Collaborative Essay

Topic 1: Knowledge and Information Defined and Organized

Caitlin Laverdiere

Understanding the dichotomy of information and knowledge – or at lest presenting a rudimentary explanation of what each entails – is central to any discussion on knowledge management. Information and knowledge are composed of similar, sometimes-overlapping criteria; yet, they are distinctively different, and therefore require different management approaches.

Information is static. It is comprised of facts and data, and it is impersonal and independent of human thought processes. As such, information is often understood to be more easily organized and disseminated. Robert Aumann cited a definition of information from the Symposium on Information and Knowledge in Economics as “the raw material from which knowledge is manufactured” (88). He notes that because information resides outside of the human mind, it can be assembled and organized more readily.

Information can be quantifiable. We can measure and calculate percentages and probabilities and then aggregate our information to present a more holistic picture of what the data represents. This is an important aspect of scientific research. Researchers can share calculated information with others as part of a collective endeavor to solve a complex problem or further a specific inquiry.

Information can also comprise various qualitative data and facts that describe people, places, events, and time. One of the distinguishing characteristics of this information, however, is its ability to exist on its own; its merit does not rely on human thought processes to integrate or modify it, nor does it elicit different interpretations from different people.

Knowledge, by contrast, is a process. It does not exist independently of human thought, nor is it universally approached and understood in the same way among different individuals. Knowledge is processed information that incorporates our beliefs, ideas, attitudes, and lived experiences to produce our unique perceptions and patterns of thought. It is a way for us to make meaning of the world. The active process we undergo when creating knowledge, through assimilating and synthesizing disparate pieces of information, is greater than the sum of the individual parts; thus, the process of knowledge creation supersedes the separate pieces of static information. This process of knowledge creation gives context to information. It aggregates the facts and data we have gathered, incorporates our values and preexisting knowledge, and becomes further refined through our individual assessment and applications.

The process of knowledge creation requires active learning – an idea we described in class as “learning in the mind.” This requires not only identifying and extracting information, but also how we comprehend the information and ideas others present and share with us. Communication and collaboration with our classmates or colleagues is integral to our own knowledge creation – it is not reserved solely for the individual. Collaboration will be an important component in our later discussion of how and why we need to have some form of knowledge management in order to foster communication and the exchange of ideas and discoveries between researchers.

Forms of Knowledge
In our class discussions we have discussed two distinct forms of knowledge: tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge refers to our knowing that we can do or perform something, but we cannot explain exactly how we do it. In “The Knowledge-Creating Company,” Ikujiro Nonaka describes tacit knowledge as “the valuable and highly subjective insights and intuitions that are difficult to capture and share because people carry them in their heads” (Nonaka 162). This tacit knowledge is often found in experts – and while Surowiecki advances the notion of the “wisdom of crowds”, crowds do not embody the tacit knowledge imperative to understanding the nuanced complexity of specific problems or practices. Practitioners internalize knowledge – which we discussed in class as “hand knowledge” – and their understanding and distinct interpretations lead to their specializations. Nonaka acknowledges that tacit knowledge is often “deeply rooted in action and in an individual’s commitment to a specific context” (165). The personal, hard-earned skills and understanding that compose an expert’s tacit knowledge makes it difficult to transfer. For this reason, organizations can plan and institute creative approaches to knowledge management in order to transform individualized tacit knowledge into organizational knowledge that can be shared among the institution’s members.

Explicit knowledge, on the other hand, is “formal and systematic” and is thus “easily communicated and shared” (Nonaka 165). Scientific knowledge typically resides in this category. We can generate it and commodify it. Researchers actively investigate and share their findings, which facilitates the ongoing research and development within many scientific and technological disciplines.

When you are taking in knowledge and information, it affects you; it affects how you make meaning of the world. It becomes self-knowledge and is distinctly different from another person’s comprehension and internalization of the same information. Through organizing and sharing knowledge, companies and organizations can extract and integrate individual knowledge, transforming it into organizational knowledge.

Knowledge and Information Management Issues
Information is more easily organized and managed due to its often objective and independent characteristics. Through the management of information, people are able to specialize and apply their specializations in individualized and unique ways. The Internet is one form of information management and houses a vast expanse of Information that can be searched, extracted, modified, and distributed to other individuals and organizations However, there is still a long way to go in the management and flow of information on the Web. Solove points out that there is a need to “shape the norms that govern the circulation of information” (113). Information management can also help ensure the validity and reliability of the information we extract; however, with the rise of the Internet “anybody can spread information online, [and] it becomes harder to know what information to trust and what information not to trust” (145). As such, there is a need for further awareness about the use and spread of online information, as well as measures to enhance the reliability of Internet information, without infringing on people’s freedom to post online and to express themselves. Solove pointedly states, “it is crucial to know the context – who is gathering the information, who is analyzing it, who is disseminating it and to whom, the nature of the information, the relationships among the various parties, and even larger institutional and social circumstances” (165).

Knowledge, however, is dependent on personal synthesis and integration. It is processed information and incorporates our beliefs, attitudes, ideas, and lived experiences to produce a unique perception and pattern of thought. People build upon their specializations through further development and application of knowledge. Because knowledge is personal, it is innately harder to manage. This is especially true of tacit knowledge, which includes fundamental insights and mental models that are difficult to share and commodify, unlike the systematic, more easily describable characteristics of explicit knowledge.

The organization of knowledge within institutions allows individual knowledge – and thus the intellectual capital of institutions – to be more easily and effectively employed and distributed. However, it is not extracted and disseminated as easily and objectively as information, thus leading to the various and diverse approaches to information and knowledge management.

Taylor Bryan

Information vs. Knowledge and their Management

In the modern digital age, internet access allows users to find and utilize a plethora of information at a speed and level of convenience unlike any in human history. The existence of such a vast bank of information and knowledge proves extremely useful to internet users but possesses inherent dangers as sensitive information is accessible and people’s knowledge becomes available to all. While a distinct difference exists between information and knowledge as we know it, online access blurs these lines often at the expense of those who have accumulated knowledge and information throughout their lives as a means of making a living. Because of the emergence of the internet and the relative ease with which people can access information and knowledge, management practices must emerge and be limited to protect the public from dangerous facts and safeguard the lively hood of persons with specific knowledge.

Information vs. Knowledge
Information composes that which is available to all people through the internet and other forms of media, education, and life experience. While information emerges through experimentation and study, once it exists it stands as raw data that require no human though processes to understand. Composed primarily of facts and numbers, anyone can view information and interpret or use it in any way he or she sees fit. Although frequently organized within databases, encyclopedias, and other forums for information, it possesses no real function until one composes it into usable knowledge. Knowledge, on the other hand, consists of organized information within a person's mind that has been categorized through experience and can be utilized for given purposes through such experience. Knowledge ultimately consists of people's personal management of information and the ways in which one can use such knowledge to address practical problems. Because knowledge requires a vast amount of work on the part of individuals over a lifetime of work, it is inherently different from information as the individual must go through a process to attach facts to personal experience, beliefs, and education in order to formulate a usable bank of information known as knowledge. While information and knowledge are similar, the primary difference exists in the fact that information is accessible without experience whereas knowledge requires a vast amount of work by the individual or group in order to organize and control information into a usable forum. Because information and knowledge differ in terms of requirement of work by the human mind, the management of each entails an entirely different approach.

Managing Information
Information, with the current ease of access to it, must be managed by some entity in order to prevent the spread of harmful or dangerous facts and protect the value of organizations that collect, review, and authenticate information. A distinction exists between general information, that which exists and has not been reviewed and authentic information, that which a group spends time reviewing and gains profit from exposing. Organizations such as Wikipedia offer widespread information that, although usually valid, has not necessarily been reviewed or confirmed by qualified personnel. This type of information is free to the public and should only be managed in so far as it prevents the spread of harmful information or that which could be unnecessarily scathing to an individual or group. Obviously, information regarding dangerous subject matter should not be available to the general public. People simply should not have the opportunity to learn to make weapons, drugs, or other dangerous items that could harm themselves or the general public. Additionally, the general public should not necessarily have access to information about people's private matters (although we often broadcast our own,) so long as information about a person does not pose a threat to society. While a sex-offender’s past poses a threat to the public and should therefore exist in the realm of information, a transgression or mistake that harms only one’s family or the parties involved should not qualify as free to expose. According to Solove in his book The Future of Reputation, “The law…generally holds that once something is exposed to the public, it can no longer be private.” (Solove, 163). Under this distinction any information about a person that is exposed to the public can be justly spread through the media. This being the case, people should be able to withhold and manage information about their personal lives so long as it does not harm the collective. If this free information is managed, the question lies in what entity should have the authority to determine what can and can't be learned and later formulated into knowledge. Managing information certainly has negative connotations as those in authority can mislead people by denying the access to information. If the power to manage free information emerges it must rest in the hands of a collective, diverse group of people so that group think does not take over and so decisions can be made with the best interest of all parties at heart.

