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Knowledge Mobilization With A Conscience

I recently read two short but thought-provoking pieces: 75+ Ways To Do Good With Social Media by Mashabel Assistant Features Editor Zachary Sniderman (on Twitter @zsniderman),

and a Twitter post and blog by Erika Harrison @eharrisondotorg: The Intellectual Value of Caring from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Each reminded me (one through the power of social media; the other through intellectual caring) that the best efforts to combat social problems always include both thinking and action in doing something good for others. Knowledge Mobilization is a combination of both thinking and action.

Knowledge without a heart is empty and useless knowledge.

Knowledge Mobilization without a conscience is worthless and not effective.

Peter Levesque, Founder and Director of Knowledge Mobilization Works (on Twitter @peterlevesque) considers knowledge mobilization – at its deepest level – “an act of love”. This is far from being some pie-in-the-sky ideal. The most fundamental reason for sharing and being open to other knowledge and experience really stems from an openness to love. Now, I’m not saying everyone should participate in some big love-in, but Peter makes an important point.

On a more basic level, whenever I discuss Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) as a participatory and inclusive way of knowledge collaboration between researchers and research users, I often make the rather limited assumption that Knowledge Mobilization is automatically useful to everyone. Sadly, it is not. In our new knowledge economy, there are plenty of people who are still in need of the basic economic necessities of shelter, food, or clean water. Knowledge Mobilization would seem of little use to them. Fortunately, it is useful if knowledge is effectively mobilized.

Although those struggling may not concern themselves about or even know of KMb, Knowledge Mobilization is an effective means of informing policy makers – which in turn can help combat homelessness, hunger, and poor sanitation (even if those being helped may not actually be aware that the process of KMb is what helped them). So, KMb may not automatically be useful to everyone, but it is a way of bringing together researchers examining social problems with community agencies dealing directly with such issues in order to create effective social policies to overcome these issues.

When researchers inform and are open to being informed by multi-directional communication and knowledge that includes those living in poverty, social workers dealing with them, government agencies and policy makers assisting them, advocates lobbying for them, community agencies supporting them, as well as other university or community-based researchers studying them, the channels of knowledge mobilization are effectively opened and can contribute to greater value for all in society.

I believe everyone should have a voice in knowledge mobilization; but not every voice will have something helpful to say. Never the less, only when each voice has an opportunity to be heard and can contribute to the process of solving these social problems will such problems be eliminated. KMb is about creating value – not just for some, but for everyone.

When Knowledge Mobilization has a conscience everyone benefits.

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The Knowledge Mobilization Paradigm Shift

Using social media for knowledge mobilization is the most important thing we can do as part of the newly-evolving paradigm shift from an information society to a knowledge society. We are seeing a transition from an economy based on material goods and information to one based on knowledge goods and mobilization using social media as an essential tool.

In order to understand this current paradigm shift, we must first recall previous societal revolutions from Agricultural to Industrial to Scientific – with the later leading to our more recent Information society and the subsequent greater manufacturing of material goods.

We must then understand the distinction of data, information, knowledge and knowledge mobilization. Of primary importance in the scientific revolution (and of course still today), data comes through research and collection. Information is how the data is organized. Knowledge is then built upon information, and Knowledge Mobilization is knowing what to do with that knowledge – how to synthesize the knowledge of both researchers and communities (academics and non-academics) in order to make it useful to society. Knowledge mobilization is the creation of multi-dimensional knowledge links or activities for the benefit of society.

At a recent business dinner I was asked by an executive member of an Ottawa based research organization how to best begin incorporating a knowledge mobilization strategy for what appears to be a research organization of  “old, white-collar dinosaurs” heading into irrelevance.

I suggested three key integrated steps to help them breath new life into their agency:

1) Face-To-Face Interaction: Getting their executive group to meet with other advisors from a variety of research, community and social media sectors – either in workshops, presentations or casual cocktail sessions – to generate conversation and ideas for funding and future projects.

2) Social Media Strategy: Developing a social media strategy that includes at least one designated social media staff member to help further promote the agencies work and firmly link and entrench the agency in the new paradigm shift by a successful use of social media tools like Twitter or Blogs.

