Should Knowledge Be Managed?

In this dialogue, we take up the rather complex and somewhat indeterminate constellation of ideas involving knowledge and information management. A central tension guides this dialogue. The tension exists between our traditional notions of knowledge — as a public good that we should encourage as many people as possible to obtain — and our contemporary neoliberal notions of knowledge — as a commodity we should produce and trade on the open market.

In a traditional, perhaps romantic, framework we portray knowledge, and the desire know as much as we can, as powerful and liberating. We want to enable knowing and learning among people as broadly and as fully as possible. The Internet appears to fulfill our wildest Enlightenment dreams: We have greater access to the sum total of human knowledge than before any time in history. Such access heralds a new era of flat, democratic organizations, solutions to once intractable social problems and boundless, endless, virtuous self-improvement. Yet in developing our "knowledge society", we often cast knowledge and information as private goods — commodities we can manufacture, buy and sell given the logic of market-based economics. We mange knowledge and information like widgets.

Recognizing the tension between traditional, Enlightenment conceptions of knowledge and contemporary, digital conceptions of knowledge and information, we ask: Should knowledge and information be managed? This dialogue will explore the basis for the intuitions that yield our initial 'yes' or 'no' response to this vague and provocative question.

Initially, I have grouped your responses based on your answers to the question. Let me identify and outline topics that seem to appear in many of the responses as an initial means for organizing and developing the essay.

  • Topic 1: Knowledge and Information Defined and Organized
    • We need to define clearly what knowledge is, what information is, and if managing knowledge and/or information entails different approaches and goals.
    • Information should be managed, not knowledge.
    • Information should be organized, knowledge must be structured and internalized.
    • Groups and individuals need to be considered when defining knowledge and information.
  • Topic 2: How to Manage Knowledge?
    • Pay for Access.
      • Online journalism and accompanying new revenue models might give us a better idea of how to manage knowledge.
    • Learn to manage content on our own — tagging images, for example.
    • Let the market decide how to manage knowledge and information.
    • Corporations: Investigating corporate KM might give us better idea of proper management practices. Employees need to know if and when KM is being used.
  • Topic 3: Expert Knowledge: The web should not replace experts.
  • Topic 4: Mass Collaboration: The web offers interesting possibilities for managing the wisdom of crowds.

A small section of the paper should include censorship and bans :
*"Dangerous" Knowledge: Some forms of knowledge cause harm. We should manage these yet-to-be-defined forms of knowledge.
* Online stalking and "to catch a predator" scenarios.

Knowledge and Information Should Be Managed

Rachel Burch
I feel that knowledge and information should certainly be managed. Because I feel this way, I figured it would be best take this approach in contributing to the collaborative essay. The next question to ask is how?
I'm really just brainstorming, but I think an interesting approach to it would be to agree that yes, knowledge should and needs to be managed, but disagree on a proper way to properly manage it. I will look at ways we can manage and argue how they are neither accurate or indicative to the population. Ways in which knowledge and information could possibly be managed are through monetary ways, making people ultimately have to pay more than the little they already do in order to receive any information they want; another way would be through time constraints, allowing people to access knowledge only a certain percentage of the time; a last way information could be managed would be through some type of ethical test, saying maybe only those that want to use it for the appropriate use of gaining valuable, useful information would be allowed access. Clearly, all three of these ways of managing knowledge are neither probable nor possible. And frankly, they sound like something from 1984.

Kaitlin Cannavo
As of this moment, I am not exactly sure where I stand on the issue of knowledge management. My initial thoughts on the topic have shifted somewhat in regards to the freedom of openly flowing knowledge and the public’s access to it. I primarily strongly disagreed with the supervision of knowledge and rather lean more toward the idea that no overseer has the authority to control the creative work of any individual or the individual’s access to any knowledge he/she wishes to gain. But upon discussing the issue further, I do believe some form of knowledge and information management is necessary in our society to a certain extent. While the public should have access to as much information as accessible to anyone in any position of society, some generally shared information has great potential to cause more general harm than good in vast and extremely dangerous multitudes. But this idealist notion may be just that, too ideal. No matter how society chooses to manage knowledge and information, loopholes will still remain completely accessible to those eager enough to find them, especially now that the majority of all knowledge is already readily available to anyone in seconds on the World Wide Web.

