A Howard Rheingold Workshop

This is a little different blog post for me, I usually talk about some aspect of Knowledge Management, and while this is related to the work that I do, it may not be immediately obvious that it is KM-related. I had a request to post a blog about a workshop I attended on the weekend, so here are my thoughts and notes, let me know what you think.
“A Howard Rheingold Workshop, Harnessing Social Media and Smart Mob Thinking for the Enterprise” (September 25, 2010)
I attended the workshop named above, and enjoyed and learned from it, but the title doesn’t do it justice, what we learned was so much more valuable than the title might lead one to expect.
The session was in fact about digital literacy or literacy in the 21st century. Howard spoke to us about a model he has created, a model that describes what we need to survive in this digital, connected age we live in.
In previous centuries we needed to know how to read and write, but in current times we also need to know how to pay attention, participate, collaborate, consume critically, and be aware of our network. During the workshop we spoke about all of these components and what they mean.
Attention is about being mindful of where one applies his/her attention, e.g. am I choosing to purposefully spend time on Facebook or did I get “sucked-in” because of factors that are external to me? It’s about being aware of how we are thinking and what we are thinking.
Participation is about the difference between passive consumption and active participation, things happening to me versus me actively making a choice. We spoke about examples such as ohmynews.com and other citizen journalism websites, although that’s certainly not the only type of participation.
Collaboration is what you would expect, working together, communicating, sharing information; this touches on things I normally talk about in Knowledge Management.
Network Awareness is the combination of knowledge and know-how and recognizing the various types of networks. Here we spoke about our on-line identities, and motivations, and the different components that make up a network. We also spoke about how networks have changed and evolved, so that instead of being based on a subject/interest/cause/disease, they are now centred around people, i.e. I am the centre of my network, not the city I live in or the ethnic community I am part of or any other dimension. In discussing network awareness, Howard reinforced the importance of building a network, certainly something I can appreciate after being an independent consultant for almost 7 years.
The most important component of Howard’s 21st century literacy model, in my opinion, is Critical Consumption. There is so much information available, how does one determine its validity? We have to be detectives, there are sites out there on the web that are very professional looking but that are totally bogus: they appear to be one thing but are really something else. In some cases it’s fairly easy to figure out, we can use sites like Whois to determine the ownership of a site or we can Google someone’s name. We need to get over the “authority of text,” the idea that because something appears in text means that it’s true, that is a notation from a by-gone era when there was a much bigger barrier to getting something into print, now anyone can have a webpage and self-publishing books is much more affordable than it once was. We have to look for clues as to information’s trustworthiness; otherwise we will be victims of every scam going.
A couple of points from Howard’s summing-up were particularly valuable:
• Regulate the way people consume on-line rather than what goes on on-line
• Keep up with the literacies, not the technologies

That was the first part of the workshop, in the second part we discussed questions that need to/should be answered for each of the components of the model, but that’s going to have to be another blog post.