Disruptive design at EADI (Day two)

There was so much happening today at the EADI General Conference that I almost don’t know where to start.

Disruptive design
First of all, I went to visit the IKM-sponsored installation in the main hall of the University of Geneva. This is divided into two parts: firstly there is a series of pyramid shaped pillars with linked video screens, all focusing on knowledge mnagement and IKM’s core message of multiple knowledges. This has been designed and constructed by Ralph Borland, Conor and other colleagues from The Disruptive Design team at GradCam, a research institute in Dublin. It was just fabulous.

In  March in Dublin we held a meeting to discuss what form the design should take – and the complex messages of multiple knowledges that needed to be conveyed – and it is great to see what the team of artisits have constructed. I’m hoping to have some photos of this in the next couple of days which I will post here. The video screens also show links between Google Earth and different development related data sets. And this is a breathtaking way of presenting complex data. It was all very exciting and new.

Knowledge, policy and power
In the afternoon, I went to a meeting of the Knowledge, Policy and Power Working Group because the papers to be presented looked very interesting, and also to look for overlap with the Information Management Working Group. The first presentation was by a group of Malaysian researchers who were looking for support for concepts of sustainable development in poetry of a  minority group of Malay people. This was very interesitng as it reflects on the both idea of indigenous knowledge and translation. I’m looking forward to mentioning this to Wangui wa Goro.

Next, there were two researchers from IDS in the UK who had analysed processes of evidence informed policy related to child development. This was really interesting because their conceptual framework was based on conceptions of connectors and stickiness of ideas which have also been used to inform the communications strategy of IKM Emergent. More about this another time as my Internet connection is about to be unplugged!


First day of the EADI General Conference

Today, 24 June, was the first full day of the EADI General Conference in Geneva. A great day to catch up with the Information Management Working Group.

In the afternoon, the Working Group held a joint meeting with Euforic in which colleagues presented 12 different information services. These information services included the DFID-funded Research for Development, News for development from CTA, as well as KIT portals, the LEISA website, ICCO’s ComPart flowers and many more.

While sitting listening, in my mind I compared the present day initiatives with those that were reported at my first EADI General Conference in Oslo in – I think – 1988. What were my conclusions about the changes that had taken place in our field over the last 20 years?

Frsitly, I felt that most of the modern information initiatives were much closer to their respective users than they had been in the past. Most of them have clear picture of the professional groups they are targetting, often crossing geographical and professional boundaries to do so. Next, there seems to be a specific subject focus with different intiatives inhabiting particular knowledge niches, often trying to meet specific needs or fill specific gaps. And thirdly, there seems to be much more of a knowledge sharing culture than 20 years ago. This knowledge sharing culture is partly facilitated by new technology – specifically the Web 2.0 tools like social bookmarking and RSS – but there is also much more of a knowledge sharing attitude. This attitude has been fostered – certainly in this forum and also in others – by the work of Peter Ballantyne and Chris Addison so it was nice to see them both activlely participating in this session today.

This is all very postive and I think considerable progress has been made over the 20 years in question.  The presentations were very interesting but they were almost as interesitng for what they didn’t include as for what they did. Very few, for example, touched on the primary motivations for their services, or the boarder information environment in which they are operating, or even links to specific communities. These perspectives are often present but were not emphasized which may be because of the 8 minutes of time allowed per presentation or even because we take these fundamental things so much for granted. 

On the whole, it was a great first meeting, and I was again impressed by my colleagues professionalism and dedication. We had fun in the evening too at a dinner organised by the Graduate Institute. I’m looking forward even more to tomorrow….

One anecdote, over dinner I was talking to Cheryl Brown. Marketing Coordinator at IDS, and she was telling how she had been to a very dynamic meeting of the Tanzanian library association in 2006. So I said to her: ‘Oh you must have met Kingo Mchombu then?’ She had not met him – although had heard his presentation – and so it will be interesting to hear her reaction to Kingo’s video later on in the week.