Also, despite the abilities of a common person to obtain larger amounts of information than in the past, expertise in many areas is still necessary. No matter how much someone reads on a subject, the person will never be as knowledgeable as an expert who has devoted their education and life to a particular medium. As much as people think they learn from reading online "sites for dummies" like Wikipedia and Web MD, this knowledge is limited and it takes years of formal education, studying, and experience to provide legitimate comprehension of the subject matter of these sites. Although these sources are helpful for quick, simple solutions, they definitely should not be substituted as means of knowledge over the expert.

The internet has transformed into the world’s primary mode of facilitating knowledge, and while its founders based the system on a utopian, free-thinking liberator from the binds of the bureaucratic arrangement of society at the time, it has today become more of an oppressor to many people. This form of knowledge management through technology leaves no freedom of choice in regards to itself; you either use the technology or you are doomed to collapse in this rapidly growing digital world. All work and education now involves communication online. Everyday activities such as banking and shopping now may be performed online and most corporations are even pushing for all of their business to transfer to the digital world. 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 person; our personality, our values, our sense of self. Over-management of knowledge and information continues to push society so far as to lose its identity as individuals and people. The line of knowledge management still remains fuzzy as to how far is too far.

Courtney Carlson
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.
More simply put, I believe that knowledge should be managed and information should be organized.

Jenny Milne
For the collaborative essay, I'm going to say that knowledge needs to be managed. However, the degree of "management" depends on the repercussions of the use of the knowledge. I think this is what you mean, I guess in my portion of the essay I'll explain why I think knowledge should be managed, and what the different levels of management are. And I guess I can explain how to do so, like on Facebook, pictures are managed by the fact that you can report the person that has put up the offensive picture.

Alex Orchard-Hays
My immediate response to the question of whether or not knowledge and information should be managed is "yes," but only because I cannot fathom a world where all knowledge were free and accessible to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Of course, many point to the Internet as an example of this phenomenon already taking place in our world, but I believe the Internet to be a knowledge management tool all its own. Further, the Internet is only accessible to those who can afford it. So if all knowledge and information were unmanaged, what would the majority of businesses in the quaternary sector of developed countries do? These companies - the ones that foster the creation and management of information - make a lot of money at what they're doing; they're a key attribute of wealthy countries. If they went away, what would happen to the economy? To their employees? But then, on the other hand, what would happen to the employees if their knowledge were extracted and distributed, giving the company greater control over knowledge than the people with whom the knowledge originated? What would be the value of those employees, then?

I - like many others, I'm sure - can talk myself in circles over this question, mainly because of its many levels. I don't feel comfortable arguing from an economic perspective as I've suggested I might. I'm trying to imagine the implications of free knowledge and information, and although this scenario sounds ideal, it also sounds like communism; an ideal that doesn't work in practice.

I could examine the journalism industry as representative of the larger problem of knowledge management. Paying for information in the case of journalism is thought to guarantee quality. But as free blogs grow increasingly more accurate and reliable and offer more unique insights into events and trends, I to begin to wonder what purpose official news sites serve. Except then I recall that most of what bloggers do is pull information from various news sites to create their own version of the story. So yes, I think a business model that requires Internet users to pay for "straight from the source" news will be required because news staff have professional skills and should be paid well to implement them. But then I see experts and professionals putting their skills to work on free, open-source projects like Firefox and our own Sakai (Scholar) system, which are leading models for browsers and online course systems, respectively. So, once again, I'm not sure.

Kristen Walker
For my section of the collaborative essay, I would like to defend the idea that knowledge and information should be managed, to an extent, and furthermore I believe people more than ever want their knowledge to be managed because it often results in a higher level of convenience in their everyday lives (ie. Google knows what sites are most popular, Kroger knows when to stock up on certain items, etc.). Even those who may not explicitly want their knowledge to be managed have learned to accept that they cannot function in a networked society without allowing such knowledge management, and they too benefit from it. I will research specific examples and link to articles that support my idea.

Kara Williams
To answer the question, should knowledge and information be managed, yes, I believe it should. Knowledge and information like many things has two sides—a positive and a negative—and it can portray both sides to both the individual and the group. To say, no, knowledge and information should not be managed is to say that everything should be available to everyone because it can only help and advance society would be naïve and short sighted to all things that started as good and went bad. Examples in this world are many: guns once created to protect and defend are now used by some to kill the innocent, and the internet can even be used in the wrong way as with sexual predators attacking alluring teenage children.

With that, the next question to be explored is who will be given the responsibility to decide who gets access to what various kinds of information (and not just information on the internet).

