Two years ago I began to consider the transformations happening in knowledge. Over the next few weeks I want to bring some of those old posts back, and consider how these transformations are happening and what might be on the horizon. This week: The Unbundling of Knowledge, originally published in June, 2010….
Right now there is lots of buzz out there about education and knowledge changing. From the iPad, to digital textbooks, to open source LMS’, to the “Open Letter to Educators” the conversation is happening. People are coming to a consensus that there is change going on and we are in the midst of a techno-knowledge revolution! Defining the extent of this revolution may be too nebulous to nail down, but we can begin to identify and talk about some of the aspects of the revolution.
On my wall, behind my computer screen is a sticky note: this ante-digital method of reminders, says simply: Unbundling Knowledge. This simple phrase reminds me that the concept of knowledge, the creation of content, the acquisition of knowledge and in some ways the very definition of knowledge are all undergoing a tremendous revolution. In today’s information age there is a rapid transition going on not only in education but in all facets of knowledge transfer. It is like a massive decentralization of everything. Granularization.
The way we interact with knowledge is changing. If you are one of the ones out here having this conversation you are likely already well aware of it. Knowledge and content creation are being decentralized at an ever increasing pace. The creators of content are no longer operating solely through traditional channels but rather through an exponential number of new mediums. Similarly, the consumers of knowledge are no longer relying strictly on traditional sources to provide that knowledge.
At its core the unbundling of knowledge to me means the separation of content and medium. For centuries the singular word book has meant both the content and the medium. With the dawn of the internet we began to see a divergence of these two roles, but the nascent technology was immature, and could not yet be trusted with something as material as real knowledge. Slowly though that has been changing, and while there remain plenty of meshuggeneh spewing their trash onto the internet, they have been joined by genuinely authoritative voices. Beginning with online learning management systems, education’s continuing emphasis on the internet has spread, building up the maturity and quality of the materials available online. The other day I found myself cruising Wikipedia while prepping a lecture on Soviet Stagnation in the 1970’s and I suddenly wondered in amazement, when did Wikipedia become (almost) trustworthy?
Into this landscape enters the current e-reader boom. Whether you are a Kindle lover, an iPad aficionado, or a sworn Luddite it is hard to deny the rapid advances that are being made in digital reading from hardware to content accessibility. Now the changes to knowledge that have spread through the internet are being increasingly taken mobile and are “going viral.” No longer is content available in one format, and in one time and place, but rather mobile and accessible. A person can start reading a new digital book on their iPad over the weekend, switch to reading it on their phone on the train to work, and pick up where they left off on their Kindle that evening, all without losing their place! The future of knowledge is anyway, anytime, anyplace. The power has returned to the consumer!
That makes this an exciting time and just the beginning of the conversation, so join in!