It's a great pleasure to be able to talk with you today on knowledge ecologies and international security, an area of great interest to me. Let me note that the work presented today is based in research and practice conducted with a team of international scholars, including Chris Pallaris, Helene Lavoix and David Bray, among others known to people in this room. To have command over increasingly complicated social, political, economic and environmental challenges, fragmentary knowledge, or rather the simple accumulation of basic research is inadequate. International affairs professionals operating in government, academia and the private sector are progressively more aware that access to, and the blending of, interdisciplinary policy-related knowledge is critical to effective problem solving and decision-making. But how can one do so effectively?
By extension, knowledge ecologies can be seen as a discourse that takes place within a physical or virtual institution. And just as an ecology is made up of a diversity of inter-connected organisms, minerals and processes that evolve according to their environment, so too does a knowledge ecology consist of a diversity of interdependent and interconnected technologies, processes, entities, strategies, tools, methodologies and communities that adapt to changing circumstances (Young, 2007). Inevitably, the greater the diversity of knowledge, the greater the ecology's adaptability and its resilience to external shock. IR scholar, as to anyone active in a wide-ranging field, knowledge ecologies consist of the individuals, institutions and ideas that contribute to the production, collection, analysis, disputation, management, distribution and consumption of research or policy-relevant knowledge
Technology is the primary driver behind the creation of dynamic web-based ecosystems. The explosion of user-generated content, coupled with the dialectic process of data synthesis and atomization is allowing us to identify patterns and relationships between different disciplines and ideas, which in turn foster new cognitive and semantic approaches to long-standing global problems.Knowledge ecosystems need not invest in expensive technology in order to develop community. In fact, studies show that some of the least costly technologies have proven to be the most fruitful; investments in outreach to potential community members is more critical. Technology is also empowering the architectures of participation, communication and collaboration. The languages we use to address global challenges are also evolving, albeit at different paces. English is universally acknowledged as the lingua franca of international affairs, and for good reason. A shared language augments shared cognition and the search for common solutions to problems such as climate change and weapons proliferation. Knowledge is invariably a social construct. As ideas jump from one community to another, and from one country or region to the next, they must adapt to prevailing social circumstances if they are to have any currency
Further to the above, the present decade can be called the “open decade” (open source, open systems, open standards, open archives, open everything) just as the 1990s were called the “electronic” decade (e-text, e-learning, e-commerce, e-governance) But as Peters the decade of openness has been accompanied by a change of philosophy and ethos that has transformed the marketplace of ideas and the modes of production, collaboration and participation. The drive towards ever-increasing transparency and openness is essential not just to scientific inquiry and progress, but also to the healthy functioning of democracy. However to create an open scientific culture that embraces new online tools, two challenging tasks must be achieved: (1) build superb online tools; and (2) cause the cultural changes necessary for those tools to be accepted.
Knowledge ecologies are alerting participants not only to the theoretical trends shaping their disciplines, but also to the practical skills they must acquire in order to succeed. Looked at differently, knowledge ecologies operate as biological sensors, alerting their constituents to the properties they must adopt to ensure their relevance and survival. Leveraging knowledge and experience into a process of continuous learning and thoughtful reflection moves us toward insight. Changing work patterns are a consequence of the organizational and cultural changes outlined above. A virtual think tank can work on a perpetual cycle of data collection and analysis. Field research need not be packaged into edited volumes (whose utility to the international studies community may be negligible by the time they reach the library’s bookshelf). Similarly, insights gleaned from the morning’s headlines need not wait for a conference paper or presentation. Assumptions, hypotheses, opinions and facts can be uploaded to the web and scrutinized in near real time by individuals populating the same knowledge ecologies Knowledge ecologies are emerging thanks to our individual and collective desire to know. Their advocates are noted for the passion with which they consume and discuss ideas from disparate fields. Indeed, the local and global contexts within which knowledge ecologies evolve necessitate greater intelligence, awareness and understanding on the part of its members. Thus, knowledge ecologies are expeditionary in nature; they are inspired by the prospect of discovery and shaped through exploration (Mason et al., 2003). As they become smarter, so too do they become more capable and effective..
Today’s knowledge dynamics will continue to undermine traditional power structures. Knowledge ecologies demonstrate how ideas, insights and opinions flow to where they best needed or appreciated. No doubt, this will shape the loyalties of those who have knowledge to contribute. The maverick policymaker may find more use for his or her ideas in an ecology of strangers than in the stilted environment they work in. Thus, knowledge ecologies will become marketplaces for ideas and cohesive mechanisms of change for institutions and professions.
