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Mapping Knowledge Nodes, Networks, and Domains


© 2006 Donald M. Norris, Jon Mason, and Paul Lefrere. The text of this article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/).

EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 41, no. 5 (September/October 2006)

Donald M. Norris, Jon Mason, and Paul Lefrere
Donald M. Norris is President of Strategic Initiatives, Inc., a management consulting firm in Herndon, Virginia. Jon Mason is Director of InterCog Pty Ltd., a knowledge industry consultancy in Adelaide, Australia, and Editor for the e-Framework for Education and Research initiative. Paul Lefrere is Senior Lecturer with the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University in the United Kingdom and Professor of eLearning at the University of Tampere in Finland. Comments on this article can be sent to the authors at dmn@strategicinitiatives.com, jon@intercog.net, and p.lefrere@open.ac.uk.

As recently as the year 2000, the phrases in the title of this article were the province of professional librarians, knowledge managers, and other information intermediaries, as well as researchers interested in how to map knowledge of different kinds and in different locations. Since that time, tools suitable for mass knowledge use have emerged. These tools have changed the nature of the power relationships for creating, sharing, and using knowledge. They have also empowered people who, in 2000, were typically not “power users” of knowledge tools (academics, students, researchers, and employees in commercial enterprises) so that today they are able to use mass-market tools to identify, map, exploit, and contribute to their own sources of knowledge, in ways that suit their preferences, resources, and needs.

To illustrate, today those groups would use radically different, social-computing tools, such as CiteULike, to find out who recommends an article, what terms they use to describe it, what else they see as relevant, and other characteristics. The change from 2000 to now can best be appreciated by comparing a 2000-style citation of an article—Wayne G. Lutters, Mark S. Ackerman, James Boster, and David W. McDonald, “Mapping Knowledge Networks in Organizations: Creating a Knowledge Mapping Instrument,” Proceedings of the Americas Conference on Information Systems (AMCIS) (Atlanta, Ga.: Association for Information Systems, 2000), pp. 2014–18—with its Flickr-influenced citation today: http://www.citeulike.org/user/styliani/article/746110.

End-users now have a widening range of no-cost/low-cost Web-based tools for mapping and creating knowledge. These tools enable users to identify and link to their peers and identify and validate sources of expertise and insights that they can share. Of course, the emergence of such tools does not signify that breakthroughs have been made in the philosophy of knowledge, in hermeneutics, in cross-cultural understandings, or even in the development of ontologies. Those and other issues dealing with the nature of knowledge and wisdom remain unresolved and will not be discussed further here. The purpose of this article is much narrower: to provide a primer on the terms used by the developers and early adopters of the knowledge tools that are now emerging for the mass of users.

Where Knowledge Lives and Grows

What are the different places and conditions in which knowledge resides and expands? Consider the following set of destinations, the names and definitions of which we have drawn from common usage.

Knowledge domains are the places where knowledge resides in particular industries, fields of endeavor, academic disciplines, subdisciplines, or even personal knowledge collections. Knowledge domains consist of both tacit and explicit knowledge resources and cultural artifacts. They accommodate knowledge in all its forms and flows, encompassing the products of both knowledge nodes and knowledge networks. Making sense of, understanding, and leveraging the elements of knowledge domains will be a core competency of individuals and enterprises that succeed in achieving the benefits of e-knowledge commerce.

Knowledge networks represent knowledge as potentiality and flow. They are the domain of active and latent connections for the ongoing conversations that reveal the rapidly changing, tacit knowledge that provides deep, current meaning. Examples include the formal and informal communities of practice associated with particular industries, trades, philanthropies, and academic disciplines. Many knowledge networks routinely embrace the use of blogs, wikis, and informal communities of interest associated with multi-player games.

Knowledge repositories are knowledge nodes that house particular collections of explicit knowledge resources and, where appropriate, provide authorized, authenticated access to those collections and resources. Without adequate services or access interfaces, repositories may be little more than “dumb” containers that store static information.

Knowledge registries link to the knowledge resources contained in knowledge repositories and provide directory services to them, creating value simply by providing this linked access. A new generation of interoperable knowledge repositories and registries is being enabled using SCORM/CORDRA standards.1

Knowledge exchanges or knowledge marketplaces have a higher degree of functionality than repositories through enabling the generation of value. They accumulate knowledge resources from a variety of sources and provide the processes, policies, practices, and rules necessary to support the aggregation of both supply and demand. They support e-knowledge commerce involving these resources.