Authenticated information fits into a different category in terms of how it should be managed. This information does not simply exist in the public eye; it has been organized, worked on, and confirmed through the labor of those who manage it. For profit information organizations such as encyclopedias spend a significant amount of time and resources to collect, review, and confirm the authenticity of the information they present. Such organizations should reserve the right to manage the spread of their information as frequently experts have been paid to validate facts. In order to ensure the survival of such groups in the face of the internet’s widespread access to information, these groups should reserve the right to manage their information through charging for it or only allowing those they deem worthy to access it. Nevertheless, these organizations should abide by the same management rules as general information in limiting the spread of dangerous or harmful material to the public. While managing access to their collection of information should remain the right of the organization, they must abide by the same code of conduct as any general information collection.

Managing Knowledge
The formulation of knowledge requires a vast amount of work on the part of the individual who possesses it and therefore should not be free, except of course in public education, and should be the sole possession of the individual who has spent the time to attain and create it. Because knowledge entails individual efforts, contains a synthesis of an individual’s beliefs, experience, and ideas, and provides him or her who possesses it with value, each individual should reserve the right to manage his or her own knowledge and its spread. Corporations and other groups that contain a collection of individual’s knowledge should not be capable of using what a person has achieved through processing information into organized and usable knowledge or require the individual to leave a record of his or her knowledge for the company. In knowledge is managed by any organization outside of an individual’s mind, it completely removes that persons worth within the job market. If companies are capable of recording the knowledge of an employee who worked for a significant amount of time, nothing stops them from teaching entry level personnel that same knowledge, thereby removing the skilled and experienced employee's worth entirely. The individual should reserve the right to sell his or her knowledge regardless if it is attained over the course of a career utilizing a company’s resources. While a company can provide an employee with the information and resources to create knowledge, they can never own a person’s experience, a vital factor within one’s knowledge.

The Individual vs. the Group
A distinction exists between the individual and the group in terms of attaining information and synthesizing knowledge. As general information is readily available to both the individual and the group, there is little difference between each entity. However, a group may possess more readily available access to authenticated knowledge at the expense of those who manage it. A group should not gain access to authenticated knowledge unless each member has paid or the group is granted access as a unit. Individuals and groups can both attain information and synthesize it into useful, practical knowledge. Knowledge holds a clear distinction between the individual and the group, however, the individual's role in producing knowledge is far more valuable and should be protected. Groups certainly produce knowledge in a variety of ways but the collective knowledge is a collaboration of individual’s knowledge organized together to suit a group’s interests. When such knowledge is created it should be available to the entire group but not at the expense of removing an individual’s agency. Because groups create knowledge most frequently within the structure of a company or corporation and because the company or corporation placed the individuals together (and pays their salaries), the knowledge created must be usable to the company. This creates a dangerous situation for the individual, however. By sharing one's own knowledge with a group, although certainly not all of it is utilized, a person makes him or herself vulnerable to a loss of worth. In order to manage knowledge in a group or in general, the individual must be protected above all else.

Jenny Milne

We all are aware that managing knowledge is necessary. However the question is, what exactly is knowledge, and because it is not an actual object, how do we manage it? Another aspect of the idea of managing knowledge is the fact that knowledge is different then information.

To begin, we must define knowledge and information. While these definitions are working, and not exact, it is somewhere to begin. According to, knowledge is the idea that one is aware of something, such as a fact or circumstance. Information, according to the same source, is the facts that you can know, and it can be communicated or received. In short, knowledge is gained from information.

It is important to realize that these definitions are general, and when you get into specifics, the knowledge needs to be categorized and managed, especially when considering the vast amount of information the internet contains. This organization of knowledge and information is known as knowledge management. Because this concept is based terms that are difficult to define, it is hard to define and understand knowledge management.

When dealing with businesses and corporations, that often have intellectual property at stake, especially the knowledge that their workers have, they try to manage their knowledge. It often deals with ideas that are difficult to explain, like health care; however, people know what health care is. Companies try to manage knowledge because that way, processes that normally wouldn't be able to be taught, and transferred from employee to employee, are transferable. This is when dealing with tacit knowledge.

The idea of managing knowledge, " has been perceived as an unmanageable kind of problem — an implicitly human, individual activity — that was intractable with traditional management methods and technology," (media access). We know that we are attempting to do the impossible. However, knowledge is unmanageable, but when attempting to do the impossible, it is not knowledge that we manage, but the information. We try to take the information that makes up knowledge and present it in such a way that it can be taught. This is really what knowledge management is.

The knowledge that is gained from information is very specific to that knowledge. For that reason, it is helpful to organize the information based on what is trying to be gained from the knowledge. Because we know how people learn, we can organize the information based on what the knowledge will accomplish. This is the first step in how to manage knowledge.
We must take in to account what the knowledge is for and who will be using it. We know how people learn, but we must also consider what they are trying to accomplish with that information. With this in mind, we can organize the information more clearly for the person. There is no set design for this currently because transfer of knowledge is constantly changing.

The idea of managing knowledge and information is so that tacit knowledge can become explicit. Tacit knowledge is, for example, an efficient way to manage others. While one worker might be more successful at managing coworkers, he probably isn’t able to explain his methods. This is where knowledge management comes in. It creates a process to convey the first workers techniques on managing to others. It is a safety method to internalize information so if that specific worker retires, his efficient process of managing still exists within the company.

Knowledge management is a key component of transferring information within a company. It is necessary for developing processes of hard to define subjects or tasks. However, when looking at knowledge and information as a whole, when dealing with websites, it’s hard to say who manages that.

So far, I have only been discussing information and knowledge as businesses deal with it. When looking at the internet, it is apparent that there are numerous websites that contain information that can be used to gain all types of knowledge. The information that the internet contains is not controlled for the most part. I believe that the knowledge found on the internet should be managed to a certain extent. Information can be used in a number of ways, and with the vast select at anyone’s disposal on the web, it is important to ensure that the wrong information doesn’t get into the wrong hands, and that certain knowledge isn’t gained.

A new sort of police force would be needed and they should be considered part of our current police departments. This group of people would develop a system and a group of guidelines for what is considered appropriate information, and what knowledge could be gained from it. This is a general idea, and I’m sure it has some flaws, but I think that there is so much information out there, and much of it is possibly dangerous if in the wrong hands.

To finish, we use information to gain knowledge. The management of this knowledge is especially important to companies. In this day and age, when efficiency means everything, and knowing something that others don’t, gives you the competitive edge. Knowledge management can make companies more efficient. However it is also important to manage the information that exists on the internet. This is to protect citizens, internet users and non internet users alike. Privacy and safety is very valuable, and there is no price for it. Knowledge management in the public setting is important to keep the wrong people from getting certain information. The key to managing information is to consider who it is for and what it will accomplish. The key to managing knowledge and information is being able to define those terms. The definition of knowledge and information may change depending on what they are dealing with. Their definitions are key to how they are managed and organized, and what they will accomplish.

Courtney Carlson
In order to adequately understand the fundamental principles of knowledge management, it is imperative to recognize the differences that exist in different types of knowledge and information. After we grasp an understanding between the difference that exists between these two unique ideas, we can more effectively describe if managing knowledge and information is necessary, effective, and reasonable.

Knowledge is the practical use of information and often involves a personal experience. That is to say, that if a person conducts an experiment, and records his or her results and shares the findings with others, the experimenter will have gained knowledge, while the people he or she shared the findings with will have acquired information. It is the first-hand experience that changes information into knowledge, as the person who has acquired knowledge has attained a certain point-of-view and deeper understanding of the information uncovered in the experiment.

Explicit knowledge is often the most readily available form of knowledge and is what is often available in official texts such as dictionaries or encyclopedias. This knowledge involves something that you can explain without physically engaging in the specific task. Within the category of explicit knowledge is scientific knowledge, which is the knowledge associated with experimentation technology.

Tacit knowledge involves dialectical thinking, metaphor, and analogy, and is more simply understood as a hands-on type of knowledge. It is the idea that you know something, but you cannot explain it without actually performing the actual task. In class, riding a bike was given as an example of tacit knowledge, because one cannot truly understand the intricate steps of doing so correctly without actually trying it themselves. More simply stated, tacit knowledge is the idea that you know you can do something, but can’t explain how to do it to someone else.

Information, in contrast, consists of only facts and information and is often the representation of knowledge. According to Merriam-Webster, information is the communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence.