3) Knowledge Mobilization (KMb): Constantly promoting and presenting the agency’s own knowledge while being informed by Face-To-Face Interaction and a Social Media Strategy about how to synthesize external knowledge with their own – through Knowledge Mobilization – for better use to society, and not just within their own specialization.

Researchers, government and community agencies are developing deeper relationships than ever before through knowledge mobilization.  Social media tools for knowledge mobilization are helping these agencies achieve meaningful results beyond just good information sharing.

The knowledge society is a new phase of society using social media sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook that make knowledge mobilization faster, efficient and more practical. But some researchers, scholarly associations, federations and government agencies are still not aware of the major importance and role that social media is playing in this emerging society today.

Those recognizing the major significance of using social media beyond casual conversations and family/friends contact (see previous blog) will help keep the older forms and structures of academic, government and community agencies from becoming irrelevant and dying out. Those who don’t…well?

Making Knowledge Mobilization Connections Using Social Media – The Old Spice Way

Facebook and Twitter have become such familiar words globally. When social media nouns like Facebook and Twitter become verbs as quickly as Google did (“Did you Google him?”  or “I’ll Facebook you” or “I’ll Twitter you“) we need to sit up and pay attention – especially with using these tools for greater knowledge mobilization.

Recently, we’ve all seen a greater number of marketers taking advantage of the popularity of social media to sell products quite successfully. The popularity of the recent Old Spice campaign has infused new life into an outdated product that many aptly considered only for Old Men! Some may find these ads annoying, some may find them savvy, and some may even find them sexy and distracting. But it shows that using a social media strategy seriously can create a far-reaching tool to spread knowledge about a product.

So why aren’t more knowledge brokers using a social media strategy to create a far-reaching tool to mobilize knowledge? (Yet another verb!). Isn’t knowledge that contributes to better social policy and decision making just as (or even more) important as selling products? Yet, it surprises me whenever I ask colleagues in the academic or KMb world if they have a Facebook or Twitter account and they say “no’! Perhaps because some think that such social media tools are only for marketers or for friends & family contacts.

One example of a successful KMb social media strategy comes from ResearchImpact’s Mobilize This! and their Twitter feed which helps translate research into clear language while also being informed by KMb from the social media community.

I’m sure if you’re reading this blog you’re probably already making knowledge mobilization connections using social media. If by chance you’ve somehow managed to stumble across this blog and you’re not using social media to mobilize knowledge what are you waiting for?

If you’re not making knowledge mobilization connections using social media, you’re like the old man who uses old spice only because of an old way of limited and old-style thinking. Perhaps it’s time to splash on some new KMb cologne and attract some greater social media attention.

A Little Knowledge Mobilization History Lesson

The belief that having and exchanging knowledge greatly contributes to the advancement of civilization is argued to go back as far as the Greeks (Rich, 1979. Science Communication, 1, 6-30). From the early twentieth-century, one of the great fore-thinkers and contributors to the idea of relational behaviour and knowledge exchange is the French sociologist and social psychologist Gabriel Tarde. Among his theories, Tarde proposed a different way of looking at the social world, not from the perspective of the individual or the group, but from how products, acts and ideas (including knowledge) can be used to classify individuals or groups.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend an Ontario KTE (Knowledge Transfer & Exchange) Community of Practice (CoP) event. I am a member of this KTE CoP and was excited to finally meet nursing scholar and knowledge utilization researcher, Carole Estabrooks at her presentation: Exploring the Applicability of Research to the Practice of Knowledge Translation. The decades of Estabrooks’ work and experience was evident as she shared her knowledge about the history, contexts and research being done in the practice of knowledge translation (knowledge mobilization) today (see blog about KMb definition & terminology).

In a longtitudinal analysis paper, Estabrooks  and colleagues have traced the historical development of the knowledge transfer field between 1945 and 2005 with an author co-citation analysis of over 5,000 scholarly articles. Their research shows limited citation before the 1960s. It’s not until the mid-1960s that a flourishing of the literature on knowledge transfer and knowledge utilization began, with the largest increase from 1995 to 2004. One of the most cited authors and contributors to the field is considered to be Everett Rogers.

