Aurélien Bénel, Pascal Salembier, Jean-Pierre Cahier,
Towards non-disposable software architectures for participation
First workshop on Cultures of Participation in the Digital Age (CoPDA) IS ‐EUD 2013 Conference Copenhagen,Denmark June,10
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For many years now our research team has been involved in an effort (both theoretical and technological) that can be labelled as an attempt to investigate the notion of cooperation from the ‘participation’ or ‘contribution’ perspective. For us it encompasses a set of situations in which different actors identified or unidentified, ratified or not, distributed in space and time, contribute to a sometimes ill-defined collective goal, using most of the time low-overhead web-based technologies. Doing so, people participate to a collective design that aims at generating a bunch of perpetually moving collective knowledge and decisions submitted to discussion, negotiation and sometimes dismissal. During the past years, and as many others, we have conducted empirical studies in a wide span of professional and non-professional situations where participation of the actors (operators, users, citizens) actually play, or in our opinion should play, a major role. The outcomes of the studies are then used to inform the design of services that are supposed to offer a solution to an aspect of a broader societal challenge where participation is critical. But there is a likely drawback doing so: actually even though we manage to avoid the design of services as a repeated one-shot process by considering service as an object worthy of conceptual thinking, the capitalization of experience gained on each design project remains a critical problem. One solution to soften this possible limitation is to propose a software architecture or platform that can be used as an infrastructure in every new project which aims at designing collaborative supports and which takes profit from the outcomes of each project. We have developed, enhanced, modified a software infrastructure dedicated to the collaborative representation and participative manipulation of data, contents and knowledge ( This platform is a tangible outcome of different studies conducted from the years 2000 in the domain of collaborative knowledge engineering that gave birth to the notion of "Social Semantic Web". While the (formal) Semantic Web supposes that people have to share common-ground concepts in order to work coherently on different items, the Social Semantic Web considers that knowledge workers usually build different "viewpoints" on shared items. This multi-viewpoint model, called "Hypertopic" is implemented by a core service (Argos), manipulated by users through cataloguing (with Agorae), document annotation (with LaSuli), and multi-dimensional browsing (with Porphyry). To add ergonomics or automation to the management of specific items types, additional services have been developed for texts (Cassandre), pictures (Steatite), research papers (Tiré-à-part) and design forums (Argile). One of the unexpected lessons we learnt from the iterative design and experimentation of this software platform were: - the key aspect of the elicitation process of shared items, their "documentarization" so that they can be referenced by anyone (even if it is to criticize them), - the very delicate semiotic nature of "topics" (viewpoints parts), not as mere "descriptors" but as "collections" which meaning evolves as more and more items are described with them. Abstracted in Lecture Notes in Computer Science 7897 (IS-EUD), Springer, 304–306.