We often tend to assume that knowledge transmission only happens one way. However, because knowledge is fluid, tacit, and forever changing, the converse is true. Our experiences and beliefs change our knowledge daily; we often are unaware of the changes in our knowledge acquisition, which is what makes knowledge much more complicated than information. For example, in class we discussed the findings of Vannebar Bush, who concluded that we think by association and mark trails in order to generate our own personal knowledge and information. We are also able to make more associations when prioritizing our knowledge, which is what allows us to store, distribute, and grant access to the knowledge we possess.

The question of whether both information and knowledge should be managed is one that has always plagued the field of knowledge management. Anyone who wishes to acquire knowledge, or become knowledgeable about a specific subject matter has the right to. When I think of information, I think of facts. When I think of knowledge, I think more of perception, of a person’s twist and comprehension of the facts and information they have acquired. That is to say that a person who has become knowledgeable about a topic, has acquired the information (that is organized) and interpreted it in a particular way. Information is everywhere, but knowledge is hard to come by. Every person has the right to acquire knowledge, if they are given access to the right amount and level of information. A person with knowledge of a particular subject has obtained a certain expertise in an area by acquiring the information that is readily available to him or her. If the available information is not organized, utilizing it would become nearly impossible. People with different levels of knowledge (e.g.: students versus subject matter experts) should have access to information depending on their level of expertise or knowledge.

Topic 2: How to Manage Knowledge

Kaitlin Cannavo, Kara Williams, Alex Orchard Hays

Managing knowledge is supposed to be about making sure the right information is available to users, at the right time, in a form understandable [to the user]. Therefore, knowledge management should respect the many different forms of individual intelligence-gathering capabilities. (Kara)

Manage or Cultivate? (Kara)

When considering organizational norms of “managing” knowledge, one tends to think in terms of limitations. How do you really manage an infinite resource not meant, by design, to be controlled? What if instead we used the term “cultivating” knowledge? This term tends to get people to think in terms of possibilities. Getting positive results from infinite possibilities provides motivation for acquiring knowledge or understanding.
Making decisions, taking actions, and achieving performance objectives are key. Knowledge management should be thought of as the “art” of systematically encouraging people to use their knowledge for the future benefit of the organization. This statement is consistent with the concept of cultivating and I believe can be very effective in influencing what is done with knowledge to increase productivity. The ultimate challenge is transitioning managers who are accustomed to managing finite resources (time, money, and things) and teaching them to manage an infinite resource (knowledge). This will involve an order of magnitude managerial paradigm shift from managing knowledge to cultivating knowledge.

Purpose of Managing Knowledge (Kara)

The primary focus in the actions and thoughts of managing knowledge should be directed toward accomplishing common goals. If this is true, then information is generated in a form that enables people to attain a level of understanding. With understanding, people are better able to make sound and timely decisions. A cynical belief is knowledge management is just a euphemistic term that makes it legal to systematically take advantage of employee ideas. Others believe, knowledge management is luring people together [physically or virtually] to share thoughts and ideas in order to produce a level of understanding needed to make decisions. Still others believe knowledge management involves managing learning activities within oneself to get some type of result. In these examples, knowledge and understanding could be used interchangeably. However, the real concern is not knowledge or understanding, rather, understanding the purpose the knowledge management is suppose to bring.

Understanding how to influence “what is done with knowledge” in an organization can profoundly enhance productivity and is essential to leading and managing organizational change, maintaining an organization’s competitive advantage, and developing an organization’s future required operating capabilities.

Knowledge Management Systems (Kara)

Technology can be used to manage knowledge, especially in the workplace, in which experiences of employees can be systematically captured and shared. Not necessarily saying that this is the right way, the only way to manage knowledge in the business world, but these technological structures, or knowledge management systems, are just one way to make it easier to access and transfer knowledge. Some examples of knowledge management systems include intranets (internal Web sites), groupware applications (software that enables users to share information), e-mail lists, and knowledge mapping tools (representational maps that detail staff expertise and knowledge). Another example is Groupware, “a collaborative technology which allows people to communicate with each other, co-operate on projects and share information and knowledge” (Gunnlaugsdottir, 2003, p. 371). According to this author, groupware links employees together through the groupware application and provides access to needed information while eliminating duplication of effort.

Learn to Manage Content on our Own (Kaitlin)

The internet has transformed into the world’s primary mode of facilitating knowledge, and while its founders based the system upon a utopian, free-thinking liberator, loosening the binds of the bureaucratic arrangement of society at the time, today conversely acts as more of an oppressor to much of society. Recent knowledge management techniques utilizing technology leave no freedom of choice in regards to its use; you either conform to the technological advances or you are doomed to collapse in this ever-growing conventional digital world. All work and education involves online communication. Daily activities such as banking and shopping are now applicable, and often preferable by the majority of companies, online. Most corporations are even pushing for all business transactions to shift to this digital realm. We reduce ourselves to our online identity so often that the majority of our daily interactions involve merely a username and password. Very few people know us as a physical person; our personality, our values, our sense of self.

Society is slowly losing the concept of life as being what it is, living. We are too
preoccupied with trying to make computers do all the work for us that we lose touch with ourselves and with each other. While the counterculturalist ideal view of cyberspace as a liberator may have held true for the beginnings of the internet, this obsession with technology has metamorphosed into more a form of repression. There are no choices anymore- it’s technology’s way or no way. Counterculturalists viewed the internet as a new form of the now illegal drug LSD, transposing their consciousness into a utopian, vindicated state away from the social restraints of the post-war military-industrial complex (Turner). But today, our hierarchal society has taken control of the world-wide web and rather than act as an emotional outlet, the internet is yet another disciplined bureaucrat constantly supervising our online actions. School systems and universities force students to own laptops in order to succeed in classes, companies provide employees with personal computers, and businesses now market and sell products primarily through the web. We must constantly monitor how we portray ourselves online for fear of damaging our reputation. Andrew Keen quotes Thomas Frank in his documentation of the internet’s corruption of culture, The Cult of the Amateur, stating, “‘Life is in fact a computer. Everything we do can be understood as part of a giant calculating machine. … the ‘New Economy,’ the way of the microchip, is writ into the very DNA of existence” (Keen, 215).

Social Tagging (Kaitlin)

In response to criticisms of the depersonalization flanking the internet, Web 2.0 has responded with websites promoting more intimate and tailored online identities. Keen argues in The Cult of the Amateur that “as traditional mainstream media is replaced by a personalized one, the Internet has become a mirror to ourselves. Rather than using it to seek news, information, or culture, we use it to actually BE the news, the information, the culture” (Keen, 7). Social networking sites that promote the expansion of virtual identities, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr, utilize a technique known as “social tagging” to enforce collaboration that is increasingly being discussed as an alternative to standardization (Panke). This phenomenon involves the collaboration and mutual exchange of ideas, in which internet users are much more willing to participate if the benefits of sharing information involve access to further venues of attainable personal knowledge. The most recent forms of social tagging on sites such as Facebook have streamlined the now commonly used term “tagging.” Tagging pictures, friends, interests, activities, movies, and books are only the initial knowledge management procedures on the social networking sites whose bases lies in this collaborative system of interconnections. Social tagging is also more generally being treated as an instrument of online promotion in a newly developed e-commerce setting. According to Stefanie Panke in her article “With My Head Up in the Clouds,” “tagging enables customers to express their evaluation of products and shifts the powers of defining product categories from the producer or shop owner to the customer” (Panke).

Social tagging poses the threat of intermixing private and professional or public knowledge and information, which remains one of the prominent downfalls of Web 2.0. Yet, according to a survey in Panke’s article, individuals consider only the positive attributes of tagging to outweigh the other negative, and possibly damaging, side effects (Panke). Virtual identities have crossed the boundaries between a private and public sense of self. With the merging of these once separate beings, each individual of society must now learn to manage his/her own life. Individuals must also constantly manage the knowledge they share with others to shelter reputation. In this way, social tagging allows the disclosure of only the personal information that the individual wishes to divulge. While this strategy protects identity, the volatile qualities of life and existence as human beings fail to surface in such instances (Panke). In many cases, especially recently, friendships are based on merely digital personalities in which the individual is able to manipulate personal identity. As a result, will we progressively become more comfortable with superficiality and mere exterior facades in regards to individuality and relationships?

The most obvious and dubious answer to this question would of course be yes, and there remains a lack of choice in the majority of these situations. With the invasion of privacy that inadvertently corresponds with social tagging and Web 2.0, users must take into account the personal information they must submit in order to participate in and reap the benefits of such networking sites. Members hold no awareness as to the means in which this information may potentially be distributed or exploited. Social tagging also fails to paint a clear distinction between public and private life, particularly in a professional sense. Because users generally use the same workspace for personal and professional purposes, and because personal interests and professional knowledge often overlap, social tagging incorporates both of these audiences. As a result, social tagging is redefining the social norm of privacy and a “healthy work environment,” which usually involves a clear division between work and private life (Panke). Social tagging deems this separation near impossible and participants continually prove willing to accept this invasion of privacy as standard. This sharing of information often provides a false sense of privacy in regards to the anonymity of the internet. While tagging allows those with which you have formed some sort of online or physical relationship to view your information, other internet users also have full access to this information. Although these social networks recently began providing more sophisticated privacy options, the ways around these security settings remain entirely achievable.

