Knowledge Federation history

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We have developed Knowledge Federation through a series of events, and by "standing on the shoulders of giants".

This historical introduction to emerging the paradigm will be done in two ways: (1) by tracing the development of knowledge federation as whatever has been needed to give knowledge the power to inform or guide our decisions, and our evolution; and (2) by outlining the development and the activities of Knowledge Federation, as an initiative to self-organize in a way that may boost this development, by give it a suitable institution and the kind of quality, support, visibility and impact that the traditional academic disciplines enjoy.

A look at the former will, we expect, be a shock to the uninitiated: How can it be that such a central issue – after having been identified as strategically central by visionary thinkers of highest authority, who also of course worked on it and gave us a head start – could have remained virtually ignored in our time? By looking into this question we shall readily discover a large blind spot in our social psychology, which is central to understanding of the paradoxical dynamic of paradigm shifts – and most central for understanding our contemporary civilizational entanglement, and seeing what we must do. And we shall also see – most importantly – that in this large civilizational shadow equally large opportunities for contribution, merit and improvement have remained unrecognized and unexplored.

A look at the latter will then allow us to see what exactly can be done – and is being done – to manifest those opportunities.

Highlights from the history of knowledge federation

What we are calling knowledge federation has of course been a core activity in the development of our civilization. We shall, however, limit our story to a handful of vignettes from our more recent history, which – when properly understood – will appear to a rational person as incredible or even surreal.

The fact that already in 1945 Vannevar Bush – speaking from the position of scientific strategist par excellence (having from the position of the MIT dean been chosen to lead the entire US WW2 scientific effort) – identified knowledge federation as the key strategic scientific issue, that the scientists would need to focus on and resolve.

One of them is to trace the development of

It is indeed most remarkable that already at the even of the World War II, the scientific strategist par excellence Vannevar Bush wrote that – the war having been won – there remained one more strategically central issue that the scientists needed to focus on and resolve – and pointed to (what we are calling) knowledge federation.

It is indeed no less remarkable that the contemporary knowledge media have to a large degree being conceived as an enabling technology for knowledge federation – by Douglas Engelbart and his lab, who read Bush and understood the importance of this matter, and the magnitude of the contribution to human knowledge that might result.

We should not fail to mention also Buckminster Fuller, the visionary designer, who saw technology-enabled collaboration as what remained to be done in order to end the era of scarcity-based competition and begin the era of abundance.

We could continue by talking about other visionaries who saw the same light, but this should already be sufficient to make our point – that knowledge federation is indeed an "idea whose time has come".

So here is how Knowledge Federation has been developed.

Highlights from the history of Knowledge Federation

The coming together of the Knowledge Federation transdiscipline was initiated at Topic Maps Research and Applications conference in Leipzig in 2007, when Jack Park gathered a small group of us, and wrote us this in retrospect historical email:


The idea was perfectly ready to be manifested.

We here list the events chronologically, so that they compose a coherent history of KF.