Knowledge ecologies are both a compliment to, and the successor of, traditional knowledge management (KM) approaches. KM remains a powerful enabler of organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Its value is all too apparent to those organizations that have succeeded in implementing effective KM practices. Regrettably, most have failed to do so, assuming that solutions lie in the technologies they adopt rather than the people they employ. However, no discipline stands still for too long. Knowledge ecologies are slowly supplanting knowledge management as the principle by which the international studies community will increasingly marshal its knowledge assets. In an era of discontinuous change, it is necessary to move beyond technological frameworks designed around predictive rules of engagement to complex adaptive systems engineered to anticipate surprise Put differently, knowledge ecologies move towards adaptation while knowledge management systems tend toward optimization. The former enables responsiveness; the latter inevitably spells redundancy. And whereas knowledge management seeks to harness know-how and know-what, knowledge ecologies provide the context and enables trust and collaboration.
These ecologies are emerging as a result of a turbulent international environment. According to Dumaine (2008), this environment is characterized by: The emergence of non-state actors as drivers of global security challenges The proliferation of alternative information sources and communication tools The unpredictability and volatility of world events The blurring of foreign and domestic issues Greater complexity and interconnectedness in the physical and virtual environments we inhabit Asymmetries affecting strategy and conflict Organizational disabilities Managing these challenges requires as yet unseen levels of research, cooperation, coordination, and information sharing at the international, regional and national level (Nielsen, 2008). The basis for much of this will inevitably be realized online. The services we examine below demonstrate some of the macro-characteristics outlined above. As time passes, we suspect they will evolve into fully-fledged ecologies dedicated to leveraging the insights and expertise of their users.
in 2007 the United States Department of Energy’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence established an Energy and Environmental Security Directorate, which initiated several international meetings aimed at developing a new business model better suited to the nontraditional challenges posed by the energy-environmentcomplex adaptive system. The resulting international team has taken several steps toward the development of an energy and environmental strategic ecosystem ~EESE – to cultivate the connections across traditional boundaries that are necessary to produce strategic foresight. The ecosystem is not intended to replace traditional intelligence activity, but rather to augment it.
In contrast to traditional gathering of intelligence, the EESE was an attempt to create an international strategic foresight ecosystem where a diverse community of physical and social scientists, engineers, security analysts, and other professionals can connect to initiate ideas and coalesce key concepts from the vast amount of data available about any energy and environmental issue. This was planned as a bottom-up, grassroots approach to cultivating knowledge that could influence both individual awareness and effectiveness, as well as organizational responsiveness and adaptation. As such it provided a space to combine and make sense from knowledge fragments and a framework for management, creation, and transfer of knowledge.
By analogy, in a successful biological ecosystem, genes mutate, organisms are selected, and populations evolve. in a successful economy, business plans are generated, businesses succeed or fail, and a global economy emerges. EESE was made with planned with three phases: 1. A random phase, in which individuals contribute observations, ideas, and in- novative insights. 2. A selection and growth phase, in which individuals engage in open discussion and consider alternative viewpoints; participants examine issues both in depth within a discipline and also across disciplines. 3. An emergent or organization and amplification phase, in which “cultivators” span multiple group discussions to develop insights from the two earlier phases into adaptive foresight and enhanced situational understanding products for policy makers. For EESE, isolated areas of expertise and knowledge across disciplines will connect in the selection and growth phase. Organization and amplification occur as knowledge, ideas, and insight meld into collective analyses that will contain a spectrum of views rather than a misleading single answer or singular perspective. Sensemaking and meaningful foresight are emergent properties of the ecosystem, cultivated at the group/collective level. More participants commenting will lead to coarser granularity of the analysis, and failed attempts to disprove an idea will strengthen it.
Contributions will be provided, and either supported or not, by a wide variety of participants who typically do not envision themselves as security analysts. The eco- system process, which may involve reputation or evaluation rankings, can help overcome several typical disadvantages of individual contributors to collective ef- forts, such as the following: 1. An individual typically observes only fragments of phenomena and then de- velops a theory about the underlying factors that may have caused the events. This can sometimes lead to an illusion of understanding, when an individual actually may not fully understand the phenomena. An ecosystem approach can bring a fuller awareness and collective insight. 2. Memes are the fundamental building blocks or ideas of social systems, func- tioning similarly to genes in a biological system. Any meme or idea changes and modifies as it is transmitted, with some gaining an unjustifiable initial advantage or disadvantage The ecosystem can negate this effect, letting innovative ideas and approaches be heard equally. 3. Policy makers strive for the larger picture but are often focused on the “what and how” and not the bigger question of “why” In contrast, individual contributors tend to be spe- cialists who contribute to the bigger pic- ture. The ecosystem will bring policy makers and analysts into a common forum, leading to the sharing of deeper questions and views across disciplines and improved contextual awareness.