Surprisingly, society has managed to relentlessly validate social tagging in its positive facets. Crashing hard drives often accomplice the unreliability of computer technology, in which case tagging preserves an online record of previously visited locations and favorites so easily lost in the fallibility of computers. Rapidly increasing “technological infrastructures and trends toward web-based services” are also motives for using social tagging networks (Panke). The feature also operates as a means of personal knowledge management through self-organization. Panke categorizes social taggers into groups, one in particular known as “ego boosters.” These taggers place value in the community’s use of one’s own content (Panke). Studies in Panke’s article prove numerous social tagging participants use the feature not for accessibility of information and growth of knowledge, but for personal benefit in which individuality and organization is the primary attribute. Also called “ego taggers,” these individuals exploit the tagging feature for the personal advertising of his/her presence “as part of the information elite” (Panke). There is a personal level of motivation rather than a focus on the ideal goal of the vast accessibility of knowledge to a broader audience.

Although an unimaginable amount of knowledge is readily available online, internet users fail to utilize the innumerable sources of information available for their use. In this approach, individuals have learned to manage content of themselves and of others on their own. Internet users aim to control the World Wide Web’s knowledge management system in an attempt to restructure the purpose of many of its features toward organizing personal knowledge and information and creating a reputation for themselves. This behavior now increasingly involves both personal and professional aspects of the user’s self and individuals rely on a mutual exchange of online information which benefits both involved parties that encourages them to continue to share knowledge in a work and public environment.

Legal and Monetary Methods for Managing Knowledge (Alex)

Paying for access to knowledge is a widely used method for managing it. All media contains knowledge of some sort, so when you buy a textbook, rent a movie, subscribe to a magazine, pay your tuition, or legally download music, you are paying for access to particular knowledge. The knowledge is thereby managed; if you cannot afford the product, are not exposed to it, or even choose not to buy it, you do not access the knowledge it contains. An exception to this rule appears on the Internet. While you still have to pay to access the Internet, the Internet itself is not a type of media on its own. Instead, it is a source for infinite media, some of which you still have to pay for, but most of which is free.

Who controls the knowledge on the Internet is a point of contentious debate. By nature, the Internet is a public venue. Even areas of the Internet intended for private use are in essence public due to the ease of spreading information. For instance, you can email one friend a photo, but that friend could post it to a website or forward it to an infinite number of people, and any of those people could forward it, save it, and upload it to a more public space.

One might think that the individual with whom the piece of knowledge originated should have full control over it, but what about in instances where a photographer takes a photo without the subject’s awareness or permission? Who truly owns the image and information it contains? With the rise of smaller, more portable, and better quality devices that can more readily share data, controlling the collection and spread of information about people who do not condone their image, words, or actions being used is becoming impossible. One way to control this is to make it illegal to reveal the identities of unaware subjects. But what constitutes anonymity, and how does one enforce it? While the unfortunate subjects on the recently popular blog People of Walmart may have their faces obscured or their pictures taken from behind, they surely have identifying qualities to their smaller physical community, who could then distribute the subjects’ full identities to the vast community of the Internet. And given the potential inability for one to determine initially in what context and for what purpose the media is being created, granting permission is problematic. Further, given the extremely public quality of the Internet and its facilitation of the rapid spread and repurposing of information, “policing” or managing media even for legal purposes would be next to impossible without restructuring the functionality of the Internet as a whole.

From a legal perspective, Solove argues in favor of “middle ground” approach between libertarian and authoritarian approaches for managing the spread of information – especially personal information – on the Internet. At the end of Chapter Five of The Future of Reputation, he describes how we can create what he calls law “at it best” that “can achieve control without having to be invoked” (123). He says that “the law should expand its protection against irresponsible Internet postings, but only after disputes have been proven insoluble via informal means or alternative dispute resolution. In other words, the law should cast a wider net, yet have a less painful bite” (124). This sounds good in theory, and it may work well for cases involving libel, slander, and invasion of privacy, but it may have trouble with cases involving questionable ownership of information. Copyright is not so much an issue here as situations where, for instance, the subject in a piece of media does not want to be the subject of that piece of media anymore. When no formal contracts are signed, questions of ownership of media, knowledge, and information cause problems with legal approaches to managing knowledge and information.

The Internet as a public media outlet and avenue for the free flow of ideas should not be compromised. This may have to apply to personal information as well, as currently there is no effective way of controlling or containing it. Essentially, members of our society must now participate in public spaces – be it the Internet or the grocery store – with the awareness that anything they do, say, write, or share could be viewed by millions. Online journalism shares this habitat, which allows bloggers to copy and paste from news sites to create their own spins on stories that may be misleading. Further, bloggers are not just repurposing information from news sites, but competing with them for it, which blurs the distinction between journalist and blogger. This increased competition as well as the “free” nature of the Internet creates a difficult financial scenario for official news sources.

It is generally known that official online news sources cannot function solely on the selling of advertising space. In order to support the employment of trained journalists and editors and the facilitation of in-depth research for stories, online journalism has turned to other revenue models. The primary model involves readers paying a subscription fee for access to full length articles and all of the site’s features. This model adheres to the notion that knowledge that you have to pay to access is of better quality than knowledge that is free. The main problem with this revenue model is that it alienates a large percentage of the potential readership who is accustomed to accessing news for free. In order to gain the revenue that quality news sources require to function online and otherwise, the vast majority of Internet users must value well researched news, trained editors and journalists, and a review process for stories before publication. Further, they must subscribe to the notion that this “credible” news can only be bought. One way to accomplish this is to mandate disclaimers on all “illegitimate” news sites and blogs so that information consumers are at least aware of how and under what circumstances the information they are given is presented.

Managing knowledge and information through monetary and legal means both require shifts in policy as well as in public thought. The Internet in its adolescent stage is bridging Solove’s notions of authoritarian and libertarian control over knowledge and information. While some adhere to notions of paying for quality knowledge by legally purchasing music and subscribing to official news sites, others are more inclined toward using the Internet as a facilitator of free and easily accessible information by pirating media and referring to free, privately-run blogs. And while some believe that notions of privacy are as valid in the age of the Internet as they were twenty years ago, others have accepted and even embraced the world we live in today as public to an unprecedented extreme. Finding a “middle ground” that still clearly delineates public and private life as well as knowledge sources of good versus poor quality would rely not as much on reformed laws and revenue models as on people's understanding of them.

Group of Experts (Kara)

On a national level, knowledge should not be managed by any one individual, nor the market, but instead by a group of experts in various areas of knowledge decide on different cases brought to them (majority vote wins). Structured off of The Supreme Court system, a group of experts will hear cases brought to them by opposing individuals or organizations, both arguing their points on how they think a specific situation should be managed (i.e. how much knowledge corporations manage on their customers and employees). The group of experts will hear both sides points-of-views and then make a decision with an unbiased view point. I see those who have the power to manage knowledge and the system as a similar to our government’s Supreme Court—judges who decide on each case as they best see fit with the experts giving their arguments/inputs. A panel of judges who are each experts in different fields of knowledge and when combined to make a decision, the decision will come from a balance of perspectives, not just one figure of authority.

Management decisions would be based on whether the knowledge would encourage people to use their knowledge for the future benefit of the organization and not the arguing representatives themselves.

In presenting their argument both sides would have to answer the following The Knowledge Management Framework by van der Spek and de Hoog.
1. Identify what knowledge assets a company possesses:
 Where is the knowledge asset?
 What does it contain?
 What is its use?
 What form is it in?
 How accessible is it?
2. Analyzing how the knowledge can add value:
 What are the opportunities for using the knowledge asset?
 What would be the effect of its use?
 What are the current obstacles to its use?
 What would be its increased value to the company?
3. Specify what actions are necessary to achieve better usability & added value:
 How to plan the actions to use the knowledge asset?
 How to enact actions?
 How to monitor actions?
4. Reviewing the use of the knowledge to ensure added value:
 Did the use of it produce the desired added value?
 How can the knowledge asset be maintained for this use?


