Knowledge Federation keywords

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By giving old words new meaning, we become able to speak in new ways and see differently.


Our key keywords


Try as we might, we were unable to find a more fitting word to express what knowledge federation is about.

To see why, revisit briefly in your mind the conditions at the twilight of the Middle Ages and the dawn of the Renaissance – the last time humanity resolved its seemingly unsolvable problems. Zoom in, more concretely, on Galileo imprisoned in his home, a century after Copernicus, whispering eppur si muove into his beard. Placing the Sun into the center of what we now call "the Solar system" was a comparatively small matter, which was for a long time ignored because it contradicted the prevailing "order of things". And yet when Newton showed how in this new "order of things" the behavior of the planets could be explained and precisely predicted with the help of mathematical models, the resulting way of exploring the world became the standard that guided the humanity through an unprecedented era of accelerated change. The seemingly hopeless problems of the time – both those practical ones such as the devastating religious wars and the ravaging plague, and those academic ones such as "how many angels can dance on a tip of a needle" – were resolved, or seen as irrelevant, by an entirely new way of thinking and being. And by evolving in a new way – culturally, technologically and socially.

We are now living in a closely similar time and condition. Our problems demand change. Our Galileos and Newtons have already had they say. The problem that remains is that we have not yet heard them. We live immersed in nonsensical noise which is mass-produced by advanced media technology.

Hence we attribute to the word paradigm two distinguishable meanings. We use it to point to the larger, socio-cultural "order of things" that is now ready to change, and must change. And also to the new academic or fundamental "order of things", in the way we think and create, how we organize and share knowledge, which must be in place to enable this larger order of things to emerge. Newton wrote, famously, that the reason that he could see a bit further than others was that he was standing on the shoulders of giants. We shall see in these pages that all we really need to do to make both the academic and the larger social and cultural paradigm shift is to once again "stand on the shoulders of giants" – because both changes have been well prepared by the leading thinkers of the 20th century.

What we are calling polyscopy is a prototype of the trigger, the academic paradigm. Knowledge federation is the activity of putting knowledge together, of giving it power to change our minds and our reality. Knowledge Federation is the prototype institution that can suitably organize us in doing that.


If the word paradigm may be too abstract and technical, we have another one that can replace it. We let the keyword elephant express nearly the same essence, while pointing still more clearly to the unusual situation we the people are now in.

The parable of the blind men and the elephant might be already familiar? Let the elephant represent the large cultural and social paradigm that now wants to emerge; let those blind men be the women and men who have already seen it. Those people are of course not blind, they are visionaries! But since the paradigm being invisible, because it hasn't materialized yet, each of them sees it from a specific angle of their field of interest, and talks about it differently.

This most useful keyword will also point to another reason why the paradigms so notoriously resist being seen. The training of baby elephants will here be most useful metaphor (here's how Rabi Ruben expressed it in Huffington Post), because it describes so accurately the way we humans to are being "socialized" – to express our social group's "order of things" as the reality (the sociologists have called this doxa).

The overall result is that, metaphorically speaking, there can be an "elephant in the room": A huge and powerful animal in the midst of a roomful of people, even truly smart and knowledgeable ones – something should normally be a breath-taking sensation, but which somehow incredibly remains unnoticed! While we shall see this phenomenon again and again, we here already point to the Doug Engelbart history (specifically his appearances at Google, and at Stanford University), as a spectacular exemplar, and the one that is in the domain where Knowledge Federation has its focus.

This brings us to the specific ways in which we, as Knowledge Federation, want to serve the emergence of the metaphorical elephant: First of all by materializing sufficient parts of it, so that it can be seen in its breathtaking magnificence! And further, by acting as dancing elephants – namely by manifesting the kind of freedom, and reasonableness, of departing from the obsolete forms of behavior to which we've been tied, so that a new 'order of things' can emerge through us and be put in place.


Order of things – AND the new epistemology.

Information design the corresponding way, the paradigm in informing.

Design epistemology – like Enlightenment and science – a spelled out, designed new way of establishing knowledge, the ... by expressing it as a convention, the design epistemology turns the constructivist credo into a new firm Archimedean point, a firm place to stand for the creation of knowledge that can move the world.

Systemic innovation

Roughly synonymous to design – but more suitable as a battle cry (design is already vastly used, or overused).

There can be no doubt that the very existence of "global issues" shows that something must have gone wrong with the very way in which we use our overgrown power to create and induce change. We use the keyword systemic innovation to point to not only to the quest for an incomparably safer and more effective and efficient way to innovate. Indeed, when properly understood, systemic innovation is one of the names for the new paradigm itself (another one being guided evolution of society, where we use information to draw benefits from it, to orient our action, or as Gregory Bateson liked to say, to make "a difference that makes a difference").


Polyscopy is a complete prototype of an informing (creation and use of information) or knowledge work that follows from design epistemology (i.e. that is developed on pragmatic premises, as it may best suit the contemporary needs of people and society, instead of being adopted from the past as a presumed way to "objective reality"). What might play the kind of role that the emergence of science brought to the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution? By building on the insights and work of giants (just as Newton did in his time), polyscopy is is offered as a complete prototype or model of a paradigm in work with knowledge or information – which can beget the larger societal paradigm shift.

Knowledge federation

By knowledge federation we mean the work of putting our knowledge together, so that we can see and understand whatever needs to be seen and understood; and various actions required for empowering knowledge (just as a political federation gives its units relative autonomy, while uniting them to give them power). Our conventional institutions notably the academic discipline being part of the problem, we adopted the name Knowledge Federation for the institution (technically a transdiscipline) that is capable of spearheading the praxis of knowledge federation. This name is suitable, because Knowledge Federation is a true federation of knowledge workers (they preserve their disciplinary and stakeholder identities, while coming together around a specific task, such as bringing together the knowledge of their discipline to empower the creation of a new body of knowledge, and a new line of activity.


Prototypes are characteristic results of polyscopy and of knowledge federation. An intervention into systemic reality, serving also as a model and an experiment.


Bootstrapping points to the action we – each of us individually – can and needs to do to step over from the old paradigm to contributing to the new one. The essential point is that as long as we use the old systemic structures – even to "find solutions to global issues" – we are still giving them power. Bootstrapping means being dancing elephants, it means manifesting and being "the systems we want to see in the world".

Glossary of keywords

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