The RING, towards a new Internet.

In recent years, all the ICT research community talks about the need to reinvent Internet. This community has gathered around the generic term of Future Internet.

In 2002 Prof. Larry Peterson and Prof. David Culler started PlanetLab in the U.S. Years after, the National Science Foundation launched the GENI initiative inspired in this previous project. In Europe, the two main initiatives were FIRE and Future Internet PPP. Although they have begun a thorough review of the Internet architecture and protocols, in reality the cognitive foundations inspiring those projects are similar to the program that started the network: Internet as a "computer scientists research program." It is thought that if IT specialists and network engineers designed it and worked so far, why should be different in the future? In Europe, this assumption is reinforced by the great weight that the community of network engineers has here, in particular, the telecom operators lobby.

But the reality is that Europe is losing ground every year in the development of the Internet and this will continue this way until they change their direction. How we could change the way? How about to open up to other research actors the thinking about the future of Internet? We need a new research program for the Internet open to arts, sciences and technologies and AST-driven Internet. We call it: The Ring, a renewed Internet, open up the current one to new designers, changing its functions and protocols to adapt them to the reality of the 21st century. 

In 2000 i2CAT started this new kind of open Internet through different ways. One initial project was the Cultural Ring, which began as a pilot project for connecting different artistic exhibition centers in different localities of Catalonia. Currently it has received the European recognition through the project SPECIFI. It is the main goal aims to create an advanced Internet infrastructure co-designed with European artists and creative communities. 

At the same time, i2CAT already participates, thanks to the titanic effort of very small and creative companies like Grassroot Arts, in the Future Internet Content+ project, which aims to create citizen services and applications in the world of advanced creative contents like urban pervasive games.

Three steps to change.

To get this new Internet, three disruptive changes could be necessary:

1. Integrating artists and humanists to the new Internet design.

This involves incorporating artists and creative people to the groups of computer scientists for co-design the new Internet, sharing its cognitive skills in the same environment. Everybody is wanted, what is needed are more cognitive modes, new ways of thinking working together. Like mathematicians and engineers working together created the “computer science” 50 years ago, now a new breed of talented people are needed to design an Internet for all. 

The knowledge systems of sapiens are not limited to science and technology. Internet has incorporated already artists, cultural and humanities professionals as users. Now it is time to include them as co-designers of Future Internet. 

Currently the majority of Internet is in Asia, with its explosion of multilingual cultures. Internet is moving fast from the West to the East. And after it will explode in Africa, the birthplace of humankind. The Internet of the Future should open up its design community. In addition to the scientific and technological culture, there is a third cultural system based on what cognitive anthropologists call mytho-poietic mode, a way of thinking that is in the basis of all artistic creation, and of all human culture. This cognitive model is based on the ability of imagination, symbolization and the generation of “worlds apart”. This type of thinking is in the origin of sapiens, and it has made us what we are. The future of the Internet desperately needs to incorporate this third culture evolution, including the previous two existing ones. We need an Internet more complex, more open, a Leonardo da Vinci’s kind of Internet.

2. Opening to “creative economy”.

John Howkins has been the first author who uses the term "creative economy", putting together for the first time all the creative industries (arts, heritage, media, music ...) and knowledge industries (R & D + i). (

Howkins said as IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) allows us to demonstrate and recognize this new source of wealth. There are different types of IPR: copyrights, patents, designs, trademarks, utility drawings… A rich country is one that has a wealthy "Creative Economy"; a poor country is one that does not generate this economy. Creativity and innovation are not tools for the economy. They are the new economy.

With the Internet’s advent, the possibility of accelerated expansion of the creative economy is an explosive phenomenon. The emergence of creative abilities of millions of people has been expressed in first place in the phenomenon called UGC (User Generated Content), of which Big Data is a small part. In fact, Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA) are platforms that exploit this phenomenon. They exploit information, communication, knowledge, and even the creativity of its millions of users. How? They allow users to generate their own content. They are "enablers platforms". Their importance is strategic and it is vital that they are still open.