Depending on one’s perspective, knowledge, data, and information can have similar or uniquely different meanings-ultimately leading to decisions. The quality of decisions made in how to managing knowledge at all levels is directly related understanding an organizations intent with such knowledge. Unfortunately knowledge is not easily measured economically, a majority of organizational cultures do not foster innovation, and managers are not accustomed to managing an infinite resource such as knowledge. However, there are technological systems, such as intranet, e-mail, and “Groupware,” that can be used on the professional level to help to manage knowledge. Since there are many different types of companies and corporations, there should not be only one way to for all businesses to manage knowledge, if all companies were told to run their knowledge management systems the same, there would be dynamic in the market or economy. On the national level, however knowledge should be managed by a group of experts who would help organizations, if they wanted outside help, to define a layout of how to manage the knowledge they have in regard to the company. This idea of a group of experts is not completely developed but it is a start to in bringing democracy to knowledge. Understanding information and turning that understanding into some sort of action for a greater good or purpose should remain the ultimate goal in managing knowledge at all levels.

Topic 3: Expert Knowledge

Introduction: The Role of Experts

The role of expert knowledge in the field of knowledge management is a controversial one, especially with the advent of the Internet and Web sites of mass collaboration and citizen journalism on the rise. There are those who feel that the democratization of the Internet so that all users have an equal voice is something to be encouraged and sought after. In such an environment, expert opinion is regarded as equal to the opinion of someone with no knowledge in that field. If this were the case, there would be little to no incentive for individuals to aspire to be experts, and with fewer experts, the quality of available information would decrease significantly, which is in no way beneficial to society. The class seems to agree that the Web should absolutely not replace expert knowledge because it is a valuable commodity that helps society progress and distinguishes truth from fiction; however, the Internet should be used as a tool to supplement, enhance, and provide a greater audience for expert knowledge. (Kristen)

Definition of an Expert

In order to discuss the necessity of expert knowledge, it is critical to have a working definition of what qualifies an individual to be considered an expert. While there is no hard-and-fast formula to calculate the exact level of education or amount of experience required to achieve expert status, we can give the term expert a broader definition that will serve the purposes of this argument. What makes a person an “expert?” According to Wikipedia, an expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by their peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary an expert is someone having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience. Usually a person is an expert in one or two specific areas. (Kristen and Jessica)

In his book entitled Knowledge Management, Elias M. Awad says, “Expert knowledge is not just a head full of facts or a repository of information for the intellect. It is information woven into the mind of the expert for solving complex problems quickly and accurately.” In a more measurable definition of an expert, Awad goes on to state that, “To become an expert in a specialized area, one is expected to master the requisite knowledge, surpass the achievements of already recognized eminent people, and make unique contributions to the specialized field” (72) (source). In a similar description, Caitlin Laverdiere posted the following on the class wiki: “Expert knowledge is acquired and refined over time and through various, specialized application. This is not something we should allow to go by the wayside just because we have more information available to us” (source). (Kristen)

Given these definitions and the generally-accepted concept of expertise, we can label individuals as experts if they can demonstrate extensive knowledge and a significant amount of experience in a specialized field. The question then arises as to who decides when an individual reaches expert status. There may be no irrefutable answer to this question, but most often it is other experts (either in the same field or a related one) or the seekers of knowledge that label people as experts. (Kristen)

The Role of Amateur Info

Experts may be the go-to people for a specific query, and we believe they should remain so especially in this digital age, but amateurs often have valuable insight into a topic and so they should not be altogether excluded. Kara Williams posted similar sentiments on the class wiki when she wrote, “I don’t think experts should be given the final decision, only the ability to give their ideas and concerns on a matter, because sometimes an outside perspective is valuable as well” (source). (Kristen)

The trouble, then, is determining how much amateur opinion should be available on the Internet and how to distinguish it from expert knowledge. One potential solution uses Courtney Carlson’s idea of allowing “non-experts to have control over what is published (via sites like Wikipedia, etc.)” (source). Using Web sites of mass collaboration, like Wikipedia and social networking sites, as a forum for amateurs to post information is an effective strategy as long as these sites are clearly designated as such so that viewers know to approach the content with a critical eye. Likewise, sites that are comprised of expert knowledge should also be specified as such so users can more easily determine if the content on a Web site is accurate. (Kristen)

Has the Web Already Replaced Expert Knowledge?

Some people argue that the question isn’t “Should the Web replace experts?” but rather “Has it already?” The growing concern of the general public seems to suggest that the Web is indeed replacing expert knowledge and therefore replacing well-earned and researched information with mediocre information collected by amateurs. And why not? Most amateur Web information is still useful to some degree—and best of all, it’s free. And as Andrew Keen says, it’s hard, maybe even downright impossible, to compete with free.

Jimmy Wale’s Wikipedia vs. the Encyclopedia Britannica is a prime example of this debate. According to Keen’s “The Cult of the Amateur,” “Wikipedia, with its millions of amateur editors and unreliable content, is the seventeenth most-trafficked site on the Internet,” while “, with its 100 Nobel Prize winners and 4,000 expert contributors, is ranked 5,128” (Keen 44). This example underlies the root of the problem of the Web replacing expert knowledge. The Web allows amateurs, who have possibly only dabbled in a subject, just as much voice and exposure as someone who has dedicated their life and passion to the subject. And all because it’s free.

In the end, the amateur user on Wikipedia has just as much of a voice—if not even more of one because of how site rankings play out— than a proven expert. In the end, fewer experts are being paid for their hard-earned knowledge on subjects, and this lack of incentive will dissuade them from sharing it so readily with the public, maybe even dissuade people from pursing knowledge on certain subjects in the near future. And in the end, the overall quality of the knowledge will decrease in its value to society, as amateur knowledge, while free and plentiful, cannot possibly have the same trustworthiness as hard, proven expert knowledge, right?

The new question necessary to answer “Should the Web replace experts?” then becomes “Can we trust it?”

Can We Trust Knowledge On the Web?

Over a cup of coffee with a “Friend of O’Reilly’s,” Keen mentioned that the man had said the Web, which gives voice to even the smallest and youngest player, would help take down what he called the “dictatorship of experts,” upon which Keen inwardly (and colorfully) thought, “… instead of a dictatorship of experts, we’ll have a dictatorship of idiots” (35). The two obviously had opposing viewpoints on the reliability of Web knowledge—or rather, the reliability of who the knowledge was coming from.

However, in a write-up called “How Do People Evaluate a Web Site’s Credibility?” taken of a large study, the results indicate that perhaps experts are needed in order to assure the quality of information. In the report, the testers say, “We found that when people assessed a real Web site's credibility they did not use rigorous criteria” and “In comparison, the parallel Sliced Bread Design study revealed that health and finance experts were far less concerned about the surface aspects of these industry-specific types of sites and more concerned about the breadth, depth, and quality of a site's information” (citation). This study signifies that perhaps amateurs need help distinguishing good quality information from inaccurate or misleading information, and that trained experts are generally the ones that can do it properly. In the study, the average consumer used visual cues to assess the quality and credibility of the site, which are aspects that can be easily manipulated.

Rather than replacing experts, some people believe the Internet will complement them. The Internet can enhance the work of the experts. Experts can place their ads and information onto the Internet and reach an unlimited number of people. For example, if we want an expert on bikes, we would type “bike expert” into the Google search engine. The first name that comes up is “John Allen's Home Office Home Page.”1 The Internet works hand in hand with this expert. It helps people who are seeking a bike expert and it helps him to get his name out there and allow people to find him specifically. He can publicize his ideas and get his opinion out to people who might not be able to seek him out in person. However, there are Web sites out there that are attempting to replace the real-life experts and take away that human factor. Such a Web site is WebMD. This Web site has posted a description of itself as follows: (Jessica)

“The WebMD content staff blends award-winning expertise in medicine, journalism, health communication and content creation to bring you the best health information possible. Our esteemed colleagues at are frequent contributors to WebMD and comprise our Medical Editorial Board. Our Independent Medical Review Board continuously reviews the site for accuracy and timeliness.”2 (Jessica)

However, the Internet/Web site can only provide certain information, and that information might be bias or regulated to deliver a certain message or idea to the public that the site manager might want. In other words, the information could be “cleaned” or “polluted.” WebMD takes away the one-on-one contact that a person would have with an expert doctor. This could potentially become a health risk! (Jessica)

Think about this: If your stomach started to hurt and you went to the WebMD symptom checker and typed in stomach pains, the Web site would give you a list of possible symptoms that could cause your stomach to hurt. From there you are required to read through a list of questions, when all of a sudden one of the messages that pops up reads, “If you are experiencing tearing abdominal pain please seek emergency medical attention.” They are telling you that you need to see a medical expert because the Internet cannot replace a medical expert. The Web cannot do surgery for you, nor can it teach just anyone to perform surgery. People go to school to learn from experts so they can advance to medical school. They then go to medical school to learn and watch medical experts in hopes of becoming a medical expert themselves one day. (Jessica)

In “The Cult of the Amateur,” Keen brings up a valid point about finding and cultivating talent. He comments that “talent, as ever, is a limited resource, the needle in today’s digital haystack…. Nurturing talent requires work, capital, expertise, investment. It requires the complex infrastructure of traditional media—the scouts, the agents, the editors, the publicists, the technicians, the markets. Talent is built by the intermediaries. If you ’disintermediate’ these layers, then you do away with the development of talent too” (Keen 30-31). The sheer velocity of information on the Web makes it difficult to sift through and find the talent, and in some cases, accurate and depth-driven content needed. Keen also insists that talent is necessary to nurture into expertise, which can only be done through a time-tested infrastructure of traditional development that involves investment resources like money.

