Knowledge Society

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This page originally authored by Jennifer Ozterkeri(2007).
This page has been revised by Adi Aharon (2008), Tatiana Petrova (2008), and Peggy French (2009).


Backgrounders

The term has been prominent since the late 1990s when information society no longer described the emerging economy and globalization became the norm. UNESCO's adoption of the term for its institutional policies greatly helped the phrase's spread.

A deeper understanding of knowledge as it relates to the creation of a new form of society may be helpful. See: Davenport, T.H. & Prusak, L. (1998). Working knowledge: How organizations manage what they know. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The knowledge-creating company: How Japanese companies create the dynamics of innovation. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

For online background E. Wenger and community of practice or knowledge management.

Why Knowledge?

Before knowledge, there is data and information. Thinking of knowledge on a continuum helps situate it as well as see the progression and project the growth. Raw data used to be important; structure applied to data and developed information; and when information is interpreted by experience and expertise, there is knowledge.

The age that we live in is often called "the knowledge age". As opposed to the industrial age where capital and labor are the main resources, in the knowledge age the resource is knowledge. Knowledge is used as a tool to enhance economic growth through the improvement of goods and services. Knowledge equals "the fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information" (Davenport & Prusak, 1998, p.5).

Leading researchers from the all fields (Baumard; Davenport & Prusak; McInerney; Nonaka & Takeuchi; Oxbrow & Abell; Senge) study knowledge's impact on society's transformation. Tacit knowledge is the knowledge type of most interest. (Explicit knowledge is of less interest to those attempting to understand the new knowledge society.)

With information overload and the easy access to information, it is an individual's (or a group's) interpretation and use of the information that creates tacit knowledge and the benefit to society. Although it is not something easily captured and explained, this tacit knowledge improves and impacts - creating an innovative knowledge society.

The tacit knowledge of individuals coupled with the unprecedented improvements in ICTs have lifted the boundaries of knowledge and have turned it into a global commodity. Knowledge is consumed very fast and before we have time to absorb it, new knowledge is generated; deeming the former obsolete. The abundance of knowledge and its free flow have caused the formation of a new concept: knowledge society [1]...

Collaboration of Knowledge

In this, the age of knowledge, there is a global effort to create and reform new knowledge though the mainstream web [web 2.0][2]. This has led to the developing voice of the amateur [Andrew Keen] [3]. With the rise of social networking sites, blogs, RSS feeds, and social bookmarking sites, information and knowledge can spread easily and very quickly. The flaw of this system, however, is mixing the valid and credible knowledge with that of the amateur. Knowledge is free and it is a valuable resource in todays world. The ease of sharing and accessing information has increased. It is important that we not blindly trust the words and information which form our knowledge but question the resources and intentions of those who share what they know.

Education in Knowledge Society

Education plays the key role in the transformation of industrial societies into knowledge societies by enabling knowledge to be genarated, built on, distributed and valued. This requires education to fulfill some new tasks:

  1. Utilize both formal (happens in educational settings) and informal (spontaneous, networked) learning.
  2. Teach new information management skills that help to cope with abundance of information in modern society: navigation, search, quality check of information, etc.
  3. Provide possibilities for individualized learning trajectories allowing learners to “pick and mix” places and times for learning, different resources, learning objectives etc.
  4. Enable people to plug into the world of information and communication. Promote inclusion and accessibility in the technology-supported knowledge society.

Thus well established educational policies that foresee knowledge building outcomes are vital. The educational institutions, hence, should be technologically supported, learner centered, knowledge building learning environments where each and every learner enjoys equal opportunities in accessing and being a member of this community.

Although this is the ideal, the reality is still far from being so. The educational prerequisites of a knowledge society such as connectivism [4]puts an economical strain on nations. Certain regions of developing countries, and most regions of under-developed countries cannot afford the resources needed to access knowledge. This inequality between communities is known as the digital divide.

Additional Challenges to Education

"We are preparing students for jobs that don't exist yet and for technology that hasn't been invented" (Karl Fisch,influential blogger and educator). The focus on interpretation of information based on expertise and experience becomes critical. Education/learning can no longer solely be information acquisition and the gathering of facts. Fostering critical thinkers who are able to act on and interpret the facts and information are imperative for a knowledge society to flourish.

See also

Knowledge management in organizational settings

Informal learning

External links

Paper by Dick Stenmark Knowledge Management Group, Viktoria Institute, Sweden on conceptual differences between Information and Knowledge

Institute for Information Systems and Computer Media, Graz University of Technology - developer of Knowledge Management tools as well as Social software

Keynote speech by Michelle Selinger on education in era of Web 2.0 at ALT-Conference 2007: Beyond Control Learning Technology for the social network generation. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps PowerPoint slides

Mp3

Shift Happens: Did you know?