It was Rogers who furthered Tarde’s “laws of imitation” in the 1962 book Diffusion of innovations. Rogers also identifies nine major disciplines in which research diffusion is most prominent: anthropology, early sociology, rural sociology, education, public health/medical sociology, communication, marketing, geography, general sociology, and a miscellaneous “other”.  Certainly, many of the members of the KTE CoP are included in these and equally diverse backgrounds. Evolving from diffusion of innovation, Rogers worked with colleagues G.M. Beal and Ronald Havelock to develop the term knowledge generation, exchange, and utilization to provide a more interactive understanding of the process of knowledge use, with a view that knowledge should be useful to society.

Estabrooks explains that knowledge transfer and knowledge utilization emerged as two new domains from the parent domain diffusion of innovation between 1975 and 1984. It’s not until 1992 that a new domain of knowledge utilization appears with the emergence of evidence-based medicine. More recently, knowledge mobilization has emerged to fill the void of the limitation of evidence-based medicine’s exclusion of theoretical or creative forms of knowledge. Other forms of knowledge include indigenous knowledge (such as narrative traditions) or informal knowledge that may influence a greater exchange of ideas leading to government and community policy-making.

It’s the more inclusive and multiple-contribution elements of knowledge mobilization that create greater opportunities to inform and enhance how knowledge is exchanged and co-produced today – especially today via social media. Knowledge mobilization stems from a long history – as far back as the Greeks – and continues to echo the view that exchanging knowledge continues to greatly contribute to the advancement of society – whether from dialogue in the Greek Acropolis to blogging on the Internet.

Free Knowledge Mobilization with a Social Media Strategy

My grandmother always said, “give a little for free and you’ll get alot in return beyond yourself.”

I volunteered at a number of places throughout my life, thinking about “good karma” or giving  back to worthy causes. Yet, what started out as a volunteer position at York University’s  Knowledge Mobilization Unit is starting to turn into an aspiring career choice. In 2007 an offer to work (gratis) contributing to ResearchImpact created an opportunity to combine my interests in research, social media, human behaviour and the use of knowledge – in the multi-abbreviated world of KMb, KT, KE or KTE (your choice).

Coming from a fresh degree in Psychology, and work on a research project investigating the practical use of research findings within York’s Department of Psycholgy helped convince York’s Manager of Knowledge Mobilization, Michael Johnny,  to take me on. And (“bah-rump-bum-bum-bah” – sing the jingle if you want), I’m loving it. (I hope you got that free pop-culture reference, and  I won’t have to pay for infringing any copyright laws).

In a way (as Angie Hart would say about knowledge brokers who make connections), I am a “boundary-spanner” in my efforts to combine university research within the community of social media. I work (volunteer) for a university while also being immersed within community as an upaid Digital Researcher (I’m still waiting for any job offers!). My efforts present what is at the heart of knowledge mobilization – multidisciplinary collaboration between university and community-based research, and a contributional exchange of experience, skills and interests from both those inside and outside of academia.

Digital technology is ubiquitous. Researchers and brokers who are savy in recognizing the significance of using social media as part of a knowledge mobilization strategy are forging new paths of academic openness and community collaboration.  I feel privileged to be part of a KMb team using a digital strategy in ways such as thisthis, this and this. I’ve seen first hand how adopting readily available digital tools like Google Earth or Twitter are valuable.  They can be used for something as easy as visualizing patterns of brokering projects/KMb networks to informing and exchanging knowledge via microblogging.  Such social media research tools are changing the expediency and way we think about how research is pursued and collaborated. Research must be inclusive of the benefits and ever-present influence of digital media in our every-day lives to inform future research practices.

I enjoy the opportunities that come with engaging and working with other knowledge mobilizers across Canada and internationally – especialy by means of social media. Don’t get me wrong;  I like face-to-face communication and recognize its necessity, but I’m eager to spread the word about doing research using social media and including social media.

Yes, there are necessary costs to research; grant applications need to be done and not many researchers are willing put in volunteer time. But, it’s important to make use of the current “freebie” elements of digital technology as a vehicle for knowledge mobilization – at no cost. Incorporating a social media strategy in research projects enhances research. It provides a more expedient means of communicating findings over a wider audience – and in turn – is informed by the social media audience contributing to further research and connections.