However, despite these obvious disadvantages to amateur information on the Web, there are some major advantages the Web can bring to quality information.

Advantages of the Web

The Web gives everyone, known or unknown, a chance to contribute to the spread of information.

In the classic example of Wikipedia, where amateurs (non-experts) take full reign, Keen notes an entry by Wikipedia staff that further represents the idea that the Web is taking over experts’ place in society because of the easy access to information one can find online. Wikipedia had said, “In the areas of computer programming and open source, as well as astronomy and ornithology, many amateurs make very meaningful contributions equivalent to or exceeding those of the professionals. To many, description of an amateur is losing its negative meaning, and actually carried a badge of honor” (Keen 39). In this context, readers can see that amateurs’ contributions have been extremely valuable to society, perhaps even greater than paid professionals’ contributions have been.

Jimmy Wales, one of Wikipedia’s creators, “believes that the expert is born rather than bred and that talent can be found in the most unexpected places” (Keen 42). In this case, the Web is the vessel which allowed those with interests in open source, IT, and programming to come together and share the outcomes of their interests to benefit others. Professionals/experts, on the other hand, only provide content with a paycheck, and they often are limited to the confines of what their payers want to create and the product is not shared equally to all who need or want it. In contrast, amateurs are benefitting society without expecting much—if anything—in return. In which case, their contribution is strictly through the passion they feel for the subject. The Web allows for this free-flow of information, knowledge, data, and tools in a way that experts cannot or will not use in the same way because they feel they need to receive retribution in some form.

John Connell from Cisco Systems defends the Web 2.0 spike of user-generated information against the growing concern over it causing experts to fade out. He states in his blog that “We are not dealing with a zero-sum game of any kind — the rise of one source of information does not (necessarily) cause the dissipation of another” (citation). In theory and practice, Connell’s statement holds true. This argument for the Web can be backed by the Wikipedia example. Wikipedia permits both amateurs and experts to collaborate to create a finished product, such as a page of Wikipedia itself, and an expert’s opinion is heavily sought after in citing this information. And while companies will look for good free software and upgrades, they often want something specific, in which case they will hire a professional/expert to create it.

After individually weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the Web, we are led to our own arguable but firm and unanimous decision: Experts should not be replaced by the Internet.

The Internet Should Not Replace Experts

On page 47 of his book The Cult of the Amateur, Keen writes, “the Net gives as much voice to a thirteen-year-old computer geek like me as to a CEO or speaker of the House. We all become equal.” As Americans in a democratic society, we are supposed to embrace equality in all forms; however, when it comes to acquiring accurate information, not all sources are equal. It simply does not make sense to believe that information from an amateur is on the same level as that from an expert. Where this elevation of amateur opinion is most prevalent is through online blogs and amateur journalism; the creators of these sites are often individuals with no training or experience in writing or journalism, yet they are regarded as legitimate news sources. (Kristen)

According to an article published in the New York Times on October 26, 2009, newspaper circulation in the U.S. has dropped 10% since last year. The author explains that one reason for this significant drop is due to “rising Internet readership” (source). Many people are choosing to inform themselves about current events through amateur blogs, and even those who use professional news sites like are not paying for access, so the expert journalists are not being compensated. If this trend continues and expands, as it seems likely to do, then there will be little to no motivation for individuals to become experts. In order to become an expert, an individual must invest a great deal of money and time, so in order to maintain balance, it is only logical that the public should pay for what the expert produces and creates. Otherwise we are left with very few experts, and as Megan Quigley suitably asked, “If the Web replaces experts and all information or knowledge becomes somewhat ‘mediocre,’ who do we go to create or validate the information if no experts exist?” (source). (Kristen)

Also, we all use digital social networks in some way; we access and distribute this knowledge at our discretion. Through the use of the World Wide Web, WWW, we are able to connect to this unlimited source of information anytime, anywhere. However, what we need to take into consideration are the definitions of “experts” used in the above sections. The World Wide Web, under these definitions and limitations, cannot be considered an expert. There is too much information for the Internet to simply claim that everything it produces is expert information. Technically the Internet mentally and physically cannot replace experts. There are Internet experts who allow for one to look up and discover through the use of search engines, such as Google, the expert in the field of one’s need. (Jessica)

In the end we are always going to need experts. The information that gets put onto the WWW has to come from somewhere. That somewhere is the expert. The information has to be reputable and has to be trusted. We are not doctors or a scientists so why should Wikipedia recognize our information as expert/correct information. Then there are the questions about who gets to post what on the WWW? The WWW cannot replace the experts but rather help enhance their ability to reach more people and spread more information. (Jessica)

The Solution

We believe expert knowledge should be valued over amateur opinion, and in order for this to happen there must be better management of content posted online. We propose that an organization be created comprised of numerous experts from various fields to somehow mark Web sites that are verified to have accurate and reliable information from a trusted source. Web sites without this marking would not necessarily contain false information, but viewers would know to approach such sites with more caution. This would allow amateurs to continue to add content online, but users would be better able to distinguish expert knowledge from amateur opinion. (Kristen)

In an effort to preserve the value of expertise, we also think it necessary for major online news and information sources to charge for users to access content. We understand that from a marketing perspective this may be difficult to implement because there are so many sources available for such information. However, we strongly believe that experts should be compensated for their work because without it our society suffers. (Kristen)

To put this view of expertise in perspective, we as college students likely have a different opinion on the role of experts than other social/economic groups because we are studying to become “experts” in a field, so naturally we value and respect expert opinion. While we believe most people would affirm that they trust expert opinion over that of an amateur, our demographic as college students puts particular emphasis on expertise. (Kristen)

Topic 4: Mass Collaboration

Rachel Burch

Right now, all over the industrialized world, a current trend in the quick attainment of information is forming. Many more people are attending higher education, with hopes of acquiring as much knowledge as they feasibly can. Not only do we want this information, but we want it at an extremely fast pace, at no cost, and at the easiest convenience. If there is something to which you need an answer, Google and other available information sites have made it possible that in literally a matter of seconds you can find out the answer. Often when this does not happen, unrest is common. Because we want this information immediately, procedures for such are becoming much more complex to create, explain, and fix. Another new trend is forming. In order for those in knowledge management to do what is now needed, success has been attributed to a collaboration model. We can no longer afford to have one person working on a project, but instead we need more of a group effort to achieve the goals we now set for ourselves.

Mass collaboration can be defined as a type of organization model where large groups of people work independently to result in a single final project (Ghazawneh 6). This model is self-organizing, based on a community effort, and is often derived from Web 2.0 services such as blogs, wikis, social networking sites, and chatrooms (5). For example, information may be posted to a Wiki where people can share what they are individually working on.

Currently, not everyone in every type of field work best in groups, but certain areas of specialty are seeing an increase in productivity by working in a mass effort. Scientific fields, as well as textual projects have first seen the advantages of working together. Many times individuals pay more attention when they work together (5). Collaboration allows everyone to be considered an expert, able to contribute freely without the control by someone of a higher authority. In addition, higher results are often achieved because of the large quantity of respondents. If an idea is proposed that many think is not a feasible solution, disagreement will erupt and then discussion. The group as a whole will then have to come to a decision. Whatever decision is made will be the result of group collaboration. This idea is discussed in James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds, where he states that more often than not, the crowd as a whole comes up with the right answer or solution, rather than an individual person. This is a good option considering how quickly information and news needs to be produced; however, we must find a respectable way to work together.

With all the positives that come from working in a collaborative effort also come problems. The structure of these organizations and businesses still encourages and promotes individual actions. Working in a way that gives credit to no one specific person is a hard concept to let go, especially when the idea of wanting to be the first to come up with some innovative new idea is still ingrained in our philosophy. In addition, figuring out how to organize and manage such a project can be tough. People need to understand the concept of collaboration, and that they must work together, while making sure to put in an equal amount of work, to ensure a diversity of information; and one or two people must not overpower the effort. Lastly, the problem of authorship, and whose name goes where, is something that needs to be straightened before the work goes into print.