  • Knowledge Federation Workshop IUC Dubrovnik 2008 Charting knowledge media tools and approaches The first Knowledge Federation workshop brough together a small multinational group of knowledge media researchers, who gathered to chart the existing technical tools and approaches and to begin a community. It became clear to us that the technology that we and our colleagues were developing had potential to revolutionize knowledge work; but that the critical task that remained was the corresponding change of practice. That task required that we organize ourselves differently, and develop a different way of working.
  • Knowledge Federation Workshop IUC Dubrovnik 2010 Initiating a transdiscipline At the Second Knowledge Federation Workshop, knowledge media researchers were joined by a transdisciplinary community of academics, field specialists and other stakeholders (see Knowledge Federation community). The participants were invited to perceive themselves not as individuals pursuing a career in a certain discipline or profession, but as cells in a collective- and at the limit global mind; and to begin to self-organize as it might suit this larger role. The title of this workshop was "Self-Organizing Collective Mind."
  • Knowledge Federation Workshop at Triple Helix IX, Stanford University, July 2011 Enabling systemic innovation Subsequent self-organization enabled us to report—at our next workshop, which Knowledge Federation organized within the Triple Helix IX international conference at Stanford University—our vision that the IT innovation was about to expand in scale from its conventional focus on technology, to the design of key socio-technical systems (systemic innovation). By its organizational structure and way of working, Knowledge Federation has been evolving as it might be needed to enable systemic innovation.
  • Knowledge Federation Workshop Belgrade 2011 Charting the foundations frontier Systemic innovation gives us the possibility to continue the age-old search for the right approach to knowledge in a completely new way — by treating the social creation of truth and worldview as a socio-technical system, and by creating a transdiscipline that will evolve it continuously. A goal of our Belgrade workshop was to consolidate this aspect of our work.
  • Knowledge Federation Workshop Barcelona 2011 Co-Creating an Innovation Ecosystem for Good Journalism At our workshop in Barcelona, systemic innovation was applied to journalism. The researchers that convened formed an ad-hoc transdiscipline (or 'innovation ecosystem'). This transdiscipline drafted a model public informing that represented a clear paradigm shift.
  • Knowledge Federation Workshop Palo Alto 2012 Co-Creating The Game-Changing Game After the Barcelona workshop the journalists returned to their editorial desks and researchers to their courses. The challenge of changing the practice still remained. It became increasingly clear that the people that will embody the new systemic structures will need to be the ones whose life and career condition supports such moves — such as students and entrepreneurs. This insight led to the ZIG Project, through which the prototype drafted in Barcelona is being practically realized; and to The Game-Changing Game as a generic procedure by which practice can be changed. A prototype of The Game-Changing Game was completed at our recent workshop in Palo Alto, and presented at Bay Area Future Salon on July 16, 2012.
  • The Club of Zagreb Inaugural Meeting Europe House Zagreb, September 27, 2012. The Club of Zagreb is a creative redesign of The Club of Rome. The focus on understanding global issues is replaced by the focus on implementing key systemic improvements, through systemic innovation and The Game-Changing Game. The members act as mentors, patrons, sponsors and inspirational figures, empowering young people to co-create the world they will want to live in.
  • Knowledge Federation Workshop Dubrovnik 2012 Knowledge Media for a Living Society Inter University Centre Dubrovnik, September 30 - October 3, 2012. Creating 'a living society'— a society capable of seeing, adapting and evolving — is a natural application domain for knowledge media. It is also a natural, and arguably necessary, approach to 'sustainability', 'thrivability' or more traditionally 'pursuit of happiness' . The goals of the Knowledge Federation 2012 workshop in Dubrovnik were to consolidate the work on this frontier further, through theoretical contributions and real-life redesigns in science, education and health.
  • Knowledge Federation Course 2012 Systemic Innovation for Collective Creativity. University Centre Dubrovnik, September 30 - October 6, 2012. When the goal is to create a 'living society' – capable of adapting and evolving – then education – whose potential is to re-create the world with every new generation – naturally plays a key role. Through this course Knowledge Federation is developing an educational project that consistently re-designs the conventional educational model, toward making education a key factor in society's continued self-renewal. In the early 1950s, when the few computers that existed were number crunching behemoths, Douglas Engelbart dared to dream about networked computers enabling people to think together and resolve increasingly complex contemporary issues. This first Knowledge Federation international course brought together a group of international students and knowledge media and collective intelligence experts, to make critical steps towards realizing this vision.
  • Launching the Program for the Future Challenge At Googleplex in Mountain View, on December 9, 2013, in collaboration with Program for the Future (KF and PFTF seem to be becoming two brands of a single community of people), Knowledge Federation launched the Program for the Future Challenge – an international 'uncompetition' to continue and complete Doug Engelbart's unfinished revolution: “Many years ago, I dreamed that people were talking seriously about the potential of harnessing a technological and social nervous system to improve the IQ of our various organizations. What if, suddenly, in an evolutionary sense, we evolved a super new nervous system to upgrade our collective social organisms? Then I dreamed that we got strategic and began to form cooperative alliances of organizations, employing advanced networked computer tools and methods to develop and apply new collective knowledge.”
  • Launching the Authentic Hercegovina Project In its workshop at the Infiniti Heritage Seminar 2-14 on October 18 2014 in Mostar, Knowledge Federation with collaborators launched the Authentic Hercegovina project will continue and complement the Mostar 2004 post-war revitalization project, by revitalizing the economy and culture. From the point of view of systemic innovation, the Authentic Hercegovina project implements and showcases this simple and elegant idea: Information technology can now enable a different, authentic approach to tourism and travel; an approach that supports authentic, local economies and cultures, promotes authentic meeting of people and cultures and exchange of vital memes. In a nutshell, we are developing a technology-enabled business model that uses the technology that led to globalization — to reverse the negative consequences of globalization.
  • Knowledge Federation Workshop Dubrovnik 2014 When everything has been said and done, the key challenge still remains — to begin to realize Doug's vision, by beginning a systemic change toward collective intelligence, not just in a community that's been created for that purpose, but in the existing knowledge-work organs and tissues; and in a way and in a place where it can scale... Such an opportunity has presented itself when the International Society for the Systems Sciences undertook to self-organize toward becoming collectively intelligent — an initiative curated by Alexander Laszlo as ISSS President, around and during the ISSS 57 yearly conference in Haiphong, Vietnam. At the KF Workshop Dubrovnik 2014, with Alexander as co-director, and a suitably chosen mix of participants, the stage was set for discovering the profound potential for impact of this way of working, and to self-organize toward helping this most timely initiative develop and scale, and become a state-of-the-art project and showcase of academic and more broadly knowledge-work self-organization.
  • Tesla and the Nature of Creativity (TNC) 2015 A scientist reaches a result that has the potential to impact a number of fields and our culture at large; but his findings are written in the inaccessible vernacular of quantum physics. By federating Prof. Dejan Raković's research about the nature of creativity, we at the same time developed a showcase of knowledge federation in practice.
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