Knowledge and Information Should Not Be Managed

Taylor Bryan
For centuries, knowledge has been managed by various organizations that hold power within society from the church to strict governments that control their state's media to oppress and subjugate people. In the age of the Internet knowledge is so readily available that it seems almost impossible to control it and for the most part, I believe that it should not be controlled. Our democratic society preaches principles of free will that glorify the individual as the most important aspect of life. To try and control human knowledge and limit persons from accessing it would be in direct conflict with our notion of freedom. That being said, human beings are imperfect and often capable of great evil that certain types of knowledge make easier to commit. Certainly access to knowledge about how to make weapons of mass destruction, drugs, and other harmful items should be restricted; however, who or what entity should have the ability to choose what is censored and what is not. If a government began to censor dangerous knowledge it would become far to easy for that power to be abused. Scandals and mistakes could be easily covered up and "free" societies could be misled and even controlled by the information they were receiving. It seems far too dangerous to give any one group or governing body the ability to censor knowledge as they could easily use their power to advance their own self-interest and limit competition and criticism of their actions.

In terms of the corporate world, knowledge is and will remain a commodity that can be bought and sold. Under our capitalistic society this idea will remain but I do not believe it is necessarily fair. If an employee works for a corporation and develops extensive knowledge through their work it should remain the knowledge of the employee and that person should not be forced to share their own intellectual set of tools (so to speak) as that knowledge makes them valuable as an employee. However, if a corporation provides the employee with the knowledge he or she possesses it certainly belongs to the company but upon learning it also must belong to the employee. At this point in time I believe that only extremely dangerous knowledge that would enable an individual to cause great collective harm should be managed. However, I have no idea who could be trusted with the ability to regulate what all of society is allowed to know.

The distinction between information and knowledge must be addressed within the essay in order to proceed. In my understanding, information simply consists of facts that exist in society that are spread via the internet. These facts should be organized into a clear system that enables users to find it, verifies the validity of the information, and restricts that which is dangerous to society. In terms of knowledge I visualize the information people have organized themselves within their own brains and this certainly cannot be managed. I do believe there is a difference between retaining knowledge in the corporate world but to think that any entity can justify attempting to control what another person has absorbed, organized, and made use of is preposterous. I firmly stand by my opinion that knowledge should not be managed, however; certain types of information should not be within the public domain. Again the question of who is capable and trustworthy enough to manage this information emerges and this I do not know how to answer.

Stef Keymont
No, I do not think that knowledge should be managed. Yes, I think that information should be managed. I will explain. Obviously, I think of knowledge and information as two separate entities. To me, information is fact. It is the presentation of percentages, graphs, instructions, etc. It is something can be easily learned and remembered. Knowledge implies some sort of higher understanding, something abstract. When I think of knowledge, I think of Universities, ancient Greek thinkers, and the Enlightenment. Yes, it’s a Romantic notion…I get that. But knowledge is something more than information. A person obtains information, and by thinking about that piece of information a person may obtain knowledge. I realize that my argument has a few holes. It’s a working progress. Obviously it is somewhat hypocritical, because if you manage information then you manage knowledge.

Information management would include keeping bomb-building instructions off of the web. Knowledge management would include making a person brainstorm a certain way on the job to direct his/her thoughts down a certain path.

My food for thought: If knowledge can be considered the process of obtaining and thinking about information (and you may disagree…), can information be controlled without controlling knowledge?

Sometimes Knowledge and Information Should Be Managed

Caitlin Laverdiere
I believe this is a twofold issue:

Information is, and perhaps should be, managed. Through the management of information, people are able to specialize and apply their specializations in individualized and unique ways. Often people collaborate within these specializations – and this is indeed a good thing, as it fosters the exchange of ideas and discoveries between individuals, creating a more substantial and well-reasoned dialogue. However, without some degree of management our specializations cannot be employed and exchanged meaningfully in a market setting. Allowing the internalized preferences of consumers and producers to dictate the exchange of information (as goods and services), allows the self-interest of individuals to also benefit society as a whole.

If, however, information is not managed, and is provided freely (another issue to be wrestled with), the competitive market structure fails and undermines the unique specialization of individuals. It is virtually impossible for each person to accrue and retain enough information to embody the expertise or specialization necessary in the diverse areas of our social economy: commerce, education, health, security, scientific technology, law, and agriculture, just to name a few. The management of information, and the individual specialization that results, encourages collaboration and exchange, quid pro quo, for valuable information necessary to the functioning of the economy.