These second generation platforms, as it were initially the Internet or the Web, are "generic enablers", (talking in terms of Future Internet) which allow other applications and services to work. They are not simple “tools”. They are also “content” themselves: computer technologies are protocols, algorithms, procedures and its effect is multiplier. It allows to multiply by n times other user-generated content. At the same time, users do not only generate UGC. They also generate open platforms like Wikipedia, Linux and Apache. Some platforms are open and public, and others are private and closed. A certain balance is necessary to avoid the tendency to both public and private monopolies which, as we already know, lead to stifle innovation.

3. Opening to a user-driven world of interactive contents in multimedia and multilingual format.

Contents of the Future Internet will increasingly interactive, multilingual and multimedia and user-driven. Even the new Internet of Things is based on the information, content, that billions of sensors will produce. The new Internet of FabLabs will be also based on the designs and programs that will enable to display what the user wants to build using 3D printers. When anyone could make anything, the differential factor will be what the innovator will want to produce, its designs. Fablabs will need Designlabs.

This explosion of media content on the Internet is just beginning. CISCO has analyzed the future of the Internet in terms of content and has concluded that over 60% of Internet traffic will be video in 2017. The flagship program after the Future Internet in the EU is expected to be the 5G, in order to provide wireless networks with capabilities up to 100Mbps per user.

Even quite traditional programs such as the Future Internet in Europe are now directing toward this type of content to reach the maximum number of users. In the 3rd phase of the large Future Internet research program, started this year 2014, applications and services areas have been the most popular and, within them, the creative contents areas.

And this is happening for two reasons:
a) They are the most dynamic areas in generating new businesses and new jobs. 
b) They are the most attractive areas from the point of view of end users.
We are in front of a young generation that, despite all criticisms of those who think they do not know to read or write properly, they are beginning to do what Leonardo did at the Renaissance: combining different cognitive modes. There are young engineers who are at the same time, artists. Artists who are learning technology. Scientists who are designers and designers who are interested in the life sciences or in nanotechnology. They are not simply “scientists of artificial” or “computer scientists”. They are all: artists, scientists, technologists, a kind of new designers. 

An expression of this new stage in the Internet evolution is the emergence, even in R+D European programs, of terms such as "creativity", "co-creation", "creative cities", "creative class", "social innovation"... hinting that the future of the Internet will not be a simple projection of the past. Slowly R+D+i systems are opening doors to the new/old players of the artistic and creative world. The serious science and technology world and the funny artistic and creative one are ready to reconciliation in the Internet world. Somebody should help the Science and Technology communities to imagine new possibilities, unlikely combinations, utopian and even dystopian worlds... The Internet can be not only an information and communication network, it can also be a collaboratory and new art form.

At i2CAT, we already know about this Internet opening to the cultural and artistic world. It could not be otherwise with a research program born in Barcelona, Catalonia, where engineers and anthropologists have worked together since the beginning. The connection with the American Internet2 and with people like musician Ann Doyle or Prof. Dae Young Kim from Korea has facilitated this approach towards an Internet of the Cultures. (

It has been this combination of cognitive skills that has helped i2CATt to afford an added value in the world of interactive media Internet research. And this is why the European Commission is now interesting that Barcelona will be a city laboratory for testing the results of the Future Internet Content+ program in 2015. The collaboration started between i2CAT and the Directorate of Creativity and Innovation of the City of Barcelona to build the Barcelona Lab as a citizen-driven living lab, will be instrumental in making that happen. ( )

An Internet that wants to reach now 7,000 million of brains must be designed by a richer and more complex cognitive combination than the first version of it. We need an Art-Science-Technology-driven Internet, a new research program combining creativity and innovation to implement it. A Leonardo’s network is possible. We need to prevent an Orwell's one.

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