Gartner Research conducted a study that predicted, “with 80 percent certainty, that by 2010, more than 60 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies will adopt mass collaboration that can be used in marketing- but with the same degree of confidence,

When the idea of mass collaboration comes to mind, Wikipedia is often the first, and best example of such. In very recent history Wikipedia has become a part of our everyday lives. It too has transformed into a viable resource for information that has become someone’s first stop when looking for anything from a random question about an actor in a movie, to research on the bombing of Hiroshima.

But Wikipedia was not always like this. Wikipedia, coming from wiki meaning ‘quick’ in Hawaiian, and pedia from the work encyclopedia, is a portmanteau for the freely available online encyclopedia that is Wikipedia (Wikipedia). In 2000, Jimmy Wales took his project ‘Nupedia’ and morphed it into what is now Wikipedia. He decided to use a wiki format in creating this easily accessible haven of information. January 15, 2001 became the first day this wiki went global, and shortly thereafter the domain was changed from to when a non-profit company, Wikimedia became its parent organization (Wikipedia). In May 2001, and subsequently after over nineteen non-English versions of Wikipedia were added. Currently, in English, Wikipedia has just over three million articles, and fourteen altogether, and is seen as “the largest and most popular general resource work on the Internet” (Wikipedia). When a topic is plugged into Google or another common search engine, often one of the first results is Wikipedia.

How Wikipedia works is unlike any other encyclopedia, but very much like all other wikis. It is written collaboratively by anyone with Internet access and an account with Wikipedia. Volunteers from all over the world, with all different types of educational backgrounds can edit and contribute to any article on the site. Leaving a site like Wikipedia open for editing to just about anyone, a site that roughly 65 million people visit monthly, can prove to have its problems. Because of this, administrative editors of the site are logged in daily looking for false information that people try to stick in. They “are able to watch pages and techies can write editing programs to keep track of or rectify bad edits. Over 1,500 administrators with special powers ensure that behaviour conforms to Wikipedia guidelines and policies. Where there are disagreements on how to present facts, editors work together to arrive at an article that fairly represents current expert opinion on the subject. The administrators can temporarily or permanently ban editors of Wikipedia who fail to work with others in a civil manner” (Wikipedia). This practice has especially been in use for entries about living people. “For example, certain popular or controversial pages, like the ones for the singer Britney Spears and for President Barack Obama, are frequently ''protected'' or ''semi-protected,'' limiting who, if anyone, can edit the articles” (Cohen 13).

While Wikipedia cannot be considered the best source when it comes to researching a term paper, it certainly has its advantages. There is practically an unlimited amount of information available that allows users the advantage of only looking on one site. Strange, obscure topics that otherwise may prove harder to find details on can be found put the push of a button and the typing of a word. What users really like about Wikipedia is that they find it gives a great overview of a topic or event, and is writing in an easily comprehendible way. In addition, the best part about it is it’s free. There is no cost for looking up information, or editing information either. Wikipedia is a great place to go for up to date facts, as “articles are often added quickly and, as a result, coverage of current events and new technology in particular is quite extensive. Printed encyclopedias can take years to add new entries and those entries may not cover a topic in as exhaustive detail as those in Wikipedia” (Zawistoski).

The credibility of Wikipedia is in fact changing. In less than ten years it has gone from an unreliable source, more like a gossip site, to a reliable information site that is accessed frequently all over the world. A recent article from the New York Times stated that in June 2009, “Google News began this month to include Wikipedia among the stable of publications it trawls to create the site” (Cohen 5). This collaborative effort, begun as a project, is now being accessed more often than Encyclopedia Britannica.

Managing mass collaboration can be a tricky thing because human beings tend to have trouble sharing knowledge. In order to work in a truly collaborative team, everyone must understand what it means to work in a group. First the team must make known a few apparent things. After initially meeting and getting comfortable, roles and goals must be set. Next, the norms for which the group will operate need to be confirmed and understood by each member. And lastly, they must begin to work individually to meet the aims of the project (Ghazawneh 46). Once all of these are set in place, collaborative efforts are possible, and able to work cohesively. It is also important to mention that each group member must be open to anything and comfortable sharing amongst the rest of the group (47).

The most important part of managing collaboration is figuring out how to distribute the work. Depending on the area of study, things may be done in different ways. For example, in science often those who are working collaboratively will not distribute the work into different parts, but rather each work individually with the same goal in mind. This way they are able to narrow down after certain experiments don’t work. An example of this is discussed in Surowiecki’s book. When the SARS epidemic broke out in China, the WHO “contacted eleven research laboratories from countries around the world – including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, the United States, and China – and asked them to work together to find and analyze the SARS virus….Every day the labs took part in daily teleconferences, where they shared their work, discussed avenues for future investigation, and debated current results” (159). This way of going about finding the virus that caused SARS proved to be the best bet. Scientists were able to work together to narrow the options and ultimately come up with an answer. However, in areas pertaining more to the liberal arts, this type of collaborative process does not work as well, “where single authorship remains the norm” (161). While those in humanities seem to be more resistant to conjoined effort, this is slowly starting to change. People tend to still focus on one area of expertise, and thus provide their necessary part to a text or other media form. Many academic texts and information websites are being produced in a collaborative way. This is another trend forming.

This class took to tackling the collaborative effort in approaching to write an essay together. While its sole basis was for experimentation purposes, students were asked to do something they most likely have never done before. However, after going through the process it seems more that the class as a whole wrote up an outline for what the paper should include, and then divided it up into individual sections. It’s not like everyone sat down in one room and wrote the paper together as a whole. This would not have been possible. After submitting individual sections, each person in the class was asked to go in and edit the essay as a whole. Since the class was not required to meet, we did very little discussing as a group, minus a few times during class period. Also, the topic was extremely broad, so it felt somewhat daunting trying to split it up into comparable sections for each student. But it being a collaborative essay gave the essay the ability to encompass more than opinion or approach. Everyone has his or her own writing style, which is evident in how each student approached the paper. In the end, writing a collaborative essay was useful because these types of approached will ultimately occur again in our profession careers. (This final paragraph represents the views of the students personally.)

Topic 5: Internet Censorship and Bans

Megan Quigley

Although the internet is referred to as the “information highway,” some users think their highway has major roadblocks in the form of Internet censorship because they block access to websites that are deemed objectionable by an authority (Strickland). There are many reasons why some people feel censorship is necessary and they differ greatly from country to country, from protecting children from inappropriate content in the United States to dictatorial attempts to control a nation’s access to information in China. Just as there are many motivations to censor information on the web, there are many avenues to do so, such as web filters, blacklists, keyword blocking, firewalls, and self-censored search engine results pages (SERPS) (Strickland). The sections below describe how censorships in the United States are applied and affect different aspects of our lives.

An American Perspective

Institutional Settings
Have you ever tried to visit a website at work, only to find out that it is restricted? Was it a site that was actually applicable to your work or a leisure-surfing site? Censorship at the workplace is not uncommon, but sometimes it enables employees to access legitimate websites needed for work.

The most common reason for corporations to restrict Internet access is to increase employee productivity because although it is a tool for communication and research, it can often become a distraction. Some companies’ restrictions are only relatively limited, while others are extremely limited. For example, my job at a school, a state-funded position, limits our access on work computers to only web addresses ending in However, during my summer internship at a large communications corporation, I never came across a restricted website. Despite these varying degrees of censorships, I would not say that my productivity was less at one job than at another, but I know that the effects of censorship have different results on everyone.

Another reason why businesses restrict internet access is to avoid harassment issues and possible lawsuit that would ensue if employees felt they worked in a hostile environment (Strickland). For example, if an employee surfs the web for improper subject matter, like pornography, and other employees discover this material, their work atmosphere may feel intimidating and could lead to lawsuit. Although several businesses use web filtering software, many also depend on firewalls to censor their employees Internet surfing (Strickland). A firewall allows a company to pick which web sites or domains to block, which helps the company avoid restricting legitimate sites for employees. However, if employees do come across a blocked site, they can usually petition the network administrator for access if deemed appropriate.

On the other hand, the corporations that supply Internet access, like cable and telecom companies, have a critical part in what web sites customers can access. Through the concept of net neutrality, in the United States, allows Internet service providers (ISPs) to give access to “all content without favoring any particular company or Web site” (Strickland). Cable and telecom companies effectively appealed to the Supreme Court for dismissal of net neutrality. Without net neutrality, ISPs are allowed to charge content providers for bandwidth usage and those who pay will receive faster service than those who do not; net neutrality supporters argue that this favored treatment results in censorship.

