Friday, June 8, 2007

Sustainable knowledge creation

Web 2.0

A challenge for academics and professionals in all fields is how to reduce the carbon footprint of their scholarly and practitioner activities. With ALA annual conference coming up, and 20K-30K librarians descending on Washington, many of them flying, most of them staying in downtown hotels where the energy costs per person (on HVAC, laundry, lighting, elevators, etc) are much higher than they are in their own homes, some librarians are raising the question of how to create a more sustainable form of communication. For the short run some are suggesting that ALA facilitate the buying of carbon offsets, for instance.

In the longer run, however, Web 2.0 technologies could provide at least part of the answer; using a mix of new technologies, LIS could substitute alternative patterns of interaction, thus not only reducing the physical movement of participants, but also opening up “conference” participation to a much wider group of people. If successful, this could be a model for other fields.

Will this happen any time soon? I’m doubtful. Too many people have entrenched interests in maintaining current patterns, even though we know that in the long run, they cannot. A start, though, would be to encourage students in many different classes—not just “technology-oriented” ones--to become comfortable with these forms of communication. They should also become accustomed to communicating on a more open stage, contributing to the blurring, if not the dissolving, of the user-producer dichotomy in knowledge creation and sharing.

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