Grandma isn’t around to know how far digital technology has evolved and shapes our lives today, but the message is still the same…give a little (knowledge mobilization) for free (using social media) and you’ll get alot in return beyond yourself.

Peer-Review, Open-Access, and Research as a “Public Good”

Congress for the Humanities and Social Sciences is currently meeting in Montreal (May 28-June 4), and The Canadian Association of University Research Administrators (CAURA) met in Calgary earlier this month. At each of these events, I had the pleasure of discussing the use of social media for research dissemination and the future role of Open Access Journals. In Calgary, the conversation questioned the demise of peer-reviewed journals. In Montreal, the pre-Congress workshop looked at Open-Access and research as a “Public Good”. (Check out my tweets about the workshop on Twitter @KMbeing). Both discussions touched on the breaking down of old forms of research dissemination and the emergence of new collaborative styles.

I’d never really thought about the demise of peer-reviewed journals before, as I make full-use of them to inform my own work as a Digital Researcher, especially on the so-called back-end when final publication takes place. On the front-end, I’ve been involved in the rigorous process of getting research findings published in a peer-reviewed journal (with no guarantee) after upwards of six-months or more. Unfortunately, this scrupulous process not only stale-dates the already ‘aging’ findings, but also overlooks the importance of expediency in providing findings that are immediately relevant to other current research taking place.

The long-accepted “normal” dissemination process of academic research has been a publish or perish reward system involving the drawn-out submission to and approval from peer-review – with the final “reward” being publication. Shouldn’t the final reward be research for the public good?

I still believe in research expertise, assessment, and publication; but the old, lengthy peer-review process has become a rather out-dated mode that initially “uses” the public as “subjects” for the research process, and then excludes them from public access of the research findings. More importantly this old style ignores the more immediate and collaborative approach of knowledge mobilization – with its focus on more timely community-academic interaction to inform current public policy from research findings, even in the early stages of research before any publication.

There is a need for a more updated peer-review process, a process that includes “peer-review” at every step of the research process – and that process appears to be Open Access.  Such journals take into consideration the current influence of social media, public collaboration, and the knowledge of current research as a public good. That is the future, and it means collaboration beyond the Ivory Tower of Academia to inform and disseminate research as a public good and a public right within the world of digital media. The old method of peer-review may not be dead – but it is on life-support. Its recovery medicine is to evolve into a more inclusive process. This process includes the notion of research as a public good – freely, and readily available throughout each stage of the research process. Through open access and social media research not only informs, but is informed.

Don’t get me wrong. Peer-review still has an important role to play in open-access – and even open-access has its own problems. Two underlying concerns at the Montreal workshop (as in the world-at-large) that continue to hamper the evolution of peer-review and open access are power and money. The workshop prompted some very important questions:

  • Who controls the research and how it gets used?
  • Who pays for the research/dissemination as a “public good”?
  • Why does research have to be a “public good”?
  • Who defines what is “public” or what is “good”?
  • What is a “public good”?

These are all great questions, and our workshop discussion prompted much needed debate that needs to be continued. It’s clear that the ways of thinking about how research is done, shared, and paid for needs some re-evaluation.

I don’t profess to have the answers, but think it’s important to ask questions. That’s why discussions like the ones at CAURA and the pre-Congress workshop are important.  Yet such questions need to address the immediacy of research communication, the importance of university-community collaboration, and the practical application of research beyond publication with the public and for the “public good”.

What do you think?

Private/Public Time & Space

Keeping up with Web 2.0 can be a rather A.D.D. inducing experience and, more and more, social networking seems to blur the lines between my personal (private) and professional (public) life.

Mixing private and public time and space, I use social media to connect with my family and friends, but also certain colleagues within my social networks such as Facebook and Twitter,

both at home and at work. I use these sites for personal communication and also to do research – specifically, the work I do as a digital researcher. Interested professional researchers like me are jumping onboard to understand how knowledge is being shared – particularly through knowledge mobilization – and why concepts of public and private seem to be more indistinct.

