Dropping knowledge = wisdom of the crowds?

Dropping Knowledge

Having got to know of the Dropping Knowledge initiative through Private Sector Development Blog, I was intrigued to read more about it and came across this description of its mission:

dropping knowledge is a global initiative to turn apathy into activity. By hosting an open conversation on the most pressing issues of our times, we will foster a worldwide exchange of viewpoints, ideas and people-powered solutions. However knowledge is defined, by dropping it freely to others, we all gain wisdom.

This seems to assume, inter alia, that wisdom is not cultural relativist, global, trans-national and free from linguistic, ethnic, religious and cultural bias. While the initiative itself sounds truly interesting, if only for its sheer ambition of creation a vast knowledge repository of ideas that can help transform some of the most pressing problems facing humanity today, it would have been more useful to recognise that its outcome would be in the form of information, not knowledge or wisdom. Having said that, initiatives such as this challenge us to think about what’s sometimes called the Wisdom of the Crowds – whether collectives are better at the formulation of alternatives and solutions than individual minds working in isolation.

Dropping knowledge’s close relationship with technology to capture, store, disseminate ideas is fascinating. Digital media plays a huge role in the initiatives, from film, to the ways through which the meeting itself will be conducted. Called the Table of Free Voices, the event in Berlin on September 9, 2006 will bring together 112 individuals to drop their knowledge. The answers will be filmed, generating some 600 hours of footage.

If particular interest to me was the Living Library:

The dropping knowledge Living Library is an ever-growing, open-source platform for multiple viewpoints, the 600 hours of answers from the Table of Free Voices serving as its seed content. The Living Library empowers users to come together and inhabit a conceptual topography of 25,000 interconnected issues, setting up camp around the issues that interest them and creating a new space for ideas, information and people-powered solutions. New global problems require a new global approach. The Living Library not only increases awareness of existing solutions but, through an active dialog among users, generates new answers, new initiatives and new solutions.

The feature set of the Living Library is impressive:

Offering user-friendly search and 3-D graphic navigation facilities, as well as a built-in interface for locating content by asking questions in natural language, the Living Library will evolve in accordance with user-participation, prioritizing its accumulating content according to thematic relevance, level of traffic generated and a user-driven content-rating system.

This description addresses a topic that I’m deeply interested in – the visualisation of knowledge & information, which I’ve briefly touched upon here. If the graphical representation of the library is what it ends up looking like, it is remarkably like the Semantic Navigator tool we used with Groove based databases in the early days of InfoShare, albeit in on the web.

My interest here is how, and if, advanced visualisation can help identify the inter-related nature of information on, say, peacebuilding – intelligently mapping connections between nodes that may not be immediately apparant to even the most seasoned researcher or analyst.

This blog will explore the topic of information visualisation in future posts.

A detailed PDF of the dropping knowledge initiative is available here. Wikipedia’s entry on The Wisdom of the Crowds is also interesting for the links it provides to further resources and reading.

I’m going to keep my eye on this.

3 thoughts on “Dropping knowledge = wisdom of the crowds?

  1. There is now a retrospective video of the Table of Free Voices event that I recommend people check out. It’s incredibly inspiring.

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