web 2.0 for development


Internet and the new way of thinking

It’s a long time I have the impression that my mind is changing the way it “works”.

In other words, I feel like the tools I use to do my job, and Internet in particular, are modifying the way my mind process information and manage knowledge. So, reading, writing and, consequently, working approaches have been reshaped. Here are the main differences I perceived between today and the past:

  • Reading, that is one of my passions, has been transforming, both in type and quality. Since I was in the high school, I considered myself a good reader because of the large amount and variety of books I read. Today, I see a tendency to focus mainly on a certain kind of readings: shorter, lighter, faster. This attitude is probably due to a specific moment of my life: I spend much time in my office, reading documents and absorbing a lot of information. As a result, in the rest of my life of reader I may need something very different. This explanation I gave to myself is true for sure but maybe not exhaustive. In fact, I perceive that also some other factors influence my choice.


  • The way I approach writing is also changed. I remember when writing essays at school. Few minutes to make up my mind on the topic and some hours to squeeze the brain to get everything on paper: funny and exhausting at the same time! Today, I spend more time on the preparation of a document rather than on its production. And this process sees a different level of mental concentration: it seems like my brain is working HORIZONTALLY (more than an issue at the time, all of them in parallel) rather than VERTICALLY (one issue at a time, one after the other). Experience and different needs influence the process but they are not alone.
  • As a consequence, also my working approach has been changing during the years. Since 1996, when I was entering data for a website of ENEA (the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and the Environment), I got the impression that many things changed in the way my mind is managing information. The process my neurons follow to approach, manage and store bits evolved. Today it resembles the combination of a puzzle, linking together bits and pieces of information, most of which are already existing inside or outside my brain. It seems to me that I’m more involved in the “connection” rather than the “production” of pieces of knowledge.

Trying to visualize these processes, I see the PATH of my mind, that once was linear, becoming more fragmented, like a game of connecting pieces of information that are not necessarily distributed one after the other.

So what?

I’m using my personal experiences to introduce the point highlighted in an interesting article called Is Google making us stupid?. The question Nicholas Carr is rising is: “are our metal habits changing?“.

I tried to give my personal  answer to this question putting together different consideration like:

– the title of the article can be misleading (the focus is on the Internet and NOT on Google),
– someone, like Stowe Boyd and Kevin Kelly, do not agree with Nick’s ideas,
– some else, like Scott Karp or Bruce Friedman had similar experiences to those described in Carr’s article,
– there are many points of contact with what we discussed at the KM4DEV meeting in 2008, and
complexity is becoming one of the key of my everyday job (have a look at the image with the list of groups connected or related to the KM4DEV group),

At the end, I agree with most of the thesis proposed in the article.

After this reading, I consider the reflection OPEN and the topic far from being cleared. First of all, I don’t even know if we have to talk about a PROBLEM or just a CHANGE, a CULTURAL change. For sure, we have to consider the long list of dichotomies emerging from this new approach (faster but lighter, larger but less in details, etc.) and see if, at the end, PROs are bigger then COUNTs or not.

Secondly, how deeply the “age” can influence mental processes? When I was young, I completely focused on “creation” of knowledge, without external points of reference whom to look at for help. Today, after more than ten years working, I can both create and “manage” knowledge, having better results in terms of global experience.

The analysis is just started and time will say if this change was deep and real or just an adjustment to the need of the moment.

p.s.: I found great comfort in realizing that OUR brains are changing, and not only mine!

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Writeshop – day 2

Today: writing, writing, writing. But also: organizing, organizing, organizing. Giving a structure to the book and adding words to content is the task of today. Having defined together a rough framework about topics, chapters, paragraphs, we divided into groups to focus on single tasks. At the moment we are 6 people and we are expecting others to come and join us today and in the next days.

While organizing content, the controversial relation between communication, on one side, and knowledge management, on the other, is coming out more and more. This relation so many times becomes an opposition, a sort of conflict which, unfortunately, brings to nothing.

My personal view is that KM should be considered as a mean while communication is the aim. In this way KM is useful for communicators to do their job properly. This is true for commercial companies and for non-profit organizations as well. The two disciplines are distinguished but one is functional to the other. So we come to the point that is usually strongly debated: who has to say the last word? Who has to decide? What comes first?

I strongly encourage to give leadership to communication. In my vision, the person who is in charge of communication has the need to orient also the management of knowledge. This is due to a consideration about natural disposition of the two: the choice between people and tools. Communication is related with people more than KM, while this can be more focused on tools and techniques. Also communication can have this temptation but, if it wants to be successful, it cannot forget the persons who are listening to, at all. So, human beings are the factor that we cannot change and forget in any case.

I found an interesting definition on Panos to clarify my position:

Communication is part of the fabric of societies. By receiving, giving and discussing information and ideas we are able to make decisions and form opinions.

That’s why I assign the leadership to communication. So: people and not tools, relationships and not techniques, trust and not methods have to be the leading factors.

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Writeshop about communication for development and knowledge management

paul.jpgI started today a 4 days writeshop about communication for development and knowledge management, organized by FAO and gtz. The aim is to describe the relationship between the two topics.

The writeshop is the final event of a long process that the two organizations started to analyze this relationship and it’s the attempt to collect and give a shape to the knowledge gathered during the previous meetings of experts, the last one of which was in Assisi, earlier this year.

Day 1Activities and aim

Today we collected all the pieces at disposal and worked on the definition of the structure of the book. Paul (you see him in the picture), who’s facilitating the event, gave this clear and interesting definition of the process we are involved: we have CONTENT, then STRUCTURE and WORDS. Today we elaborate the structure to give to our content. Then, we’ll look for the right words. That’s according the definition that “when data acquire a structure, they become information”.

I’ll keep on blogging the following days to describe next phases of the writeshop.