The many ways that digital technology can be used for both personal and professional networks is expansive, yet the lines are seemingly crossing – and my attention span seems to be getting shorter and shorter!

I have two WordPress blogs that combine personal and professional interestst by putting my psychology and research background to good use. LifeBalance Questions Comments deals with general, self-reflection issues about life while LifeBalance Relationships asks and receives comments about intimacy and relationship issues. Both are designed for interactive and collaborative forms of social knowledge sharing.

I have a LifeBalance Twitter account to link to these blogs, along with my Facebook account to stay in touch with family and friends.

Then, I have this more professional KMbeing blog you’re reading right now, and a KMbeing Twitter account. As I suspect with many people, I like to keep the more emotional, self-reflective side separate from the more professional research side of my online networks, but it does seem to be more difficult. Thankfully, whenever I check my email I keep two separate accounts. I still have a private Yahoo account for private communications and a Gmail account for public ones.

The Internet has given us a multitude of tools to choose from to quickly communicate and collaborate. These constantly emerging tools can be used both personally and professionally with what seems like an endless number of applications, blogs, and websites being created daily. With constantly emerging choices it really does seem, as Apple says…there’s an “app for that” – for either private or public use (or a combination of the two).

The multitude of choices makes it difficult to keep up with the fast pace of digital technology while trying to separate personal and professional time. Now, public space is bleeding more and more into what is questionably private space.

Are my Yahoo emails or Facebook pages private when I’m bombarded by public advertising? (Now, Twitter is going to  start!) One can easily find oneself multi-tasking using a private cell phone to have a conversation with a friend while texting or emailing to the office on a PDA, while also “checking in” at public locations (via GPS on the same digital devices) to receive consumer reward points using Foursquare.

Where’s public and where’s private anymore?

Blogging and microblogging by anyone with something to say or share has become ubiquitous at home and at work. Sites like WordPress and Twitter have created systems of global connections that overlap the private and public.

Social bookmarking using Delicious (personally or professionally) and slide presentations with Slideshare make it easier to store and present data for and to a wider audience. Yet, this wider audience can be both a private and/or a public one.

On the upside, these advancements in Web technology and social media have facilitated faster and simpler communication, referencing and associations. On the downside, a primarily one-way data network (Web 1.0) has now become a mass network of social connections and tools (Web 2.0) for personal and professional users to keep up with. Sure there are ways social media has made things easier, but the lines between personal and professional are clearly being blurred. Global tracking and social network websites like FourSquare bring private gaming and public marketing to a whole new level. There are now even Open University and website conferences /platforms with keynote speakers or presenters that one can create or attend online from the comfort of your own home (or work if you like).

Keeping track of all of these private and public network connections and tools can become a time challenge, with professional time being mixed with personal time and vice versa. Keeping up to speed on the social media highway between private and public can be difficult and distracting – but at least I’ve got my iPhone GPS.

3 Types of Knowledge

KMb (Knowledge Mobilization)


I recently read and enjoyed The Blog of Steve Schwartz: No One Knows What the F*** They’re Doing (or “The 3 Types of Knowledge”).  Schwartz humorously states there are 3 types of knowledge, “There’s the shit you know, the shit you know you don’t know, and the shit you don’t know you don’t know.” He even illustrates the categories using a simple pie chart:

Although this uncomplicated approach to knowledge may seem slightly vulgar or crude, it does bring up the importance of knowledge mobilization in helping to widen the first category. Schwartz rightly points out that there is a “disconnect” between the proported goal of education and experience and the actual goal of education and experience. Scwartz makes the bold statement that…

“Everyone is as Clueless as You, If Not More”

…and he’s right.  Which is why the more we share our knowledge and collaborate using social media and social collaboration the more connected we become in knowledge – as well as in society.  For a further interesting read see The Relationship Economy.Sharing knowledge is the key element in breaking down not only intellectual barriers, but social barriers as well. There will always be stuff in the last two categories, but that doesn’t mean these divisions are static and unchangeable.

The flip-side of this equation is that once you take the step to learn more about the stuff “you know you don’t know”, you might just learn something about the stuff “you don’t know you don’t know”.