E-knowledge portals provide authorized, authenticated access both to repositories of explicit knowledge and to the conversations in communities of practice that yield continuously changing, tacit insight. The new generation of e-knowledge portals supports e-learning and e-knowledge commerce involving both tacit and explicit knowledge resources and is supported by an emerging, services-enabled infrastructure. In an interesting recent trend, the developers of some of the new services are sharing their know-how via explanatory documentation, which offers sufficient details of how and why those services are put together for users to create personalized versions of each service. In the future, enterprise knowledge tools will incorporate these new services and associated explanatory capabilities.

Next-generation knowledge exchanges and marketplaces will likely include an e-knowledge portal layer to enrich their offerings and to link node-and network-based knowledge assets in particular knowledge domains.

Knowledge Nodes and Networks

In our 2003 EDUCAUSE Review article “A Revolution in Knowledge Sharing,” we described the constellations of knowledge nodes and networks that were then emerging and evolving to create, nurture, and array knowledge resources and experiences.2 Since that time, these constellations have grown more complex and pervasive. In particular, knowledge networks have continued to create new patterns and capabilities. Whereas the focus in 2003 was on knowledge nodes and formal knowledge collections and aggregations, since that time the balance has shifted to knowledge networks and social software tools that have empowered individuals and communities to create, assimilate, and share knowledge. Examples include Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/), a service that offers vast storage capability for users’ personal digital photos while also stimulating the emergence of networks of the users who store and share their images.

Community networks have formed for sharing knowledge through conversations about problems. Examples include MetaFilter (http://www.metafilter.com/), which allows unstructured descriptions of each problem, and Experts Exchange (http://www.experts-exchange.com/), which requires relatively structured descriptions of each problem. Information in the former is entered by community members using whatever terms that they determine, analogous to the user-determined tags that are attached to each photo in the Flickr digital photo service.

The term social software has been used to describe the fundamental insight that in addition to their core functional capabilities, technologies can serve as social multipliers, enhancing users’ capacities to collaborate and to form communities. Vicki Suter, Bryan Alexander, and Pascal Kaplan point out that social software has been defined variously as a tool for augmenting social and collaborative capabilities, as a medium for facilitating information exchange, and as an ecology for enabling a “system of people, practices, values, and technologies in a particular local environment.”3 Part of the allure of open knowledge resource communities lies in the intrinsic power and value of social knowledge environments. Participants glean social, personal/developmental, and knowledge/professional value from their engagement.

Table 1 summarizes these constellations of resources and relationships. Vertical collections of resources represent knowledge in a particular discipline or subdiscipline. Horizontal collections represent a range of disciplines or types of knowledge.

Global Search Registries

The availability of free, sophisticated search engines has provided individuals, as well as other services, with the capacity (or the perception of it) to access all the knowledge in the world. These are global and horizontal, covering all disciplines/domains. This availability has dramatically changed how individuals find out about a person or a subject or fulfill some other information need. Google has emerged as the marketplace leader, followed by Yahoo!, Microsoft, and others. In their current generation, these applications have three shortcomings: (1) they do not adequately differentiate bits of knowledge as to quality, often providing users with too many choices and much unvetted information; (2) they do not offer immediate insight to the ideas emerging from the proliferating web of blogs and other knowledge networks; and (3) they cannot be tailored to meet specific needs to the same degree as can special-purpose sites.

In the future, additional “smart desktop” functionality will improve the capabilities of Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and other search engines. However, it is likely that special-purpose e-knowledge portals in particular knowledge domains will provide the most authoritative source of vetted knowledge, combining insights from knowledge nodes and networks. For example, Google Scholar is yet to demonstrate or deliver the kind of value that will be required in many knowledge domains—but it does point the way forward.

Institutional or Disciplinary Knowledge Repositories/Digital Libraries

Digital libraries of various kinds are transforming the academic landscape. Many institutions, systems, and collaborations are creating repositories. Others have been formed in particular academic disciplines. The institutional repositories are local/regional and horizontal across all disciplines. Examples include the National Science Digital Library, Ohio State University Knowledge Bank, and the University of California System eScholarship Repository. A noteworthy current example is ARROW (Australian Research Repositories Online to the World), which combines proprietary and open-source software (VITAL, Fedora, Open Journal Services) and is currently being used at Monash University, University of New South Wales, Swinburne University of Technology, and the National Library of Australia.