4. As individuals put ideas and events into a narrative, they will likely be selective and impose their own order. The resulting story then changes how both the analyst and reader make sense of sub- sequent information. This may lead in- dividuals to formulate a cause when the underlying process is not understood and can cause individuals to “herd.” The ecosystem can break this cycle by changing the interaction dynamics. 5. Individual analysts and historians tend toward monocausal explanations in a CAS. Although one event is occasionally a tip- ping point, a systems perspective provides a more complete explanation. In analyzing the various historical explanations for the fall of Rome, no single explanation reveals the whole story and that only an analysis of all individual explanations presents a complete picture. The ecosystem approach encourages a systems approach. 6. Individuals sometimes focus on previous experience, both successful solutions and discarded ideas, when addressing a new problem. These legacy thoughts can preclude con- sideration of new original ideas or of accepting the reality that some events are not explainable with available information. The collective knowledge in the ecosystem has potential to expose and mitigate this problem.
7. In the United States, 16 different intelligence agencies are in- volved in national security, spending over $43 billion each year with only 10% devoted to analysis and making sense of collected data. With energy and envi- ronmental security, the problems are now global and more complex, entail even more abundant information, and re- quire greater emphasis on analysis. A bottom-up approach can provide a basis for connecting across boundaries, link- ing fragments of information, and fill- ing knowledge gaps. 8.Contributors or intelligent consum- ers can intentionally provide incorrect and misleading information in an at- tempt to influence the system through deception. Self-policing efforts on Wiki- pedia.org and more formal peer-review processes of academic journals have been successful in using internal participants to review contributions, thereby reduc- ing the opportunity for successful mis- information efforts. The EESE will have a self-policing function.
Knowledge Ecologies and International Security <ul><li>Sean S. Costigan </li></ul><ul><li>Visiting Fellow </li></ul><ul><li>Institute of Foreign Policy Studies </li></ul><ul><li>University of Calcutta </li></ul>
Knowledge Ecologies and International Security <ul><li>Defining Our Subject </li></ul><ul><li>Knowledge ecologies can be seen as a discourse that takes place within a physical or virtual institution consisting of a diversity of interdependent and interconnected technologies, processes, entities, strategies, tools, methodologies and communities that adapt to changing circumstances </li></ul>
Knowledge Ecologies and International Security <ul><li>Drivers </li></ul><ul><li>Technology </li></ul><ul><li>Language and Understanding </li></ul><ul><li>Societal Context </li></ul>
Knowledge Ecologies and International Security <ul><li>Drivers </li></ul><ul><li>The Virtues of Openness </li></ul>
Knowledge Ecologies and International Security <ul><li>Drivers </li></ul><ul><li>The Convergence of Work and Learning </li></ul><ul><li>Changing Work Patterns </li></ul><ul><li>The Culture of Knowing </li></ul>
Knowledge Ecologies and International Security <ul><li>Drivers </li></ul><ul><li>Shifting Lines of Power and Authority </li></ul>
Knowledge Ecologies and International Security <ul><li>Ecologies as the Evolution of Knowledge Management </li></ul><ul><li>KM remains a powerful enabler of organizational efficiency and effectiveness, but it is necessary to move beyond technological frameworks designed around predictive rules of engagement to complex adaptive systems engineered to anticipate surprise </li></ul>
Knowledge Ecologies and International Security <ul><li>Knowledge Ecologies in Practice </li></ul><ul><li>A number of international affairs-related websites can be identified as emerging knowledge ecologies. While they may have started life as static web services, they are beginning to demonstrate many of the macro-elements noted above. </li></ul>
Knowledge Ecologies and International Security <ul><li>A Core Challenge: Can Knowledge Ecologies Help Mitigate or Avert Disaster? </li></ul>Can that goal be met if the complex connections and dependencies of the issues involved are revealed and if there is a social network to connect isolated areas of expertise and knowledge in order to fully understand and visualize the problems and consequences to leaders and policy makers?
Knowledge Ecologies and International Security <ul><li>Contrasting with Tradition </li></ul>The mitigation or averting of disaster if the complex connections and dependencies of the issues involved can be revealed and if there is a social network to connect isolated areas of expertise and knowledge in order to fully understand and visualize the problems and consequences to leaders and policy makers.
Knowledge Ecologies and International Security <ul><li>Planning for Change: Three Phases </li></ul><ul><li>Random Phase </li></ul><ul><li>Selection and Growth Phase </li></ul><ul><li>Emergent or organization and amplification phase </li></ul>
Knowledge Ecologies and International Security <ul><li>Improving Outcomes: An Ecosystems Approach </li></ul><ul><li>Individuals are limited in what they know </li></ul><ul><li>All ideas and contributors are not equal </li></ul><ul><li>Contributors have role specific blinders </li></ul>
Knowledge Ecologies and International Security <ul><li>Improving Outcomes: An Ecosystems Approach </li></ul><ul><li>All individual have biases </li></ul><ul><li>A systems perspective is missing. </li></ul><ul><li>Individuals are influenced by their experience. </li></ul>
Knowledge Ecologies and International Security <ul><li>Improving Outcomes: An Ecosystems Approach </li></ul><ul><li>Increasing fragmentation leads to knowledge gaps </li></ul><ul><li>Intentional deceit produces flawed analyses. </li></ul>