April 25, 2013 by Jeff Hurt
We’ve grown up believing that the way to get knowledge is to study hard and become an expert.
We’ve spent time and money to earn degrees and specific credentials all towards gaining more knowledge.
We write books, teach others, take classes and engage in ongoing research to grow our knowledge. We even attend conferences and meetings as a way to gain new knowledge. As we learn of new discoveries, we grow our body of knowledge. We have sought knowledge as a treasure and a right. We’ve grown up thinking this is how knowledge works and grows.
As the digital age has now revealed, that process for developing and growing knowledge only worked when it was transferred via paper.
Transform how we develop, preserve and communicate knowledge and we transform knowledge itself.
Paper archives seem so distant today. We’ve moved from typewriters to word processors to floppies to CDs to DVDs to USB sticks to the cloud to whatever is next.
Paper archives were under the control of the person who managed it. Today, everyone can see the immediate replay of a football game where the referees made a bad call. We no longer just read about it in the paper. Similarly, we have online discussions of the missteps of politicians, media elite and sport stars. Knowledge in a digital age is changing us.
For years, many conference organizers and their hosts have taken great pride in being the sole source of trustworthy knowledge for their industry and profession. These conferences have elevated their events as the only place to get relevant, cutting edge information. Conference organizers went after subject matter experts to share their expertise and knowledge.
Obviously, the internet has flattened that belief. Knowledge now lives not just in academic journals, conferences, libraries, museums and organizations. It also lives in the brains of individuals.
But our brains and institutions are not big enough to contain knowledge. Today, knowledge is the property of the network. That network embraces associations, businesses, conferences, curated collections, governments, media, organizations and individual minds.
This means that sometimes more than just the crowd has the knowledge and wisdom.
Our most important institutions, such as education, associations and traditional scientific, medical and academic journals, are being shaken by questions about information and knowledge because it flows so freely and fast. I like what author David Weinberger says,
As information and knowledge have become networked, the smartest person in the room isn’t the expert on stage and it isn’t the collective wisdom of those in the room. The smartest person is the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room, and connects to those outside of it…Our tasks is to build smart rooms.
As conference organizers, our task is to build smart conferences containing smart rooms! We are to design education experiences that lead to learning, not just information collection. And we have to figure out how to open our conference four walls to the network so we can grow our body of knowledge.
HTs to Too Big To Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That The Facts Aren’t The Facts, Experts Are Everywhere and The Smartest Person In The Room Is The Room by David Weinberger
What are some specific things conference organizers can do to open their experience to the network? How can conference organizers tap the collective wisdom of the network for the good of the industry or profession?
Filed Under: Conference Networking, Experience Design
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