Personal knowledge management (PKM) is a conceptual framework applicable to personal knowledge. It is about taking an individual responsibility towards one’s competencies in the community where one belongs, be it an enterprise, a professional group, an institution, a class, and so forth. PKM implies developing methods and skills in using software and hardware technologies specifically applied to knowledge. These ideas are capturing much attention and analysis, but there are no books about PKM. PKM is an emerging discipline that sometimes challenges the principles of KM (Knowledge Management), from which it descends. To understand PKM we need to consider first the concepts of knowledge and knowledge management. Some widely shared beliefs are the following: • Knowledge is so valued today that our society defines itself as a “ knowledge society”; • Knowledge management is not a technology or a software solution, it is a discipline; • We are able to make distinctions among different forms of knowledge, that is, explicit, tacit and implicit knowledge, and see their transformations.
Personal knowledge management (PKM) is a conceptual framework applicable to personal knowledge. It is about taking an individual responsibility towards one’s competencies in the community where one belongs, be it an enterprise, a professional group, an institution, a class, and so forth. PKM implies developing methods and skills in using software and hardware technologies specifically applied to knowledge. These ideas are capturing much attention and analysis, but there are no books about PKM. PKM is an emerging discipline that sometimes challenges the principles of KM (Knowledge Management), from which it descends.
To understand PKM we need to consider first the concepts of knowledge and knowledge management. Some widely shared beliefs are the following:
Knowledge is so valued today that our society defines itself as a “ knowledge society”;
Knowledge management is not a technology or a software solution, it is a discipline;
We are able to make distinctions among different forms of knowledge, that is, explicit, tacit and implicit knowledge, and see their transformations.
Even though we may share a global understanding, knowledge appears to be an unstable concept, continuously generating new waves of reflections as well as controversy (for an outstanding example of dissent see: “The Nonsense of Knowledge Management” by University of Sheffield Professor Emeritus T. D. Wilson (2002). One cause of change is the powerful effect that the new technologies (advanced ICTs, digital technologies, the Web, etc.) have induced in every domain where we apply cognition. Under the effect of technology, knowledge acquires a dynamic property and we can interpret it as a communicating system, a knowledge ecosystem (Community Intelligence Labs, 2000; WC3, 2006).
Knowledge Management vs. Personal Knowledge Management
To define KM let us look at the following two citations: the first, originally formulated in 1988, is by the renowned Karl Wiig, one of the founders of KM; the second is taken from a 1999 U.S. Army report:
The purpose of KM is the systematic, explicit, and deliberate building, renewal, and application of IC [Intellectual Capital] assets to maximize the enterprise’s knowledge-related effectiveness and the returns from these assets. (Wiig, 2004, p. 48)
Knowledge Management is an integrated, systematic approach to identifying, managing, and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets, including databases, documents, policies, and procedures, as well as previously unarticulated expertise and experience held by individual workers. (EI.pub, 2002)
These two statements well characterize what was, at the end of the past century, the prevailing interpretation of KM. At that time, the so-called “knowledge worker” existed only inside the enterprise (as in the ironic cartoon by Barsotti, Figure 1). KM was a corporate affair related to being competitive in business and was implemented as a set of practices with a top-down approach that exclusively favored corporate priorities. Personal Knowledge Management, instead, takes a different route.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Folksonomy: Folksonomy is a neologism, a word constructed by mimicing another word: “taxonomy”. A taxonomy is a hierarchical data structure whose purpose is to classify elements of a given domain: nature, science, knowledge, and so forth. Folksonomy indicates a trend of recent times, becoming almost a philosophy, that contrasts formal classification methods, because the definition and organization of the elements is based on the judgment and the concourse of generic “people” (folk), usually gathered in communities, and not of “authorities”.
Metadata: Metadata are data about data. A simple example is the label on a box, which tells “about” the content. Metadata used to belong just to the cultural domain of librarians but, since the Web, search engines and the “open knowledge” movement, it has become a concept much more widely known. Metadata are vital to retrieve data from repositories, namely the Web and are necessary to associate meaning (i.e., knowledge) to information. There are, unfortunately, many standards pretending to regulate metadata creation for digital content. One of a few to have some status is IEEE LOM (learning object metadata) (http://ltsc.ieee.org/wg12/).
News Aggregators, Feeds: The most used term for these items is actually RSS (or RSS feed), an acronym whose interpretation is uncertain, the most popular one being “really simple syndication”. A news aggregator is a software application that collects syndicated content from disparate sources and provides a single consolidated view. As a tool it is used in blogs and works like a reader, therefore it can also be referred to as a “feed reader”.
Relevance Engines: Relevance engines are advanced search engines emerging from recent developments in the field, aimed at improving the meaningfulness of search results. Looking for a piece of information is not a standard process. Selecting and interpreting the result of a search are activities whose outcome is deeply dependent on the mindset of the searcher and on the context of the operation. However, even the “best” search engines, for any given search, always give the very same result to different persons and in different situations. Instead, relevance engines, using special algorithms and different philosophies, attempt to take into account the specific parameters of a search, that is, its context. One engine, for instance, collects anthropological and professional data about the searcher and, based on them, proposes to focus the search on alternative knowledge domains. Another very clever engine, installed in the PC, continuously “watches” the activity of the user and, based on what he does, what tools he calls out, what material he manipulates, “speaks” in a side window. It provides, in real time, suggestions,, pointers to information, document excerpts and categories appropriate to the domain of “knowledge” that emerges in the working environment of the user. Relevant information is found without any need for a search.
Mobile Services: An expression to indicate generically all communication service that use radio waves, but currently more directly referring to wireless voice and video telephony, and wireless computer communications. Advanced mobile data services provide information and service based on the user geographical location obtained though the GPS (global positioning system).
IM (Instant Messaging): Instant messaging is real-time communication between remote correspondents over a network, typically the Internet. IM (text) services and tools are extremely popular and available on all kinds of computing devices. Modern IM software solutions offer many more features than just message transfer, such as presence management, correspondent management, conversation logs, file transfer and support of video and (asynchronous) voice mail. Synchronous voice messaging is known as “chat” and is also very popular.
Presence Management (PM): With people always on the move and hooked to anyone of the many communication devices available in our times, “reaching” one’s correspondent has become a vital necessity. PM tools give users control over how they appear on a communication link, for example on the online connection over the Internet. The most advanced tools are integrated with IM, attempt to cover all channels (e.g., including voice) and provide “status messages” that at each instant inform the external environment about the state of presence of the user.