The disciplinary repositories are global and vertical. Examples include the Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE).

The content and the context of institutional repositories have the capacity to be highly complex, thus taxing the knowledge-support capacity of most colleges and universities. Erv Blythe and Vinod Chachra point out that institutional repositories need to be broad in scope to cover the full range of knowledge object possibilities that may be generated by faculty, researchers, students, staff, and others at the college or university. The range of multimedia objects created can cover a spectrum including vast data files, simulations of datasets, electronic portfolios, presentation and learning management system course materials, electronic theses and dissertations, software tutorials, and administrative content.4 SYNERGY Knowledgeware (http://www.knowledge-media.com), an e-knowledge content-management product, distinguishes among sixty different types of e-learning-supporting content/media—ranging from text to simulations to blogs to mentors to intelligent agents—that it must accommodate in its repository capability.

Tradebooks and Academic Publishers

Publishers have been offering digital assets from textbooks in innovative ways for a number of years, combining this knowledge with other intellectual property resources from within their digital libraries. These proprietary repositories are commercial knowledge silos, offered in ways that do not challenge the intellectual property interests and pricing structures of the textbook industry. A good example is Emerald (http://www.emeraldinsight.com), the leading publisher of academic and professional literature in the fields of management and library/information management.

Almost all commercial publishers have developed digital knowledge silos, some of which have fledgling communities of practice associated with them.

Academic Content Exchanges

Developing a marketplace for transactable e-knowledge requires the emergence of interoperable technology ecosystems that draw content, context, and community from many sources and that encourage the exchange of e-knowledge, for fee and/or free. Over time, these marketplaces will support the aggregation of supply and demand and will share revenues from e-knowledge commerce with intellectual property owners and with supply-and-demand aggregators. A number of first-generation repositories/exchanges have developed in various educational settings and academic disciplines, although some of these have been project-based and have yet to achieve the status of a sustainable service. Nonetheless, examples include JSTOR, ARL’s Scholars Portal, The Le@rning Federation, Learning Object Exchange, Australian Flexible Learning Toolbox Repository, Campus Albert Repository of Educational Objects (CAREO), EducaNext, IVIMEDS, MERLOT, Resource Discovery Network (RDN), and SMETE.

The International Virtual Medical School (IVIMEDS) is a major international collaboration created to meet the challenge facing medical education, through innovative approaches that exploit developments in educational thinking and in information and communication technologies. Currently, thirty-seven medical schools in fourteen countries have committed financial and human resources and have agreed to share learning resources. This infrastructure has been largely assembled by Giunti Interactive Labs in Italy.

Communities of Practice

Over the past three years, online communities have grown tremendously. Many of the new communities have expanded spontaneously through blogs and the availability of inexpensive or free community-building tools. Other communities have developed as outgrowths of existing knowledge nodes or organizations bolting community tools onto their Web sites or portals.

According to the framework established by Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, and William Snyder, fully developed communities of practice must present three characteristics: (1) a common domain of issues; (2) a community, a social fabric for learning; and (3) a shared set of frameworks, tools, information styles, and stores.5 Most of the gestating communities in the Web space do not yet fulfill these requirements. Over time, some will, and others will develop from emerging social networks.

The following are examples of communities of practice—knowledge networks—associated with different types of enterprises and supported by both community and knowledge repository tools:

  • Institutional/consortial. Many colleges and universities have grown genuine communities of practice in their academic and/or administrative knowledge domains. The Boston Consortium for Higher Education is a group of fourteen New England private institutions that have formed nearly twenty communities of practice to develop organizational innovative capacity in administrative and academic support areas.
  • Commercial enterprises. Communities of practice linking knowledge nodes and networks are essential to major corporations. IBM, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, and Cisco Systems are just a few exemplars especially active in this area, recognizing hundreds or even thousands of communities of practice in their global operations.
  • Federal agencies. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has sponsored the development of the Advanced Distributed Learning Registry (ADL-R), which will make available to authorized users all of the technical training and learning materials in all parts of DoD. The addition of the back-office tools necessary for e-knowledge commerce is the next stage of development. ADL-R and other CORDRA-conformant registries will serve as a model for repositories/registries across the federal government and in other settings, such as the sharing of e-learning resources among consortia of colleges and universities (e.g., the Southern Regional Education Board).
  • Professional/trade societies. These organizations are well positioned to exercise leadership in the defining and nurturing of the knowledge domains in their industry, profession, or practice area. Many associations have been developing portals with integrated community and knowledge assets. For example, the Educational Research Service (ERS) is developing an e-knowledge portal that will be a utility on “what works in evidence-based practice” for the knowledge domain serving K-12 education. This e-knowledge portal is SCORM/CORDRA-conformant and is supported by all four levels of technology necessary for e-knowledge commerce: (1) portalized access; (2) hierarchical management/manipulation of standards-conformant content; (3) integrated knowledge, learning, collaboration, and performance; and (4) the performance of back-office functions including tracking intellectual property rights and revenues. ERS is a model for similar efforts serving the knowledge domains whose stewards are professional societies, trade associations, federations, and other nonprofit organizations.

Social and Gaming Communities of Interest

Any description of the developments in knowledge nodes and networks over the past three to five years must include a discussion of the explosion of a new generation of social networks such as MySpace.com and Facebook and multi-player online games such as Warcraft. Other examples include Flickr.

These developments are significant to the future of e-knowledge for several reasons. First, they suggest the power of online interactivity, collaboration, and knowledge-sharing, even if the purpose is personal, social, and perhaps superficial. Second, these developments, when combined with the pervasive use of individual knowledge tools and networks, suggest that millennial students will be unsatisfied with e-knowledge materials that are largely textual. The future of the “e-nabled” Web is visual and rich media, not text, especially for younger users. Developers of e-knowledge nodes and network ignore this trend at their peril.

These changes have important implications for the developers of knowledge-based services in education. Whether those services focus on learning and academic development, administrative support, and/or personal matters/recreation, they must accommodate the patterns and preferences of students’ preferred modes of interaction.

Individual Knowledge Tools, Networks, and Services

Over the past three years, personal knowledge tools and networks have burgeoned, placing the capacity to create, repurpose, share, and sell knowledge in the hands of individuals and independent knowledge networks. While current enterprise holders of intellectual property dither over digital rights management issues, attempting to preserve the current business models and strategies of the publishing, music, movie, and other entertainment industries, these individual knowledge users are blazing alternative pathways.

These individual tools take many forms:

  • Directories of digital files and resources can be used anywhere and anytime, thanks to mobile computing and devices. Individuals can access and manage their directories of personal knowledge resources using wireless computing, personal digital assistants, and/or other mobile devices. Personal knowledge-management tools making more effective use of graphics (e.g., facilitated by visualization tools in Apple OS X or Microsoft Vista) may be an improvement over current offerings. In many scientific fields, faculty and researchers are facing an unprecedented knowledge explosion. To date, the capabilities of the tools of knowledge creation and dissemination have far exceeded those of personal tools of knowledge management and synthesis. Practitioners in fields like bioinformatics find themselves swamped and unable to cope.6 Some see this as a harbinger of things to come in other disciplines. In the pharmaceutical industry, researchers and practitioners are moving to the use of “e-notebooks” that provide members of teams with structured syntheses of the knowledge they need to function and integrate with personal knowledge domains.7 These hold great promise as replacements for personal lab books for bench scientists as well.
  • Personal entertainment devices can serve as portable disk drives for sharing not just music but also other knowledge resources. The use of such devices in learning applications is progressively expanding, and best practices are being discovered and shared.8 Voice- and text-messaging using communication devices provides the capacity to share immediate bits of knowledge in a manner that can support learning and collaboration.
  • Blogs are personal Web-publishing systems. They have become powerful tools for individuals to create highly personalized knowledge domains that can be shared and thus attract conversation with emerging communities of interest.
  • Wikis are collaborative publishing systems for creating knowledge resources. Wikipedia, a wiki-based encyclopedia, is an exemplar that relies on the continued engagement of many communities of practice to create, refine, and self-correct its knowledge offerings.
  • E-portfolios are a potentially transformative tool for capturing, repurposing, and sharing personal knowledge. They typically contain a personal record of competencies, accomplishments, and knowledge resources, together with collections of personal artifacts and works-in-progress. The current generation of open-source e-portfolio projects is the gateway to future capabilities as e-portfolios are linked to workforce opportunities and use templates and rubrics to become a lifelong knowledge and personal-development tool and utility.
  • Application Service Provider (ASP) services to manage knowledge resources will be attractive to many individuals, given the complexity of personal knowledge management. Many users will take the problem off their desktop and put it on a third party’s desktop. Examples include the following:
    • BackPack Software (http://www.backpack.com/) is a subscription service that enables the user to manage personal information, create project files, and invite multiple players to achieve authenticated access.
    • ClientConnect (http://www.clientconnect.net/), an ASP-provided service in the commercial real estate industry, creates co-branded workspaces for real estate transactions and developmental projects. All of the title information, plans, correspondence, and conversations for the project are managed through the project workspace, which allows authorized, authenticated users to have access and contribute. This reduces inefficiencies, eliminates the “weakest link” phenomenon in group knowledge sharing/management, and reduces project risk.
    • KW Professional (http://www.kworkshop.com/products/kwpro.shtm) provides several levels of knowledge-management services for users with different levels of need.
    • Institutional repositories/individual instances of e-portfolios can serve as a third-party knowledge-management tool for individuals in institutions that have deployed them.

