17 December 2019


ARTICONF provides a unified systemic umbrella to fragmented social networks with a small, yet a substantial step to support the EU’s democratic open data economy goals. 

Especially, at a time when we are staring at a loss of jobs due to the automation of many processes, ARTICONF provides an incentivized  medium to a diverse range of entities: consumers, prosumers, business providers – to be a part of this collaborative economy. 

What would be your question to the community?

Social media can revolutionise the whole internet. As a trend setting statement to the world. The question I’d like to ask is about privacy, trust, security features. Do we really practise it? Do you read the agreements before signing up for a service? No, because we don’t have time for it. Aren’t you ready for such an ecosystem that release you from all such nuisances ? While stating that they are preserving your privacy, security and trust requirements. Whether we all stand up and join the technological movement with a social nudge to it – the choice is ours.

How does decentralised technologies help people?

I believe, you refer to the use of Blockchain in ARTICONF. To be honest, the emerging Blockchain technology, just provides the underlying base to the whole system. It  federates the diverse entities of social media together. Nothing else. But what it does, in the state of collaborative participation, across that diverse entities is pretty interesting – we have to be sure to agree on to some policies democratically. And that term in the technical word is ‘federation’ which brings governance of the unified ecosystem to the fore. 

Federation could help different organisations from diverse domain, be it a single one or a composition of multiple entities, to agree on one set of policies. I try to give an example how it can help. Let’s say you are a good painter, and you want to monetise your painting. According to my understanding, social media will be the future for businesses – as the painting case goes on –  could run through social media: helping it reduce costs of marketing, official overheads and other costs. Yet, it still doesn’t ensure to get you to the right audience for your paintings without any biases. What I call Social Media Application As a Service – now that can be easily deployed or federated through our blockchain based network – likewise in painting case. ARTICONF helps you to get to the right subset of users, who are really interested in your paintings. They can do business with you, without any third party. It’s like a binding, or federation mechanism, as I call it, of different entities of this diverse social world. In totality, decentralization is a combination of whole set of technologies, where by-design, you allow stakeholders to choose you by choice, not by means of any force in any sense.

Cool. What is the role of University of Klagenfurt in this project?

University of Klagenfurt is the coordinator of this project. We manage the project across eight partners, which consists of both industry and academic partners. If the blockchain is the brain of this whole ARTICONF ecosystem, the SMART tool, which University of Klagenfurt is developing, is the heart of the whole ecosystem. It will provide the semantic annotations and semantic linking of diverse and anonymised entities. Now, where does it bring innovations into – Facebook and Twitter identities are not anonymised by design. It is easy to analyse who likes what, who is doing what and trace activities. We are giving people an opportunity to be anonymised in the whole ecosystem and preserve their privacy, by design, according to the GDPR privacy law of the European Union.

The challenge lies in front of us: how do you semantically link these anonymised identities when they are doing diverse set of activities across the whole ecosystem. The basic factor is trust. People say blockchain is a trustless system, but in fact it just minimises the requirements for trust. And believe me, trust has different interpretations. Like, everybody wants 100% trusted content, especially in the news, you want to reduce malicious activities. You cannot do this until you identify the semantic linking between different entities across the ecosystem. Plus you provide the ecosystem the opportunity to identify interested groups and communities, let’s say to achieve different objectives. 

Additionally, we need to consider few things, let’s say – to preserve democracy feature to the social media. Whether somebody is trolling you, or posting fake news, or any other sort of malicious activities, you still cannot throw them out, as it is still their right to be in the ecosystem. It’s just that you need to identify it correctly to help others, not to be owersued by these malicious content or activities. 

Moreover, there are many disputes which occur in the large scale ecosystem. We want to employ some democratic intelligence to solve them. The entities or vendors who provide this intelligence which is accepted by the ecosystem, you tokenize them, you incentivise this activity.

That’s the complete picture, this is the role of University of Klagenfurt. As I said previously,  while, Blockchain is the brain of this ecosystem, SMART tool involving the decentralised intelligence is the heart of the ecosystem. 

What are you personally most challenged and excited about these developments?

The first thing is the trust. Specially for anonymised-by-design features, it is very difficult. How do you quantify the trust? Trust till now has been dealt at a very qualitative level. We’ve not been able to quantify it. That’s why we are collaborating with our sociologist partner University of Edinburgh, to combine the qualitative and the quantitative nature of trust, based on different factors. The definition of trust is different for every person. In democracy it is hard to reach a consensus with technical efficiency. Something similar is the representation of the parliamentary government: the government’s policies. You are trying to find the consensus among the majority group. 

Sometimes it also depends on how timely the content is. A small example for politicians. Some politician said something a few years ago in a specific context. After couple of years he is fighting for election and another politician from the opposition is trying to put forward and exploit this content in a completely different context. Now that’s a malicious content as well, and to me it is equivalent to fake news.

The trust is the eminent requirement currently. In the parliamentary form of government there are many constituencies within a government. Now the trust factor in one constituency might not be equivalent to the trust factor of another constituency. Everything differs: from culture to region. Trust will differ from region to region. Same is the case for social media: trust will differ from entity to entity. And that is most challenging: how to quantify it.

How do you see the marketability of the project now?

Decentralised social media is not a new thing. Internet was always meant to be decentralised, until some Proprietary organisations came in and redesigned the open internet design with a more centralised formation, where few organizations occupy the hot seat. Not to be confused: by centralised, I’m not talking about infrastructure, but about control. Decentralised social media has been a lightning trend in the past few years – thanks to some organizations in a damage control mode – or let’s say they perceive the future rightly – but they are subject to a few specific domains like advertising. 

On the contrary, ARTICONF is an open ecosystem. It wants to assimilate diverse entities from diverse domains, diverse regions. All heterogeneous domains under a democratic systemic umbrella. This is a completely open ecosystem that accommodates literally everyone.

So there will be no Terms and Conditions for ARTICONF?

That’s our goal. In the beginning we are starting with a permissioned network. But the goal is to put forward the permissionless network within this ARTICONF ecosystem. So underlying principle is that anybody can join at any time without reading any terms and conditions. Just doing their daily business and leave whenever you want. It is like renting a room anywhere in this world without borders, decorate it – contribute content to ecosystem – get incentives – and yet get the trusted advisory from ecosystem without allowing anyone to see your room. At the end of the day you are a part of this collaborative economy, where you give some and take some without restrictions.

Isn’t it high time that you get paid for all your data you produce? After all, data is gold dust in the 21st century.

interview by David Sarlos, Vialog

Stavanger, 5 June 2019

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