KM, sense-making and social networks

October 20, 2007 at 3:00 am 3 comments

TylerI’ve been doing some reading in KM, so I’ll gather together in this post some of the more interesting items. But first, do yourself a favour and hop on over to Dave Snowden’s blog at Cognitive Edge and read his opinion on the hijacking of the language of complexity. Couldn’t agree more. I’ve noticed recently that everybody and his dog is talking about “sense-making” (without necessarily making sense!). Long ago, way back in the mists of time, I was at library school learning about Brenda Dervin’s sense-making model. If you don’t know it, check it out here or here. And her seminal paper (1995), which we poured over in library school – Chaos, Order and Sense-Making: A Proposed Theory for Information Design – is here.

Basically, Dervin’s model goes like this (as I understand it): her theory of sense-making is a metatheory. “Sense-making” has a number of meanings and can refer to a methodology, a set of assumptions or assertions or a theory. Don’t jump on me just yet: I’m using this post to sort out my thoughts :)-

Dervin’s model assumes a number of things – the individual is constantly moving in time-space; human reality is discontinuous; the individual makes sense of reality in order to bridge any gaps caused by discontinuity; information-seeking (to help bridge the gap) is a part of sense-making. So as the individual moves through time and space (known as the Situation in Dervin’s sense-making model below – the context in which an individual needs to make sense of something or where an individual is blocked), a gap is encountered. Dervin uses a gap-bridging metaphor. I think the example I heard her use once was of a man walking along a road and he comes across a huge gap – what to do? I always think of a huge bridge, you’re walking along noting the world surrounding you when, bang – no bridge to cross to the other side….huge gap, what to do?

So the Gap in Dervin’s model is an aspect of the Situation that requires clarification so that the person can continue to move in time-space. Help is how one makes sense of the gap, closes the gap and ends up happily on the other side of the bridge going in a direction that makes sense to the individual. I hope I haven’t massacred her model! Information studies people apply this model to the reference interview and information users. I’ve always liked the model because of its (to me) creation/destruction of bridges over gaps imagery. Now, of course taxonomies can help bridge the gap – but that’s another post.

The sense-making triangle: situation-gap-use (source: Dervin, 1992)

Then I came across Dave Snowden’s elegant Cynefin framework with its four domains of Known, Knowable, Complex and Chaotic, which is a sense-making device for a complex and complicated world. Read Dave’s paper here. I have used this framework in taxonomy development and my work with communities of practice. I think some of my students are sick of me trotting it out in the various KM courses I teach, but hey, when you’ve found something that makes perfect sense…..

Slight diversion sorry: so I came across this interesting article in the JIKM (Applying Sense-Making & Narrative Techniques to Capture Lessons Learnt by Bonnie Cheuk), which applies both Dervin and Snowden’s theories to lessons learnt (using narrative techniques).

Then there’s a couple of other interesting pieces. Baby Boomers and KM. The first Boomer has apparently applied for social security in the US. And the funeral industry is salivating at this thought: “It will be 2010 before the baby boomer generation comes on-stream”. On-stream I guess is a way of saying shuffling off the planet in a cascading flow. But of course, a sizeable chunk of the workforce will depart soon taking with it hundreds of years of expertise. So what to do? Well, you can read an Inside Knowledge article here. Not really an article, more some basic thoughts to trigger off thinking about generational knowledge transfer.

Then there’s this article from CIO Insight that highlights social networks in organisations and bottom-line expectations. Speaking of social networks, I came across news in the IHT of a new form of social networking. It’s called Baagz and the idea is that you can put a lot of personalised digital stuff in your “baagz” on a public Web site. According to the article, Baagz uses an underlying semantic description of every Web site stored in a baag to determine what a given baag is about, whether or not a given Web site is specifically tagged by users, or baagerz. The system then uses this knowledge to connect baagerz with shared interests. Okay, let’s understand something: I can spell, I don’t think these dudes can. Presumably, baagz means a bag or container.

You can check out Baagz here, but you need to give them your email and they’ll send you an invite to join.


Entry filed under: Knowledge Management, Social networks, Useful resources.

When you gotta go… What didn’t the future deliver?

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dave Snowden  |  October 20, 2007 at 5:40 am

    Thanks Kim, after yesterday’s post on death ….

    You might be interested to know that thanks to Bonnie, Dervin and I met up a few years back. She then invited me into a session she ran in San Francisco last year. She has always influenced my work and conversations with her are a real pleasure.

    …. and what does happen when you drop from a height?

  • 2. thinkingshift  |  October 22, 2007 at 5:44 am

    depends on the landing surface and person’s posture Dave. But basically, if you drop from 145 metres or more, 75% of people snuff it in the first few seconds or minutes after landing. A sensation of time slowing down…the impact travels up through the body, bursting the aorta…I best not go on, you might need another lie down :)-

  • 3. Oohlala  |  October 23, 2007 at 2:49 am

    Thanks a lot Kim. Anyway, can you explain the Cynefin framework? It sounds very interesting.


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