Table 1 summarizes the current constellation of knowledge nodes and networks.

Table 1. Knowledge Nodes and Networks

Node/Network Description


Nature of Resources

Global search registries Search and access to the bulk of Web-accessible knowledge in the world

Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft

Global; horizontal

Institutional or disciplinary knowledge repositories/ digital libraries Knowledge repositories/digital libraries created by individual academic institutions or systems

Institutional: National Science Digital Library, Ohio State University Knowledge Bank, University of California System eScholarship Repository, ARROW (Australia)

Local or regional; horizontal

Disciplinary: Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE)

Global; vertical

Tradebooks and academic publishers Proprietary digital libraries for tradebook and academic publishing houses; combine textbook intellectual property with other resources; many now include fledgling communities of practice

Emerald, Springer, John Wiley

Commercial; global; horizontal

Academic content exchanges Collections of course materials/learning objects, including validated peer reviews; also open content

JSTOR, ARL’s Scholars Portal, The Le@rning Federation, Learning Object Exchange, Australian Flexible Learning Toolbox Repository, Campus Albert Repository of Educational Objects (CAREO), EducaNext, IVIMEDS, MERLOT, Resource Discovery Network (RDN), and SMETE.

Open Courseware such as MIT Open Courseware (OCW) and 50 OCW initiatives in the United States, China, Japan, France, Spain, Portugal, and Brazil

Global; horizontal

Communities of practice Groups of practitioners who combine nodes/networks in particular fields of endeavor to define a practice and knowledge domain

Institutional/consortial: The Boston Consortium for Higher Education

Administrative resources; local; vertical

Commercial enterprises: IBM, other commercial enterprises

Private; global; vertical

Federal agencies: U.S. Department of Defense, ADL Registry

Private; national; vertical

Professional/trade societies: Educational Research Service

E-knowledge portal; national; vertical

Social and gaming communities of interest Social networks drawn together to share information and build relationships; multi-player gaming and simulation

Social networks: MySpace.com, Facebook

Multi-player gaming communities: Warcraft, poker and other gaming venues

Other interest-based communities: Friendster, Flickr.com, LinkedIn, Tribe, ZoomInfo

Global; horizontal

Individual knowledge tools, networks, and services A plethora of tools for individuals to manage personal knowledge and networks

Directories of personal files: accessible by PC, PDA, other devices

Personal entertainment devices: downloads of music, knowledge resources

Wikis: create online resources

Blogs: personal Web publishing system

E-portfolios: personal record of competencies, accomplishments, knowledge resources

ASP services: Backpack, ClientConnect, KW Professional, institutional repositories/individual instances of e-portfolios

Global; horizontal

Mapping Knowledge Domains

Two key, interconnected issues are related to the future use of knowledge mapping: (1) the tools for mapping knowledge domains; and (2) the co-creation of knowledge through knowledge networks.