Knowledge, however – if we acknowledge and allow a distinction to exist – should have fewer managed restrictions. Knowledge is processed information and incorporates our beliefs, attitudes, ideas, and lived experiences to produce a unique perception and pattern of thought. Knowledge is personal. It is aggregated information, personalized through our individual assessment and applications. As such, it is innately harder to manage knowledge. Because knowledge involves internalized processing, it is the result of the exchange of information but does not seem to fit the same market context. People build upon their specializations through further development and application of knowledge. However, it is more elusive and subjective than information, and therefore defies most attempts to manage it.

Final summation of my ideas in direct response to the central question: information should be managed, knowledge should not.

Megan Quigley
As this question conjures initial thoughts of Big Brother and 1984, my first is instinct no, I don't want my knowledge and information managed, who would? But, as I reflect more on the question and think about my own experiences with knowledge management, I am conflicted between yes and no. So, if "maybe" or "sometimes" is an acceptable stance, that's where I currently stand.

So far this semester, I've learned that our knowledge is being managed all the time, and I've been totally oblivious to it in my personal life because I've grown up with these technologies (Facebook, Google, cell phones, etc). However, this past summer during my internship, I experienced knowledge management first hand (and was aware of it) with the company's development of a Wiki for their own usage. I witnessed the support and opposition they have faced, and are continuing to face as it continues development and approaches its launch date.

This experience with corporate knowledge management has allowed me to see both sides of the spectrum and its arguments for or against such a KM tool (from the executive side down to the staff side). So, for this essay, I would like to take a closer look at the corporate worlds' usage of KM and what evidence and opinions are available for the pros and cons of knowledge management, and how it relates to the overall debate of KM existing. After this research, I hope to come to a better conclusion to the question than "sometimes."

Jessica Razumich
My approach to the collaborative essay will be to approach the central question with a yes AND no answer. I feel that in order to come to a complete decision on if knowledge and information should be managed we must look at both sides. I want to write a little bit about why we should and how we can manage knowledge and what will happen; as well as why we shouldn't manage knowledge and what will happen. If I then feel much stronger about one side than the other, and in order to contribute to the paper if the group feels that I should focus on one side then I will do so. I want to focus mainly on how it will impact people individually as well. How it will not just effect the population, but people as individuals. However, this brings up the whole individual vs. group so I have to be careful as to how I approach this topic.

Sarah Tavernaris
I'm taking the stance that knowledge should be managed while information should not. Information is facts presented with an encyclopedic tone (descriptive, not literal)—anyone who seeks information about themselves and the world around it should be able to go to a source (internet), look it up (Google), pick an option, and comprehend it. Information should be available to everybody. Therefore, it ought to be organized and distributed in a specific way, and tended to by people who know more about the subject.

Acquiring knowledge, I believe, takes a little more work — sure, we all have general collective knowledge, knowledge about ourselves and the world, but I'm thinking of it as information that has been sought out and internalized looked at from many angles. Someone with knowledge has good information about a subject and takes a personal approach to it — for example, I have information on how to solve math equations, but I have knowledge about writing. I think knowledge takes time and honest effort to acquire, whereas information can be easily accessed without being internalized; knowledge has bias and a more personal connection with a learner. I think the means to gaining knowledge should be structured in some way (never too rigidly though, I'm a proponent of loose form and free thought)—I do not think doing tons of internet research about a subject will lead to good knowledge, because it takes some actual doing to really get it (may be true for some areas though, but not all). The human connection is also important to gaining knowledge; without the professors and
mentors who pass it on and guide its attainment can make a huge impact on how a person gains knowledge. Plus, building networks with people in the same fields of expertise and knowledge can yield more results than a solitary quest for knowledge — like in Turner's explanation of the cross-disciplinary scientific/technologic research groups. And, while I don't completely agree with Surowiecki's theory, there is a greater yield of knowledge when diverse groups come together.

So, really, if you can follow my strange patterns of thought through this essay question: information should be organized but not managed. Everyone should have the opportunity to acquire knowledge, but only those who are willing to put a little thought into it should be able to go for it. Therefore it should be managed in some way, so the human connection isn't lost.

I want to take the stance that to some extent, knowledge should be managed but only if the employee is willing. I think there’s a certain line between employees wanting to help develop the company to achieve its goals and wanting job security. I want to discuss what where I believe that line is through interviewing people and through sludging through forums and web 2.0 media. I do not, however, lean one particular way or the other when it comes to if it’s morally right to manage knowledge.

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