We are Wise & Munro, and we are specialised in human collaboration, facilitated by technology. Our role is to be a partner in projects in which collaborative technology is being developed, to guide and conduct social research by which we investigate the needs of users, involving users in the design of the technology, to the extent they are able to grasp what technology can do for them.  More importantly, in this project we investigate how users actually work with the technology after it has been designed, debugged, and installed in the user context. This is still a testing phase, called deployment, aiming to bring the technology into effective action. Our concern is with the users, not with the technology. It is our experience that users can get used to working with any technology, almost irrespective of its design. So, people work with word processors with millions of options, exploiting only a few of those. They use what they have found they can work with. This usage shapes their behaviour when producing some text, and in the long run, writing texts becomes associated with using the word processor in a certain way. As social scientists, we would say that the way people are using their word processors has a profound influence on the meaning they give to their writing process. This does not only apply to word processors, it applies to any software. The way young people relate and communicate nowadays is profoundly influenced by Facebook, Twitter and the likes of those. For an older person, this means a great step back in terms of human relationships: young people have developed a different meaning about interaction in face to face situations. The way people collaborate is therefore also changing, highly dependent on the ways they are used to interact in their day-to-day practices. While we, as experts in the field, think collaboration relies on emotional and refined consideration of the people we are collaborating with, for many people it consists of parallel conversations exchanging short messages. Or, as is often the case in educational contexts, it means students acting out prescripted actions for effectively achieving the correct answer.

How does that relate to cybersecurity? This is simple: effective cybersecurity can only be achieved by effective collaboration between relevant stakeholders. If people merely work in parallel, it will probably not lead to a secure environment. To some extent, depending on the needs and issues at hand, it is crucial for creating a safe cyberspace that people try and understand each other’s context and interests. If they do not try this, the severe consequence will be lack of trust, in the system, in each other. To give an example of such a predicament, our office happens to be opposite the Russian consulate in The Hague. This did not bother us, until we discovered that our electronic agendas automatically situate the meetings that we plan at our office at the Russian consulate instead. What will the agencies spying on the Russians think about that? Do we trust them to understand this? What can we do to raise awareness? With whom to collaborate?

In this project we will focus on how people collaborate to increase awareness of cybersecurity: when, with whom, and especially: how?

Jerry Andriessen
Wise & Munro Learning Research