The Tools for Mapping Knowledge Domains

The explosion of knowledge domains and of the means of comprehending them has led to energetic initiatives in scientific, academic, healthcare, and commercial settings. In May 2003, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences convened the Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium on Mapping Knowledge Domains, which resulted in a special issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America). This symposium was guided by the following framework: “The term ‘mapping knowledge domains’ was chosen to describe a newly evolving interdisciplinary area of science aimed at the process of charting, mining, analyzing, sorting, enabling navigation of, and displaying knowledge. This field is aimed at easing information access, making evident the structure of knowledge, and allowing seekers of knowledge to succeed in their endeavors. Although thousands of years old, this area has undergone a sea change in the last 15 years, a change fostered by an explosion of the amount of information available, the accessibility of that information due to electronic storage, and the new techniques of analysis, retrieval, and visualization that are made possible by vast increases in computational storage capacity and processing speed and power.”9

Richard Shiffrin and Katy Börner point out that the value of mapping knowledge domains can redound not just to information scientists but also to scientists, researchers, governmental institutions, industry, and members of society generally. However, this value will not be realized unless the user can understand and interact with the mapping systems. The thousands of dimensions of knowledge must be simplified and engaged through visualization, viewed from multiple perspectives. “For example, maps might depict major researchers, most cited articles and books, articles too new to receive many citations but with contents that point to emerging trends, articles organized into topic trees (by content, citations, and authors), and grants awarded by topic. Other maps might depict changes over time. Such techniques hold out the promise that the user will be able not only to visualize a few nearby trees in the forest of knowledge, but also to understand the entire landscape. If these techniques can be made to operate effectively, they may well change the way that science is conducted and the way the business of the world is carried out.”10

Knowledge domain visualization is a powerful tool, as reflected by the work of Chaomei Chen.11 An interesting example of a knowledge organization tool is ClaiMaker (http://claimaker.open.ac.uk/), a Web-based “system for individuals or distributed communities to publish and contest ideas and arguments as is required in contested domains such as research literatures, intelligence analysis, or public debate. It provides tools for constructing argument maps, and a server on which they can then be published, navigated, filtered and visualized using the ClaimFinder semantic search+navigation tools.” Over time, such tools will become standard equipment for the rigorous analysis and debate that accompanies the gestation of new ideas in communities of practice.

Knowledge-mapping capabilities integrated into global search tools will become progressively more capable of searching for major aspects of knowledge—who, what, when, where, why, how, and if—and of helping users develop practical, visual maps of these resources. Out of necessity, these tools will upgrade their capacity to measure and grade the “value” of particular elements of knowledge. Value ratings will be essential to culling through the vast tracts of knowledge available to practitioners. Such value ratings for established topics and knowledge resources can be handled by next generations of global search tools. Even today, a user can employ surrogate value ratings by iteratively applying existing search tools to find out what topics and issues are being studied by key researchers and practitioners who have been identified through citation analysis.

Today, special-purpose knowledge-indexing tools based on Web crawlers can identify and classify all of the people in the world having particular expertise and/or demonstrated interest in specified knowledge subjects and/or topics. Or they can report on what people are saying about particular topics, products, or services. First-generation versions of these tools are supporting marketing efforts in commercial, health care, and educational settings.

The Co-creation of Knowledge through Knowledge Networks

Although the development of knowledge-mapping tools will enable progressively more powerful searching and visualization of knowledge domains, a countervailing trend is at work. The churn of knowledge is accelerating. Given the high velocity of knowledge flux and flow, knowledge networks of practitioners and experts and emerging communities of practice are growing. Many practitioners feel that completely current, fully contextualized knowledge is achieved only through their engaging in the give-and-take of conversations with other practitioners in communities of practice. For these users, the only authentic knowledge is that which is co-created by them.

Social networks have grown in almost all knowledge domains, industries, and enterprises. They seem especially useful in new, hybridized fields, in practice areas that span the boundaries between existing knowledge domains, and in knowledge collaborations and innovative ventures that cross organizational boundaries.

