SOMETIME DURING the hot summer monts, the two millionth visitor will click through this blog. Statistically speaking, that person will probably be in her mid-20s and come from the States. Her visit will contribute to the flattening of the world because this blog is part of the flat-world infosystem. Technology and conversation and information intersect here on a Web-enabled playing field that fits into a collaborative network where people Google to find something. They click inside, occasionally leave a comment or two, take away some tips. Sometimes they pass along what they've found.
Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat, proves his point by the flattening effect of free-flowing information. In the book, Friedman points out the astonishing interconnectivity we have made part of our daily lives. However, you would be a fool to assume that this hive of information is the same as the honeypot of knowledge. It isn't.
At Tipperary Institute, I have struggled with students who try to pass off their sheafs of notes as actual knowledge. At the moment, we're evaluating third and fourth year projects. There's a mark for research and a mark for production. Some students have killer research but stupid projects that often don't do anything worth the time it takes to unpack them. In doing their projects, they've culled an information collection but they did not contribute to their personal store of knowledge.
Tech journos who pimp IT purchases damage our focus on maintaining a competitive edge in the knowledge economy by hyping IT infrastructures that may be very good at shifting petabytes of information, but not knowledge, from one place to another.
Euan Semple, in a stopover at Dublin Airport, explained to me the difference between knowledge and information. He was at the receiving end of a cup of coffee that he did not order. The counter staff had the information above their head about the kind of coffee on offer. That same counter staff did not have the knowledge it took to make a proper latte. Semple got a curious mix of mocha and green tea. I put it down to dirty water. He explained it as staff that did not know.
Information is a list of products, one-dimensional messages bounded by its form: recipes, menus, documents, images, playlists. You can package information and transmit it to anyone, anywhere. Google is the ultimate information appliance.
Knowledge results from the assimilation and connection of information through experience, internship, lab work, mentoring. The best organisations where I worked have embedded knowledge management in ways that evade codification. Sometimes that was by guild-like design. You kept the way things were really done from the curious so that you could keep your shop closed from the unwashed. So it was in the realm of flying blacked-out planes low enough to suck bats into their engines. You learned by experience and you imparted your knowledge only to those crazed enough to live for the risk of low altitude night flight. It's much the same inside surgical training. The magic of IT can not crack the problem of speeding up how humans acquire knowledge.
Learning things like Chinese, calculus, and rejoin angles in high-G regimes is time-consuming and expensive. It takes time to develop that kind of knowledge, then it takes time and money to retain, refine and transfer the skills.
You might find information here but you won't get the knowledge you need to supervise your own knowledge collective. Thanks for reading.