From the observed to the observers

The other day, in our Change Agents Worldwide community forum, Susan Scrupski mentioned that she was taking an online course.

It floors me that the learned teachings of academia have come to the same conclusions on some of these matters involving networks of people that we have by actually doing it (vs. studying it).  The first series of videos talks about the “Tragedy of the Commons.” Reciprocity, the spirit of cooperation, and Trust are major themes.

Richard Martin responded with an experience of his.

I had a similar experience a few years ago when I started a course on information rights. As day-to-day practitioners, the students were at the cutting edge and knew far more than the theory-constrained academics. I dropped out after one semester as I was learning far more on the job and getting the opportunity to put that new knowledge into action.

The nature of social science research may be shifting away from academia, who are losing the initiative as the rest of us become participating members and simultaneously researchers/observers in an enormous petri dish of over 2 billion connected world citizens. Like the scribes of old, replaced by a literate citizenry, today’s social scientists may soon be out of work. We are all social scientists now. A recently retired sociology professor, with whom I shared this idea, agreed.

I noted a similar case with a research dissertation that developed a theoretical model for PKM which was a fairly extensive literature review and corroborated what many practitioners already know. In addition, the dissertation was frozen in time by the nature of academic publishing, and while it cited my frameworks, it did not use my latest work at the time. In the creative economy, knowledge distribution in business is moving from academia to professional networks.

work is changing

Maybe it is not just business schools that will have their knowledge dissemination model disrupted but the social sciences as well. A networked citizenry no longer has to play only the role of the observed, but now can become the observer in education, sociology, and many other fields of human behaviour.

knowledge dissemination

One Response to “From the observed to the observers”

  1. Martin Risgaard

    Excellent post. I guess you can say that social sciences are now being disrupted by reality. The bigger question is what will happen to social sciences as we know them. In the end there will always be something to observe and interpret but we may just be at a place where the observable things are either too much common sense or too far removed from reality to be of any use.


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