Print

Print


In the 60s and 70s, Thomas  Allen of MIT studied how information is
discovered, interpreted and brought into an organization. He particularly
studied how information was brought into  the US national labs. What he
discovered was a network of people, whom he called "gatekeepers" who each
were responsible for some facet of knowledge. They took external knowledge,
interpreted it in terms of the needs of the organization and made it
available to others. These gatekeepers were set up within an ad hoc
network. None of them would know the complete extent of the network but
each would know his/her local connections within it. ordinary people within
the organization would be connected to one or more of the gatekeepers to
obtain the relevant interpreted knowledge that they required.

One of his results was counter-intuitive to me until I understood just what
he was getting at.  He discovered that the success of a project at US
national labs of that time was inversely proportional to the  amount of
preliminary research in the literature done by the participants. That is
the more that a research team consulted the published literature, the less
likely that they were to succeed in their project. The reason for this is
that these were the people who did not take advantage of the tacit
knowledge of the organization which was generated by the gatekeeper
network. The most valuable knowledge within an organization was the
constantly updated and refined knowledge contained within the minds of of
the people within it. That is the best most useful knowledge is within
Popper's Second World. The knowledge with the Third World of the published
literature but that knowledge is refined and made more valuable within the
Second World.

There was a lot of work done on this in the 90s in sociology and
engineering departments.  People wanted to understand how this worked and
what tools could be used to make it work better. One name for this was the
"Knowing Organization". I worked on this in the 90s but haven't done much
of any since so things must have changed but I think that the basic result
must still hold. For any organization in which creativity and innovation
are important, the most important thing to do is to create tools that allow
for serendipity and informal contact and awareness. Taking but one example,
the Perimeter Institute is a world leading physics lab. Its labs are
designed to be open so that people can see each other and the hallways are
lined with blackboards. The idea is to encourage people to informally meet
and to share ideas. The hallway blackboards allow discussions to spring up
and serendipitous associations to be made. Annual meeting and conferences
can be seen in the same way. The formal paper presentations are nice but
the best work happens in the hallways and the receptions.

I see this research as confirming the observations made earlier in this
chain about the importance of browsing and serendipity. However the
workings of this in informal human Second World knowledge must be
emphasized.

On Fri, Dec 5, 2014 at 8:56 PM, Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Yes. Browsing on Amazon will never be quite the same as wandering through
> the stacks of a university library. Bibliographies have the same difficulty
> as Google: They don't list wonderful books on a topic one never thought of
> looking for. I've discovered many books in that way over the last 70 years.
> Well, not in the last six.
>
> Carrol
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
> Behalf Of Nancy Gish
> Sent: Friday, December 05, 2014 4:31 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Sir Edwin Arnold
>
> I think this is a major reason we need to see the internet not as a
> substitute for books or see books as obsolete. I prefer most of the time to
> sit in a library, find the most recent few books on a major topic, and
> follow the notes and bibliography. I realize this dates me, but the fact is
> that one only finds on the internet what one looks for. Serendipity never
> occurs. A great example is a paper I did on Eliot letters in the National
> Library of Scotland. I assume they are now in the new prose, but a few
> years ago they were unknown. I found them just by sitting on the floor by
> the very old handwritten catalogue in the manuscript room and pulling down
> all the indices with E. They were fascinating and not on the internet.
>
> When I started working on Craiglockhart, none of that was on the internet
> either. Now the Hydra is, but not with the cartoons and some other
> material. So these tools complement each other.
>
> If you want to look for what you don't have the key words for, browse: it
> works in a quite different and equally important way.
> Cheers,
> Nancy
>
> >>> Tom Gray <[log in to unmask]> 12/5/2014 3:23 PM >>>
>
> P writes:
> >We have the access, but who knows where to look & for what to look?
>
>
> I suppose that that is the reason that blogs and mailing lists like this
> one exist. The Internet and Google in particular does not connect devices
> together. It connects people with people, people with information and
> information with people, it is the shared community that knows where to
> look and what to look for there.
>
> On Fri, Dec 5, 2014 at 12:18 PM, P <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
>
>         We have the access, but who knows where to look & for what to look?
>         Peter
>
>         Tom Gray <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
>
>         But Google also provides us access to the shared cultural meanings
> that Eliot so emphasized. With Google we are not independent but
> encapsulated both receiving and submitting to this shared cultural history.
>
>         With these shared cultural references, did Eliot anticipate the
> idea of cool put forth by McLuhan? Is modernism inherently cool in its
> objectives?
>
>         On Fri, Dec 5, 2014 at 7:40 AM, Rickard A. Parker <
> [log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
>
>                 On Thu, 4 Dec 2014 23:37:08 -0500, Tom Gray <
> [log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
>                 >If Eliot were alive today, what would he make of Google?
>
>                 This gives us a clue:
>                 "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is
> the knowledge we have lost in information?"
>
>                 Love the below:
>
>                 >Google is present for all of our Internet exchanges
>                 >
>                 >Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I
> count, there are only
>                 >you and I together* 360*But when I look ahead up the
> white road There is
>
>                 >always another one walking beside you Gliding wrapt in a
> brown mantle,
>                 >hooded I do not know whether a man or a woman —But who is
> that on the other
>                 >side of you?
>
>