Collective sense-making

More of my online sense-making is in connecting to people, not accessing information sources. For instance, I read a few journals but I have dropped several, knowing that other people in my network will find the interesting articles and let me know. I used to read many of the technology blogs, like TechCrunch and Read/Write Web but have dropped them from my feed reader and instead read posts that have been referred via Twitter, Google Plus or blog posts.

The big shift for me in the past decade has been in weaving a network that brings me diversity of opinions and depth of knowledge. I am constantly following/unfollowing on Twitter in an attempt at optimal filtering, which is an impossible but worthwhile goal. I look for experts who share their knowledge or act as human-powered content aggregators, selecting quality information and discarding the crap. I look for people who have mastered Crap Detection 101.

Aron Solomon has noted that:

2012 will be a year where the value of information finally seeps into the public consciousness. The conversation will become about not only what we know but how we know that what we know is meaningful. We will shift from an orientation of quantity to one of quality. It’s not that we won’t use the Internet, it’s not that Google will disappear – of course not.

Knowledge in a networked society is different from what many of us grew up with in the pre-Internet days. While books and journal articles are useful in codifying what we have learnt, knowledge is becoming a negotiated  agreement amongst connected people. It’s also better shared than kept to ourselves, where it may wither and die. Like electricity, knowledge is both particles and current, or stock and flow.

The increasing importance of fluid knowledge requires a different perspective on how we think of it and use it. If change is constant, then the half-life of codified knowledge (stock) decreases. We see this with the increasingly combative debates on intellectual property (IP) expressed as copyright. Both vestiges of an economy dominated by knowledge as stock. The digital world is harshly bumping against the analog world and we are caught in-between.

I think the only way to navigate this change is collaboratively. No one has the right answer, but together we can explore new models of sense-making and knowledge-sharing. We each need to find others who are sharing their knowledge flow and in turn contribute our own.This is the foundation of personal knowledge management. It’s not about being a better digital librarian, it’s about becoming a participating member of a networked society.

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4 Responses to “Collective sense-making”

  1. Marc Buyens

    There is a lot of truth in this post. At least, it really describes how our search for ‘knowledge and understanding’ is evolving. However, what remains an open question is to what extent this really will be the better approach in the long run.

    In theory, it should.

    However, whatever we might think about it, reality is that today’s ‘Crap Detection’ still is largely done by individuals who were educated, trained and, if you want, conditioned ‘the old way’. Apparently, even combined with today’s crappy tools for the identification of relevancy, reputation, influence, etc. this still seems to deliver a ‘better’ result.

    However, can we simply assume that this still will be the case once the knowledge scene has been replaced by the new generation of ‘collective sense-makers’?

    Not so sure about that.

  2. Jamie Billingham

    A long, long time ago, in the mid 90′s, one of my teachers introduced me to the Club of Rome. He mentioned it briefly in a class I was taking on curriculum design for adults. Looking back on it, the program was cutting edge with a primary focus on collaborative learning.

    The Club of Rome produced their first report – Limits to Growth – through MIT, in the early 70′s suggesting that the world was small and that we had limited resources and that we needed to smarten up. The second report – No Limits to Learning – suggested that there was one resource we had a surplus of, a cognitive surplus. However, to use that resource, the ability to learn, we needed to … smarten up :-)

    Ok, what they really said was that there are two ways to learn. We can learn by shock or by innovation. If we want to learn by innovation we we need to be able and willing to anticipate what might happen and we need to get everyone to participate in finding solutions.

    This idea, that I took to be the “truth” has guided my thinking about knowledge, information, learning and teaching for the past decade. A decade that has seen technology catch up with and enable those ideas.

    When I read posts like this I can’t help but reflect back on those ideas wondering if there is a link back to them. Wondering if the post I’m reading now will inform my thinking in the same way. I suspect it might, in a collective, networked, kind of way.

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