MAKING AND ORGANISING KNOWLEDGE IN COMMUNITIES is the title of the conference which will be held in London on 9th October 2008; a joint endeavour of KIDMM (Knowledge, Information, Data and Metadata Management) and ISKO-UK (the UK chapter of the International Society for Knowledge Organization). The conference Web site is here.
KIDMM is a project with which I am very closely associated. It is probably best described as a discussion community, which primarily manifests as an email discussion list hosted on the JISCmail UK academic system, and this currently has 76 members. KIDMM arose initially from the recognition of a group of people, all active in different Specialist Groups of the British Computer Society, that knowledge, data and information a whole lot of stuff which masses of computing power are now devoted to creating, storing and serving up access to together formed a topic of interest across our Specialist Group boundaries. The organisation of KIDMM has remained informal, and membership of the community has now extended outside the BCS. The way things have evolved, theres also a significant overlap of membership with ISKO-UK.
KIDMM ran a conference last year, the MetaKnowledge Mash-up, which was a great success. This years conference is in the same mould, but as the title suggests, has a focus on how knowledge can be elicited from members of a community of practice or community of interest, gatherd, organised, and turned into something useful. This is a hot topic in knowledge management, in industry and the public sector, and for professional and learned societies like the BCS.
The K word is a tricky one. As John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid remarked in their book The Social Life of Information,
We consider knowledge and learning… with some trepidation. On the one hand, epistemology, the theory of knowledge, has formed the centerpiece of heavyweight philosophical arguments for millenia. On the other, knowledge management has many aspects of another lightweight fad. That enemy of lightweights, The Economist, has pronounced it no more than a buzzword. We may, then, be trying to lift a gun too heavy to handle to aim at a target too insubstantial to matter.
This is an issue that Ive spent quite some time thinking and reading about over the summer, since the decision to go ahead with this conference topic. So, one of my two substantive contributions to the event has been to write a literature and concept review which I hope will deploy some of the concepts we can usefully use in our discussions on the day. You are most welcome to download it (PDF).
As for my other contribution, that trial still stands before me. Its relatively easy to organise a conference as an array of speakers (and I mean no disrespect to our speakers, we have a good line-up!) But we are keen to spend at least an hour in a set of parallel round-table discussion workshops, sharing ideas about how to maximise participation and knowledge sharing, using the new techniques that the Internet affords in addition to traditional tools such as meetings and publications. With less than two weeks to go, I must now turn my mind to how best to organise that session!