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A digital ecosystem is a distributed, adaptive, open socio-technical system with properties of self-organisation, scalability and sustainability inspired from natural ecosystems. Digital ecosystem models are informed by knowledge of natural ecosystems, especially for aspects related to competition and collaboration among diverse entities. The term is used in the computer industry, the entertainment industry, and the World Economic Forum.
Digital Business Ecosystem
The metaphor of Digital Business Ecosystem was proposed to describe a self-organizing business community that relied on Information Technology (IT) to achieve the objectives set for the European Union at Lisbon Council l, also known as Lisbon Strategy: higher growth, more and more qualified jobs and greater social inclusion.
The original model took into account the specifics of the European market, mostly based on networks of SMEs and local innovation systems.
A first wave of research on Digital Business Ecosystems was funded by the European Commission within the European Sixth Framework Program (FP6), including a flagship large-scale Integrated Project (EU) (IP) called Digital Business Ecosystems (DBE), and a Network of Excellence called Open Philosophies for Associative Autopoietic Digital Ecosystems (OPAALS). All projects of this initial wave focused on new models and technologies for fostering a Digital Business Ecosystem in Europe. The topic was later retained as a strategic objective within the European Commission's CIP and the Regions for Economic Change work programs. Today, the vision of Digital Business Ecosystems has become mature, and is widely used in the scientific literature to describe business-oriented socio-technical systems regardless of their location and structure.
The concept of Digital Business Ecosystem was put forward in 2002 by a group of European researchers and practitioners, including Francesco Nachira, Paolo Dini and Andrea Nicolai, who applied the general notion of digital ecosystems to model the process of adoption and development of ICT-based products and services in competitive, highly fragmented markets like the European one.
A major step in understanding digital ecosystems, particularly in the context of the Internet, was the publication of the ecological cognition framework in 2007. Level 1 of the framework describes what drives individuals to carry out actions in online communities such as posting messages and adding content. Level 2 looks at the cognition they use to determine whether or not to take such actions. Level 3 looks at the means by which they go about carrying out the action in the environment. Researchers have found it to be useful for understanding active participation in online communities and what instigates the user to desire to take part within the digital ecosystems that exist online 
In the same year 2007 three computer science researchers, Elizabeth Chang, Ernesto Damiani and Tharam Dillon, started in Cairns, Australia the annual IEEE International Conference on Digital Ecosystems and Technologies, bringing together the activities on socioeconomic models of Digital Business Ecosystems with the investigations on computational models of service-oriented applications. Since then, a large interdisciplinary research community has gradually gathered around the Digital Ecosystem idea, organizing other important regular events like the ACM Conference on the Management of Emergent Digital Ecosystems (MEDES).
The digital ecosystem metaphor and models have been applied to a number of business areas related to the production and distribution of knowledge-intensive products and services, including higher education. The perspective of this research is providing methods and tools to achieve a set of objectives of the ecosystem (e.g. sustainability, fairness, bounded information asymmetry, risk control and gracious failure). These objectives are seen as desirable properties whose emergence should be fostered by the digital ecosystem self-organization, rather than as explicit design goals like in conventional IT.
- Information ecology
- Knowledge commons
- Knowledge ecosystem
- Media ecology
- Social system
- Web literacy (Understanding the web ecosystem)
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- International ACM Conference on Management of Emergent Digital EcoSystems (MEDES) (since 2009) - Annual computer science Conference for interdisciplinary studies on Digital Ecosystems and Analysis
- IEEE DEST Conference series on Digital Ecosystems and related Technologies
- IEEE International Conference on Digital Ecosystems and Technologies (IEEE-DEST 2012) - Annual computer science Conference for Digital Ecosystems and related Technologies
- Digital Ecosystems and Digital Marketing Optimization
- ACM Conference on the Management of Emergent Digital Ecosystems