Digital environment

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Also referred to as virtual space or virtual environment.

An OVN is a participatory organization. The digital environment is the space where collaboration takes place. It is composed of a set of digital tools (IT infrastructure components) that are assembled by affiliates, based on their experience, in context. This environment is shared and affiliates should consider it with a mix sense of ownership and responsibility.

Fundamental principles

  • The digital environment of an OVN should remain transparent (provide access to information) and open (provide access to participation) to a very high degree.
  • The digital environment must allow a high degree of horizontal and vertical visibility and mobility, to provide the conditions for synergistic relations to emerge.
  • It must stimulate collaboration and enhance social intelligence.
  • It must also allow agents to harvest and store various results from the collective activity, to leave behind traces of their actions and to guide the action of other agents. The environment must be stigmergic.


Any affiliate can propose and even make improvements. Since this is a shared space, affiliates need to compromise between what they think is best for themselves and what is best for others. In other words, modifications to the shared digital environment must represent a consensus. Procedures and rules are required for modifications and implementations need to be transparent (let others know of intentions and actions) and open (let others get involved).

Usually, things are the way they are for a reason. As part of the collaborative ethics, newcomers need to verify with those who came before them if an improvement idea makes sense, and consider input from old-timers very seriously before taking any action.


Refers to how people "move" within the virtual environment, to do something (search, find and extract something, perform a task). Signalization elements are UI/UX elements that help with navigation. They suggest where to, how to, when to.

We identify 3 navigation modes:

  • using a map: Similar to a tourist in a new city, looking at a city map. Maps can be specialized, i.e. they can emphasize certain aspects of the environment and neglect others, depending on the perspective of the individual. For example, continuing with the city map example, if the individual is simply a tourist, the map will highlight the most popular tourist attractions and common means of transportation. If the individual is a business man the map will emphasize other things.
  • by proximity signalling: Similar to a tourist in a city using local signs that signal the direction towards an attraction (a park, a museum, etc.), following the local signs to navigate and move from one attraction to another. Proximity signalling is permanent, installed and maintained by planners for example.
  • by stigmergy: Following other people, going where the crowd goes and listening to people's recommendations. This is similar to following the crowd going to a football match, of running away from a disaster zone. Stigmergy relies on ephemeral signalling established by other people. More on stigmergy.

Embedded governance

Virtual environments are designed to constrain action. In the physical space this is similar to walls, barriers, doors, etc. The range of possibilities that an agent has within a virtual environment can be seen as embedded governance or embedded rules.


Are digital environments that fulfill a given function for an organization. The design of a space takes its information from the socioeconomic layer of an organization. For example, some spaces are designed for social interaction or discussions. Others are designed for planning and task management. Others are designed for collaboration on tasks, getting stuff done. Virtual spaces are to be considered as analogous to physical spaces. A building is made of sub-spaces with specific functions, which relate to the reality of human life/activity within them.

Collaboration space

Can be implemented as a content management system or CMS. It is a virtual space for collaboration, where social interaction happens around communities, ventures, topics, where people can find what's going on, on what to work, etc.

Example: Sensorica digital environment

The Sensorica network is divided into communities and ventures. Every community and every venture has a page in this space. Also, every venture has a a page on NRP-CAS. The Venture page in the collaboration space and the venture page on the NRP-CAS are interlinked. At this moment the CMS and the NRP are separate. NRP pages are brought into the collaboration space using iFrames. You can trace this separation probably back to 2011 or 2012, when sensoricans started to work on the NRP, only focusing on the core of resource planning functionality, not extending the field to content management, which would have made things a lot more complicated. Sensorica adopted a Google Site as CMS that was tailored as a wiki and developed the NRP-CAS as a separate thing.

Social space

Can be implemented as a forum, messaging system, mailing list, social media channel.

Has scope: can be venture specific, community specific, network specific or public.

Has access/exclusion rules and moderation procedures.

Usually optimized for something: exchange of information, updates, learning, building relations, funnel (people to action), etc.

Coordination space

Used to plan and coordinate action.

Can be implemented as a shared calendar / agenda


Used to store, categorize, share digital assets such as documents, photos, videos, code, etc.

Can be implemented by using online platforms. Ex. YouTube for videos, Flickr for pictures, GitHub for code, a Wiki for knowledge, etc.


Used to match needs and offers. For example, people offering skills and time for ventures, people offering resources for ventures, people offering services for other people, ... Have postings, search and match services. Have negotiation sub-spaces. Have transaction services. Can have logistics services.