04 April 2008

The Medium and the Message

Aaarg! I fear another one of these "chicken and egg" issues...

Vanessa, a member of my KS workshop asked this critical question:
What is the relationship between knowing your audience and communicating to them? If we want to communicate results to policymakers, the private sector and donors... do we take a different approach for each stakeholder? do we change the medium or just the message?
The message has to be tailored to the audience, this I believe just from my own professional experience. FAO’s technical publications on climate change are not suited to children studying climate change in grade school. Research journals on climate change may not necessarily give policy makers information in a form they can use for decision making. The impact of climate change is different from the perspective of a local NGO versus an international organization.

Personally I have been frustrated for years now by the question "WHO?" is responsible for tailoring all the information that is already readily available to those who need it. I’ve come to the conclusion it is something of a rhetorical questions resulting from varying levels of understanding of KM/KS principles amongst users, unequal allocation of KS resources, and a history of an “if we build it they will come” attitude about information management, amongst other things. Does anyone have a different take on this?

As for methods, this also needs to be "appropriate" as was noted in our workshop’s conference call this morning when someone raised the issue of how a choice of tools could actually bias the outcome of an exercise. (The example was mapping software in which it is intrinsically easier to create hub-and-spoke type relationships over other forms of networks.)

Personally I find that working on a computer is not conducive to group work. I'm not being a Luddite here! I just observe that for some reason when a group is around a computer most people tend to sit back and observe while the one or two people with their hands on the mouse do most of the actual thinking. Whereas working on a big sheet of paper with post-its is something that everyone can interact with simultaneously and thus there is more collaborative thinking. The computer-based tools are more useful for iterative work.

First hand experiencing with these is what we really need to start making informed choices. Thank goodness for workshops like this one that I’m in. Networks of practitioners were also pointed out as good ways to get experience with some of the methods. For example:

This is a very complicate subject, and something I need to look into and learn more about with the help of my colleagues and friends.

1 comment:

Nancy White said...

I think the only rational answer is ALL OF US are responsible for helping each other make meaning. The days of assuming I can be the recipient only, taking no responsibility -- are over.

But alas, I'm also a dreamer! :-)