By putting available knowledge “into active service” – letting others know what you know, being open to the stuff that others know, and learning the stuff that others know – we might just be able to make our own knowledge  section of the pie much bigger.

On Twitter, I recently retweeted @Machobudda who points out…

“Not every bit of it (knowledge) is even of INTEREST to everyone”

and he’s right.  But even if you’re not interested at least you still have the knowledge.  It may be knowledge that’s different from yours, knowledge that you don’t necessarily agree with – but it’s still knowledge.

So keep scanning the web, keep sharing stories verbally or literarily, keep listening to what others have to say (locally and globally) in blogs or in journal logs – and keep sharing your knowledge. And then you’ll be taking a bigger piece of the pie!

The Echo of Social Media Past, Present & Future

KMb (Knowledge Mobilization)


I frequently use Wikipedia to define information – as I was about to do for this blog to explain social media (for those still unfamiliar with this term). I also frequently do a Google Search to find websites (new and old) to reflect on past research, gather information for my current research, and get ideas for future projects as a digital researcher. Although I found a blog post from 2008, its current relevance prompted me to take pause to question my own knee-jerk Wiki-p reaction, and re-evaluate my own presumed understanding of past views about social media and what the ever-evolving social media means today.

Furthermore, I frequently skip over online marketing websites, but made an exception for this new found older link – AriWriter.  I had never heard of Ari Herzog before, but was impressed. His blogs can be applied way beyond mere marketing, and as Ari professes, it’s an excellent website for “social media tips”. Ari Herzog’s archives are full of insight, and worth the time to read some of his latest as well.

Before clicking the link away as just another out-dated or annoying online marketing scheme, I saw that Ari rightly continues to point out how “Everyone sources Wikipedia as the tell-all for definitions, but the volunteer-driven site currently uses this vague sentence (not so anymore): “Social media are primarily Internet-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings.” And Ari’s right. According to this out-dated version of the Wikipedia definition,  it sounds like a rather limiting one don’t you think? The latest Wikipedia entry does a much better job. (It sounds like Ari’s Wikipedia statement got heard and appropriate changes were made!).

Ari goes on to present a number of other definitions by social media practitioners up to the time Ari wrote his October 2008 blog (Robert Scoble, Feb. 2007; Isabel Walcott Hillborn, Oct. 2007; Mark Dykeman at Broadcasting Brain, Feb. 2008; Joseph Thornley at Thornley Fallis, Apr. 2008; Jim Cuene, May 2008; Santosh Maharshi, May 2008; Ben Parr, Aug. 2008; David at Marketing Integrity, Sep. 2008; John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing, Sep. 2008).

Ari was following a suggestion by Jason Falls (a social media explorer) to escape the echo chamber. Jason wrote about the fashionably-cool use of the term social media after attending a Blog World & New Media Expo in 2008. (The Expo advertises an extensive gathering of media mavericks and thought leaders). But Jason seems to have walked away from the event feeling as if many of his fellow social media experts need to pass on their knowledge outside of the Expo “echo chamber” to those who don’t know what social media is, or how to use it for its best and most promising potential. I wonder if any of his fellow social media practitioners have followed his advice since that Expo?

Ari picked up the gauntlet early on, and because of the Twitter-ification of social media –  challenged his blog readers to think about what social media is, and asked the question

Ari’s followers provided some interesting comments and definitions.

Two things I like about returning to older blogs: how our definitions continue to evolve as web-technology evolves; and how past experiences, ideas, and knowledge teach us something about the present, and make us think about the future.

The daily expanse and speed at which new webtools are being provided, and the personalized ways that information is being shared can make it difficult for any non-savvy individual or business to keep up with social media. Yet, as Jason and Ari state, the first step is defining what something is to better understand it, and then making it known. A final step is always re-evaluating and redefining.

As for my own definition of what social media is for the present…

Online social interaction of sharing experience, information, and knowledge that includes various forms of communication, collaboration, presentation, opinions, entertainment, and branding…(for now).


Web 3.0 (known as The Semantic Web) is on its way and is expected to be as revolutionary as Web 2.0.  I wonder what the definition of social media will be in the future?