Posted by rrraul on 05/05/2013 | PG03 |

Reinventing the firm

The report “Reinventing the Firm” by William Davies is a critic about the way the economic thinking in the last 20 years has evolved to a exclusive “shareholder value” and a “for profit” approach, in which a business should persistently pursuit short-term maximum gain and nothing else. The starting point for it is obviously the crash of 2008 and the subsequently recession. According to the report, more inclusive alternative ways and long term strategies are needed in order to reduce the risk of future crises. Also, different models of ownership and corporate governance and more diverse companies can generate wealth as well as positive benefits for society and shareholders as well.

It analyses business and the market from the perspective of collaborative management, offering solutions in the public sphere by applying new models of governance in the private sector. All very interesting and nobel. Though, there’re some interesting points inherited on this debate about the possible social role played by the private sector. Right on the beginning (Reinventing the Firm, Why now?, page 15), it recognises that the state can’t be entirely responsible for the creation and distribution of wealth and well-being. It also cites lack of support from politicians in expanding social entreprise in mainstream businesses.

And continues by stating that the current economic and political context and its turbulent nature is the right opportunity to rethink and expand a new sort of framework on business, ownership, management and accountability; finally reaching the inevitable question of what form of autonomy is desired in the economy.

Autonomy is a helpfully ambiguous value, straddling economics and politics. There is ample economic evidence concerning the benefits that worker autonomy can deliver to business performance, meaning that there are tangible economic reasons for managers to empower and liberate their employees. A particular idea of consumer autonomy, meanwhile, is at the heart of how markets are designed and regulated. But there is also an emerging political framework that seeks to deliver greater autonomy in our economic lives (including in our workplaces) as a component part of a society less liable to domination.

For instance, a firm that sought to empower employees purely as a means to extract greater effort and productivity from them could be accused of excessive work intensification, and would scarcely be satisfying the democratic requirement for non- domination in the workplace. On the other hand, a firm that privileged workplace democracy at the expense of productivity would be failing in an equal and opposite sense. The task, this report argues, is to build firms with a suitable balance between economic and political forms of participation, liberty and empowerment. In the best cases discussed in this report, this balance is struck in such a way as to uphold both sets of priorities.

Clearly, there is a conflict between the political perspective of the problem which is intrisic to the business management of the framework and the economic part, which is crucial for the existence and maintance of any sort of business. Autonomy perhaps is the balance that is allowed and given to the employees now invited and more integrated to the model by their employers. This balance needs to fulfil individual needs and individuality is an important part on the equation, as well as self awareness and self importance as essential factors.

This reminds me of the George Soros book “The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What it Means”. Regardless of what the author was aiming for or his activities, the title offers an insightful conceptual framework about the relationship between thinking and reality within the economic and political perspective. Soros refers to it as General Theory of Reflexivity. In this article “Soros: General Theory of Reflexivity”, he explains that he was heavily influenced by Karl Popper:

In his books Popper argued that the empirical truth cannot be known with absolute certainty. Even scientific laws can’t be verified beyond a shadow of a doubt: they can only be falsified by testing. One failed test is enough to falsify, but no amount of conforming instances is sufficient to verify. Scientific laws are hypothetical in character and their truth remains subject to testing. Ideologies which claim to be in possession of the ultimate truth are making a false claim; therefore, they can be imposed on society only by force. This applies to Communism, Fascism and National Socialism alike. All these ideologies lead to repression. Popper proposed a more attractive form of social organization: an open society in which people are free to hold divergent opinions and the rule of law allows people with different views and interests to live together in peace. Having lived through both Nazi and Communist occupation here in Hungary I found the idea of an open society immensely attractive.

While I was reading Popper I was also studying economic theory and I was struck by the contradiction between Popper’s emphasis on imperfect understanding and the theory of perfect competition in economics which postulated perfect knowledge. This led me to start questioning the assumptions of economic theory. These were the two major theoretical inspirations of my philosophy.


What Soros says with his reflexivity idea is that situations that have thinking participants, participants’ view of the world is always partial and distorted (fallibility). And this fact can influence the situation they relate by taking inappropriate actions/decisions (reflexivity). Even though it seems obvious, these ideas have been in a way ignored by economic theory, according to the author. What is also very interesting is this bit by Zygmunt Bauman (Liquid Modernity, page 20):

The individual submits to society and this submission is the condi­ tion of his liberation. For man freedom consists in deliverance from blind, unthinking physical forces; he achieves this by opposing against them the great and intelligent force of society, under whose protec­ tion he shelters. By putting himself under the wing of society, he makes himself also, to a certain extent, dependent upon it. But this is a liberating dependence; there is no contradiction in this.

Not only is there no contradiction between dependence and liberation; there is no other way to pursue the liberation but to ‘submit to society’ and to follow its norms. Freedom cannot be gained against society.

Important to notice that any comparison may sound unfair, since we are having two complete different spheres here. One thing is a collaborative and inclusive business model and the other is a economic political framework and political sociologic analysis. But what I am concerned here is how theoretical models are product or pure response to something wider. In Bauman’s book, for example, he says that fordism was in its heyday simultaneously a model of industrialization, of accumulation, and of regulation. And yes, I know. I know. We are far beyond our glorious industrial past. And even though we are in much more dynamic and complex context, I think this observation is still valid.

