The world is run by ideas - sometimes by good ideas. In this post I’ll talk about some of the ideas and authors that have influenced the design of Note Academy, and opened my eyes to the possibilities of information economy and how it will change the world for the better.
1. The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom ( Yochai Benkler )
Link to Amazon.com
This is a massive book - Professor Benkler spent years working on it. After he was done, he gave it away for free. You can go read the whole book, or download it, at his website:
One of the big themes of Wealth of Networks is analyzing exactly this kind of behavior - peer-production, open software movement - people acting what at least on a surface seems to be against the common assumptions about economic behavior. For example, not only are people in the open software movement producing better software, they are doing it with less resources, and for free. This would never work in theory - it only works in practice.
For sure, starting a successful peer-production or crowdsourcing effort is not easy. I believe it all starts with the people in the community - what motivates and drives people to act. This is a puzzle that Note Academy needs to crack. I believe it’s a mix of things: a sense of mission - doing something extraordinarily great that really matters - as well as a other intrinsic and extrinsic motivations that vary from people to people. If we can get this right, success will follow. But it might take a few attempts to get it right.
2. Everything is Miscellaneous - The Power of New Digital Disorder ( David Weinberger )
Link to Amazon.com
Whereas in the physical form, one piece of information needs to be in it’s “place” - whether it’s a bookshelf number, a course, a university department - in the new digital (dis)order information takes flight and begins to swarm into new forms. David Weinberger’s excellent book explains what exactly has taken place and how it will change the way we use information - and perceive the world around us.
3. Here Comes Everybody - How Change Happens When People Come Together ( Clay Shirky )
Link to Amazon.com
Does organizing require organizations? Shirky’s book shows that, thanks to new information technology, organizing - even on a massively large scale - doesn’t necessarily require ‘traditional’ organizations any more. There are many reasons for this. Mainly, the costs of organizing have come down, while the adaptation of new technology makes it possible to imagine completely new ways for people to come together and work on a common goal. Understanding these new forms of group dynamics and collaboration lies at the heart of understanding what is happening in the internet - and the world - today.
4. The Use of Knowledge in a Society ( Friedrich von Hayek )
I saved the best one for the last. Professor Hayek was a man of big ideas, way ahead of his time. In this article, published in 1945, he brilliantly points out how economic order or economic planning is not merely a question of allocating resources, but indeed about coordinating knowledge. The essay is available for example at:
“The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess. The economic problem of society is thus not merely a problem of how to allocate “given” resources … it is a problem of the utilization of knowledge which is not given to anyone in its totality." - Friedrich von Hayek
Hayek’s critical observation is none the less true in the information economy. For example, in online education it is not enough to produce and allocate teaching and education resources - the challenge is also about understanding how to coordinate the dispersed knowledge - that is, how to signal in an efficient way what should be learned, or where can this information be found.
In tomorrow’s post I’ll write about project management - what’s the roadmap for the coming weeks.
- Jari Kuikanmäki