University campuses are prime targets for identity theft, online stalking, and cyberterrorism because of its “market, scale, and vulnerability,” says James Martin and James Samels of the Chronicle of Higher Education. College students are targets for many reasons, including: being frequent users of the newest technology, spending money faster than the general population on it, and often living on their own for the first time. However, despite these situational factors, the actual foundation of higher education can be is own worst enemy because it almost invites “cybermercenaries” to target universities (Martin and Samels). The assistant provost and assistant to the president at Capital University, Kevin Sayers, remarks that “the free exchange and exploration of ideas is the foundation of higher education. ‘Therefore, academic culture and its computing infrastructure must by design remain open—free of safeguards and barriers that would stifle the transmission of knowledge.’”

One example of university censorship was presented in Andrew Keens’ The Cult of the Amateur. Keen investigates the growing addiction to online gambling, especially in the college environment, and suggests that universities need to restrict or block access to online gambling sites. However, when discussed in our Issues in Professional and Public Discourse class, almost all students agreed that this censorship or regulation was not the university’s responsibility and could be considered an invasion of students’ privacy and rights. If universities’ foundation is based on the exchange of ideas and knowledge, than censorship on the “information highway” would obstruct efforts to transmit information.

Despite businesses’ and schools’ efforts to censor web sites and limit employees’ and students’ access, is all this effort really productive and beneficial? While the above arguments are valid, the concept of knowledge sharing being beneficial is lost in them. For example, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, notes that the Internet’s great advantage of freely delivering useful information to people all over the world has positively effected informal education, which has just started to have an impact in the freest countries. Without free sources of information like Wikipedia, many people would not have the opportunity to learn and gain knowledge. As Wales states, “Knowledge is compressible, encrytable, copyable, distributable…all at incredibly low cost. Therefore, censorship on the Internet is always destined to be partial and failing.” Wales believes that these factors will continue to contribute to the formation of tools that allow users to evade censorship, and “[the tools] will grow in popularity directly in proportion to the vigor of the attempts to censor.” The censorships utilized by corporate and educational institutions are hindering access to the “information superhighway” and possibly creating great disadvantages for Internet users.

At Home
The debate between legal protections and censorship on the internet continues in homes, as well. Many parents are concerned for their children’s safety online and utilize the web filtering programs and firewalls in efforts to protect them from inappropriate content. Despite efforts to uphold laws that made it illegal to present material online that was deemed harmful to minors, even if it was harmful to minors (the Children’s Online Protection Act –COPA), a federal court found it unconstitutional (Strickland). The responsibility of monitoring and regulating online content for children now rests primarily in the parent’s hands. However, this task is becoming more difficult with the popularity of social networking sites increasing, the instances of online stalking increasing, and the ability to have an anonymous identity online readily available.

Living Life Online
With the increasing occurrences of online stalking and harassment, and the dangers associated with them, users should evaluate what type of, and how much, information they put on the web about themselves. Many people, especially younger generations, freely expose personal details, like their birth date and address, on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Although these sites have business and social networking benefits, they often do more harm than good when embarrassing or intimate details or pictures are presented of them online (Thompson). And, because these sites are privately operated, no legal protections against potentially dangerous users, like sex offenders, are possible.

Bill Thompson in Index on Censorship raises a good question in relation to legal censorship and freedom of speech online, and whose responsibility online censorship belongs to: “At what point does sensitivity become censorship, and who should decide? Is it right to limit the online freedom of those who have been convicted but served their sentence?” Thompson also notes that online privacy is critical because the ability to exert power of your own life is by controlling your personal information. However, this ideal is threatened with new technology that does not value privacy or your control over it, like the Polar Rose—an online tool that automatically reviews public pictures on the entire world wide web, tags faces (even if your in the background crowd at a store), and registers names. They would then be indexed in Google for the public to view. This type of technology’s unwarranted online exposure takes online privacy to a new level. Now more than ever, it is important for users to become aware of the dangers of online exposure and should practice self-censorship, and not rely on regulations or censors placed by bureaucracies.

Sarah Tavernaris

A Global Perspective

Worldwide, the greatest predictor of Internet censorship is the cultural and moral agenda of the country: those with strict moral codes, social norms, and a national collectivist identity are more likely to impose restrictions on the free flow of information online. Even though governments “seek to benefit from the economic advantages [on the Internet]…they intend to guard against the harmful influences the web may have on social values and national integrity” (Zhao 1). Whereas Finland has declared Internet access a human right with about 95% of their population wired, Myanmar government considers merely going online as rebellious. These restrictions over the Internet, idealized as a “Global Village,” are indirect results of an unstable sociopolitical climate. Lobbying for Internet rights in these countries will probably not yield immediate, profitable results; however, this does not stop advocates such the OpenNet Initiative and Reporters without Borders from trying.

While the degree of censorship varies with the country, from none to minor to extreme, most countries agree that some information should be censored, such as pornography and what minors can view. There is mild Internet censorship in the U.S.: laws have been created to protect minors and to restrict the viewing of pornography in private places, therefore forcing schools and public libraries to install filters. Yet in nations with the most extreme forms of censorship, the most common topics shielded from the population are social networks, nongovernmental news sources, blogs, Wikipedia, YouTube, Google, and religious and foreign sites.


Modern Western generations have grown up in a relatively censorship-free environment—we are privileged with complete access to anything we could want to know (unless we want to know about child pornography, which would then make us criminals). We enjoy unlimited free speech in blogs, choice of news media, and management of identity and relationships on social networks. Sometimes, the right to free speech even trumps our right to privacy online. Yet the areas of pervasive and substantial censorship shown on the map are often the result of the clash between generations of social norms and codes in the face of radically digitizing world.

The internet is the most incredible resource and tool of our time; a country can benefit greatly from the economic and business advantages, although some fear the social repercussions on collective morals that may result from the “other stuff” that exists. Governments that seek to maintain social norms will restrict Internet content because it has the capacity to uplift, connect, and mobilize people, and allows expression with the protection of anonymity. However, the infrastructure and vast amounts of information available on the internet will not allow for total control or censorship, and the technically savvy are able to bypass the security measures implanted by their government (Methods of Technical Censorship, and Methods of Circumvention).

Promoting the Worldwide Flow of Information
The OpenNet Initiative is a collaborative project whose goal is to report and monitor internet filtering and surveillance: “Our aim is to investigate, expose and analyze Internet filtering and surveillance practices in a credible and non-partisan fashion. We intend to uncover the potential pitfalls and unintended consequences of these practices, and thus help to inform better public policy and advocacy work in this area” (ONI).

In 2007, the Global Online Freedom Act was presented to U.S. Congress. Although the law did not pass, the language suggests some of political feelings towards internet censorship and what the U.S. should do in promoting the free flow of information.
The Act holds that:

  • Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are fundamental human rights, and free flow of information on the Internet is protected in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom to “receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”
  • The growth of the Internet and other information technologies can be a force for democratic change if the information is not subject to political censorship.
  • Authoritarian foreign governments, such as the governments of Belarus, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, North Korea, the People’s Republic of China, Tunisia, and Vietnam, among others, block, restrict, and monitor the information their citizens try to obtain. (2-3)

In accordance with these findings,

  • It shall be the policy of the United States…to promote as a fundamental component of United States foreign policy the right of every individual to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers (4).

The law also sought to establish an Office for Global Online Freedom in the Department of State, which would make “efforts to protect and promote freedom of electronic information abroad…and to develop and ensure the implementation of a global strategy and programs to combat state-sponsored and state-directed [censorship] by authoritarian foreign governments, and…the persecution…of their citizens” (Gov. Doc. Pg.6). This bill seems like a serious effort to advocate for the free flow of information worldwide, and although it is not a law, it contains relevant ideas for action

Censorship in Action
Reporters without Borders, an international organization advocating freedom of the press, maintains a list of countries considered “Internet enemies,” “All of these countries mark themselves out not just for their capacity to censor news and information online but also for their almost systematic repression of Internet users” (RWB). As of 2009, the list included Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

Censorship in China
“[China] focuses its calculated…mechanisms of Internet censorship towards enforcing what citizens can read and communicate” (Wang 1). It is among the most heavily censored countries in the world, and they boosted the second largest population online in 2007 (Zhao 2). Ironically, the government is beginning to address severe concerns of rising internet addiction forming in youth, and are treating the problem in a variety of ways—including military-style detention centers, group therapy, and mild electric-shock therapy (Eunjung Cha, WP).

All Internet service and content providers are part of the Ministry of Information Industry, which has the authority to regulate all types of telecommunications. The government routinely blocks or filters content related to political radicalism, police brutality, freedom of speech and press, pornography, political blogs, and social networking. There is occasional government supervision of “harmful information,” such as search engines, chat rooms, and blogs; cybercafés and blogs must install filters software (Wang 2-3). Cyber-dissidents have been imprisoned for in China for breaking the law.

Cartoon of China's Virtual Police

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