A Knowledge Network

One thing I've contemplated recently, which in relation to networks of knowledge, is the importance of telling one's stories. With "stories" I mean relating experience rather than analysis.

It might be an insurmountable task to try to condense the knowledge in the world and agree on what is most important and how it should be organized and who gets to be an authority on what subject. That is in part because we all have somewhat different views, we see things from different angles, and life moves on ahead at an increasing rate.

However, it can be of great value to share in somebody else's experience and viewpoints. Particularly if it is somebody who has a very different vantage point than you.

I might learn a lot from an expert in a subject simply by listening in on what he is doing and how he is thinking. That might be more valuable in some ways than asking him to make a condensed article about what he knows. His official presentation of his knowledge might well be artificial and might not really give us the inside scoop on what he actually sees and does.

Imagine if a large number of people in different areas of the world and working in different fields could write down their experiences in life. Both everyday activities and also key moments, discoveries and shifts. A scientist might tell us how he spends his day, what process he is going through. He might also tell us specifically what he did to make a certain discovery, including what he thought and felt about it. That might be of much greater value than the official paper he submits on it. Likewise for an eskimo on Greenland, a soldier in Iraq, or a nurse in Rwanda, or anybody else.

Imagine that we had a simple interface to all these stories. For example, it could be geographical. We could bring a globe up on a computer screen, point to some area of the globe, and then see what stories we have available from there. Or, we can go by subject, and see what stories we have available from people who are into deep sea diving, organic farming, solar cell production, ventriloguism, or french cooking.

A lot of knowledge is lost by having it filtered through somebody's evaluation of what is important and what is not. We all have social facades to protect and if we are asked to produce an official statement about something, we don't necessarily tell things the way they are. But if we are asked to tell a story, without any requirement that it has to fit certain norms, we might well be more honest.

Flemming Funch

2 June 1995