Beyond indifference to knowers

In The Social Life of Information, John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid called for caring about the individual knower.
... the information economy, like the industrial economy, shows a marked indifference to people. The industrial economy, for example, treated them en masse as interchangeable parts - the factory "hands" of the nineteenth century. The information economy threatens to treat them as more or less interchangeable consumers and processors of information. Attending to knowledge, by contrast, returns attention to people, what they know, how they come to know it, and how they differ. The importance of people as creators and carriers of knowledge is forcing organizations to realize that knowledge is less in its databases than in its people. (p. 121).
When attention has not been returned to individual knowers, corporate or institutional attention is preoccupied with:
  • managing the brand name, brand equity and brand narrative
  • preventing unwanted exposure, buzz or speculation
  • increasing productivity, efficiency and outputs
  • monitoring consistency, compliance and conformity
  • reducing the costly losses from deviance, defiance and departures
  • increasing revenue growth, quarterly earnings and profits
Individuals in organizations experiencing the "marked indifference to people" would have no incentive to adopt Web 2.0 tools. The benefits would escape them and the dangers would grab their attention. Their experiences would have them knowing:
  • to not expect to be valued for what they know
  • to not get cared for in ways that support them knowing more
  • to not share what they know with those who can use it against them
  • to not care about knowing more that could jeopardize their fit within the indifferent system
Brown and Duguid continue:
So while the modern world often appears increasingly impersonal, in those areas where knowledge really counts, people count more than ever. In this way, a true knowledge economy should distinguish itself not only from the industrial economy, but also from an information economy.
I offer these insights, not as information, but as my way of developing a context for caring about what you know.

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