Modern self-confidence gave an entirely new gloss to the eternal human curiosity about the future. Modern utopias were never mere prophecies, let alone idle dreams: openly or covertly, they were both declarations of intent and expressions of faith that what was desired could be done and will be done. The future was seen like the rest of the products in that society of producers: something to be thought through, designed, and then seen through the process of its production. The future was the creation of work, and work was the source of all creation.

Every society today is consciously committed to economic growth, to raising the standard of living of its people, and therefore to the planning, direction, and control of social change. What makes the present studies, therefore, so completely different from those in the past is that they are oriented to specific social-policy purposes; and along with this new dimension, they are fashioned, self-consciously, by a new methodology which gives the promise of providing a more reliable foundation for realistic altern­atives and choices.

The future is a product created by the one who has the hold on the present. William Davies report apparently offers some interesting ideas on employee ownership as an optimal model of autonomy, merging economic performance with politically progressive forms of accountability and governance. It’s interesting to see these oposing aspects trying to carefully work together. It’s as if we were trying to get a grip on our liquid destiny.

Bibliography:

Reinventing The Firm, William Davies
General Theory of Reflexivity, George Soros
Liquid Modernity, Zygmunt Bauman

- Posted by rrraul on 25/03/2013 | PG03 |

PG03 | Group work - Week V

The project containing the elevator pitch, the video and all the material produced was finally uploaded to this website. I consider that our group worked quite well together. The idea was developed in a first phase and all members worked in a collaborative way. The second part consisted in the development and the pitch presentation. So far, I must say this was a nice experience and everybody was happy with the outcome.

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- Posted by rrraul on 13/03/2013 | PG03 |

PG03 | Group work - Week IV - Ident

We’ve successfully finished our idea generation part according to what we’ve planned priviously. Exactly like we had on our calendar. I received the newspaper printed, which is very exciting. Our team did an excellent job coming up with ideas and solutions, researching many aspects of the market and developing the business identity. So, following the concept of DRI discussed here, the main focus now is the video, which is probably the essential part of the exercise. This means that the coordination now is moving to three of our members who are going to be responsible for the video development. They will work on that and we’re planning daily reviews to evaluate their progress.

We have an animatic, which has the purpose of helping us to see what we need to develop and check the duration of the video and some narration decisions. We are commenting on it and creating a “to do” list. This is very WIP still. There’re still some design assets to be created, so the identity is consistent across all the project.

- Posted by rrraul on 05/03/2013 | PG03 |

PG03 | Group work - Week IV

On the last few days we managed to get a lot done. First, after the clash regarding our name, we’ve finally reached an agreement: Health Cloud Systems(HCS), which makes more sense, in my opinion. Though, I tried not to influence the group on the decision, since I’m coordinating and leading the project, I think my role need to be impartial.

Continuing on the project development, we also worked on the business identity reflecting our recent decision and we finally finished our business plan, which can be accessed here.

Parallel to that, we are about to finish our newspaper (instead of a brouchure), which can be seen here. And more on the presentation and tweet version of the idea, here.

The first draft of our video script is here. Working via Docs allowed us to get very efficient response and we made some reviews and finally reached what it looks like as a final version, which is here.

- Posted by rrraul on 01/03/2013 | PG03 |

PG03 | Group work - Week III - Naming an idea

Our members seem to be motivated and at the same challenged and the discussions have been very productive. Also, we were able to keep a good atmosphere around the group contributing to positive attitute from the team. For my suprise though, we had some problems regarding the how we name our business idea. We are struggling to pick one from the following two options.

1. Health Cloud Systems (HCS)
2. Healthcare System (HCS)

The main issue with the first option is that we have the word cloud, which according to some members, is a not positive term considering privacy and security issues that are frequently attached to cloud computing. A report by the Working Party for the European Commission, working as advisory body on data protection and privacy has been sent around. The report raises a number of issues and concerns about services based on cloud computing:

Despite the acknowledged benefits of cloud computing in both economic and societal
terms, this Opinion outlines how the wide scale deployment of cloud computing services
can trigger a number of data protection risks, mainly a lack of control over personal data
as well as insufficient information with regard to how, where and by whom the data is
being processed/sub-processed. These risks need to be carefully assessed by public bodies
and private enterprises when they are considering engaging the services of a cloud
provider. This Opinion examines issues associated with the sharing of resources with
other parties, the lack of transparency of an outsourcing chain consisting of multiple
processors and subcontractors, the unavailability of a common global data portability
framework and uncertainty with regard to the admissibility of the transfer of personal data
to cloud providers established outside of the EEA.

You can read the full report here, or directly here:

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The second options has the problem that it doesn’t mean much in terms of a new service that relies on devices distributed across a network that can contribute for the well being of elderly people; it could be a health insurance company, for example. Even though the use of “cloud” may have its problems, it can also attach a value and a meaning to a new service that is disruptive by the use of a relatively new technology.

- Posted by rrraul on 26/02/2013 | PG03 |

PG03 | Group work - Week III - Business idea

With all the feedback from our team members, we were able to come up with a first draft of our business idea. I reckon this document is beyond what was asked for the pitch. But I reckon it is important to have a good base taking in consideration many aspects of our business. We have some good data on healthcare, market, self tracking objects and cloud computing for healthcare. This is not a conclusion and it’s important to notice that this is just a starting point for a proper business idea. Though, for our purpuses and considering the time constraints, I think it’s a pretty good business plan.

Now we can continue to refine it and add more information. Also, we can now start the script for our video and the newspaper/brochure we are planning to develop.
You can check the first draft here.

- Posted by rrraul on 26/02/2013 | PG03 |

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