Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Using Google's Apps as a P2P Forum for Knowledge Sharing and Expansion

This is an interesting paper that looks at using apps like Google Docs and the associated Cloud to collaborate on, construct, refine, and formalize knowledge. This is an open source paper from the Social Science Research Network.

In my experience, one of the things limiting the development and expansion of various integral knowledge inquiries is the limitation of geography. This model solves that problem and allows people to work together, share information, revise and contest, all in an online "cloud" open to anyone who is invited to participate.

Until now, Wikis had been the best and maybe only way to do this - but now that Google docs has improved its platform (as of 2010), there is another option that is even more P2P oriented. I'd like to see this happening more in the integral community.

Full Citation:
Hall, WP, Nousala, S & Vines, R. (2011, Feb. 7). Using Google's Apps for the Collaborative Construction, Refinement and Formalization of Knowledge. The 2010 International Conference on Internet Computing (ICOMP), Las Vegas, Nevada, July 12-15, 2010. Available at SSRN:

William P. Hall
University of Melbourne - Engineering Learning Unit

Susu Nousala
RMIT University

Vines Richard
University of Melbourne - eScholarship Research Centre

The 2010 International Conference on Internet Computing (ICOMP), Las Vegas, Nevada, July 12-15, 2010

The utility of knowledge depends on how it is developed, refined and tested. Where knowledge concerns more than one individual, its value is increased through social processes involving cycles of tacit and explicit sharing for intersubjective criticism. Sciences and many organizations have well developed processes for managing the tacit-explicit cycling to produce what Vines and Hall call "formal knowledge". Nousala and Hall have studied the emergence of informal communities concerned to develop and refine bodies of knowledge relating to particular issues. The present paper describes one such emergent community's use of ICT to facilitate knowledge formalization. Their most effective solution uses free Internet applications in the Google "cloud" made possible by changes to Google Docs only released in January 2010. Although involving several poorly documented "apps" and their "gadgets" the resulting architecture is surprisingly coherent, user friendly and apparently robust.
The paper is available as a PDF at the title link above. To whet your interest, here is the brief introduction to the paper.
Knowledge claims deemed to be scientific or produced in organizational contexts are reasonably considered to be more authoritative than unsupported beliefs of single individuals. Knowledge building in these contexts is a hierarchically complex social process involving cyclic exchanges between subject-tive knowledge in particular individuals and explicit knowledge that is available to those who need it. Several knowledge building cycles are well known in the knowledge management community [1],[2], [3],[4]. However, here we ground our understanding of knowledge growth on an evolutionary epistemology derived from our own extensions of Karl Popper’s later work, e.g., [5].

Knowledge growth is facilitated and constrained by socially constructed paradigms [6]. When people work within established “normal” sciences, techno-logical paradigms [7] or organizational structures [8] there are usually well developed organizational “routines” [9] or formal processes to review, authorize and formalize their knowledge claims [10]. In academic and scientific frameworks, the gold standard of knowledge formalization is the process of publishing in peer reviewed journals. Similarly, most large organizations have specific workflows, often supported by technology by which knowledge is reviewed and authorized.

The development of new knowledge often takes place in small groups or teams of people facing common problems or with common interests. It is comparatively easy to form such teams within well established organizational frameworks or research disciplines where potential members probably already know one another and have much in common, but knowledge building in these circumstances is normally only incremental [12],[13],[14]. On the other hand, major innovation often takes place in groups comprised of individuals crossing organizational, disciplinary or geographic boundaries [15],[16],[17]. However, the existence of such boundaries minimize opportunities for face-to-face contact, which impedes the development of such boundary crossing groups.

Also, where innovative research interests do not easily fit within boundaries of established scientific paradigms or organizations, we have found it difficult to access existing organizational paths and technolo-gies. Appropriate technologies making it easier to cross these barriers can help build knowledge [18] to form what Myhill et al. [19] called a “virtual research environment”. When their paper was submitted in February 2009, there were “as yet, no fully-operational examples” using Web 2.0 technologies.

Here we describe just such an environment set up by an informal community interested in the theory, ontology and management of organizational knowledge (the TOMOK Group). Its 15 members cross four continents and a variety of disciplines ranging from philosophy and biology to computer science and technical translation. The majority are independent consultants in the broadly defined area of knowledge management. Many lack current academic affiliations, and face difficulties accessing the reference literature required as background for building formalized know-ledge, and lack ICT support facilities of large com-mercial and academic institutions. Effective technolo-gies solving these problems will revolutionize the cognitive processes of research [20].

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