Henry Chesbrough’s book Open Innovation emphasizes the importance of innovations that are enabled by knowledge sharing and knowledge creation that spans enterprise boundaries. Similarly, John Hagel III and John Seely Brown have discussed the emergence of creation nets, global practice and process nets that enable open innovation: “Now, the game becomes using our knowledge as a way to connect more rapidly and effectively with others to create new knowledge.”12

We contend that the characteristics of social networks, communities of practice, and creation nets will evolve and support the continuing development of a vibrant class of knowledge networks. The stewardship of these knowledge networks will likely devolve to associations, professional societies, emerging peer-to-peer networks, and social networks of various kinds. These social networks/communities will be the centerpieces of future knowledge domains. Expert practitioners and users will go directly to their proven sources of expert and/or emergent knowledge, without utilizing global research tools. They will likely utilize a variety of artificial intelligence tools to enhance their personal bandwidth and capacity to participate in such knowledge networks. Many expert users will not consider knowledge to be relevant and tailored to their needs unless they have actually participated in its co-creation through various P2P networks and communities of practice.


Mapping knowledge domains requires customized and contextualized individual knowledge tools that enable users to chart the nodes and networks constituting their personal knowledge domains. Existing individual knowledge tools will evolve to provide this capability. In the future, the user will have access to a full spectrum of knowledge tools, enabling global searching, knowledge mapping, and participation in individual knowledge networks. These tools will support the mapping, searching, sharing, repurposing, and leveraging of knowledge resources.


1. Daniel R. Rehak, Philip Dodds, and Laurence Lannom, “A Model and Infrastructure for Federated Learning Content Repositories,” 14th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW 2005), Chiba, Japan, May 10–14, 2005.

2. Donald M. Norris, Jon Mason, Robby Robson, Paul Lefrere, and Geoff Collier, “A Revolution in Knowledge Sharing,” EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 38, no. 5 (September/October 2003), http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0350.pdf.

3. Vicki Suter, Bryan Alexander, and Pascal Kaplan, “Social Software and the Future of Conferences—Right Now,” EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 40, no. 1 (January/February 2005): 46–59, http://www.educause.edu/er/erm05/erm0513.asp.

4. Erv Blythe and Vinod Chachra, “The Value Proposition in Institutional Repositories,” EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 40, no. 5 (September/October 2005): 76–77, http://www.educause.edu/er/erm05/erm0559.asp.

5. Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, and William S. Snyder, Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge (Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press, 2002).

6. Declan Butler, “Electronic Notebooks: A New Leaf,” Nature, vol. 436, no. 7047 (July 7, 2005): 20–21.

7. E-notebooks have significant potential as a tool for managing and sharing personal knowledge, including work in progress. The degree of integration with personal collections depends on the sophistication of the e-notebooks. There are low-end open-source tools, now being adopted by colleges and universities (e.g., http://collaboratory.emsl.pnl.gov), and high-end commercial e-notebooks, with features that meet the requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to introduce strict standards for record-keeping for clinical trials and regulatory approvals, including pages that can be signed, date-stamped, and locked to prevent illicit modifications to results.

8. Sarah Brittain, Pietrek Glowacki, Jared Van Ittersum, and Lynn Johnson, “Podcasting Lectures,” EDUCAUSE Quarterly (EQ), vol. 29, no. 3 (2006): 24–31, http://www.educause.edu/eq/eqm06/eqm0634.asp.

9. Richard M. Shiffrin and Katy Börner, “Mapping Knowledge Domains,” PNAS, 101, suppl. 1 (April 6, 2004): 5183, http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/101/suppl_1/5183.

10. Ibid.

11. Chaomei Chen, “Searching for Intellectual Turning Points: Progressive Knowledge Domain Visualization,” PNAS, 101, suppl. 1 (April 6, 2004): 5303–10.

12. Henry W. Chesbrough, Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2003); John Hagel III and John Seely Brown, “Creation Nets: Harnessing the Potential of Open Innovation,” April 2006, http://www.johnhagel.com/creationnets.pdf.

Donald M. Norris

Donald M. Norris is President and Founder of Strategic Initiatives, Inc., a developmental consulting firm. For over 40 years Dr. Norris has been a thought leader and practitioner in crafting transformative strategy, leading and navigating change, and building organizational capacity. He has written over 20 books and monographs on the subjects of transforming higher education, optimizing student success through analytics, and achieving resilience and performance excellence in disruptive times. He has published numerous articles in the EDUCAUSE Review and presented sessions and seminars at EDUCAUSE Annual Meetings.


Paul Lefrere

Director of Networking and Partnerships
JISC - Joint Information Systems Committee


Jon Mason

InterCog Pty Ltd.


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