sensemaking networks

Where have you been getting your news about the pandemic or the invasion of Ukraine? Mainstream media? Twitter?

And of course some of what I end up reading through Twitter originates with traditional news outlets like the Times or CNN. But Twitter is simply faster than any other medium at picking up the shifting momentum of a global event like the Ukrainian conflict. You see the street-level demonstrations in St. Petersburg and Moscow the second they erupt. You pick up reports about EU nations rallying around the proposition of kicking Russia off of SWIFT. You get real-time expert assessment walking through the challenges of an occupying army holding a city of Kyiv’s size, or the potential pain that the West could inflict on Putin’s inner circle of oligarchs — ideas that usually won’t make it to the op-ed pages for another day or two. —Networks Versus Tanks

I have learned a lot about this pandemic, and what to do, from experts who share information on social media — the fifth wave. Instead of one subject matter expert, I get my pandemic advice from subject matter networks, which are usually several months ahead of institutions like WHO or our local public health officers. I started with existing connections like Trish Greenhalgh and looked at who she was citing and then developed my pandemic list.

I have done the same with the Russian attack on Ukraine. I first looked at the sources that Harri Ohra-aho was sharing. I have known Harri for over a decade and know that he has deep insights on the Russian military. From there I have added several new sources of information. As with the pandemic, there is a lot of misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda about Ukraine on social media. Online sensemaking is a continuous exercise in confronting the post-truth machines.

The challenge with learning via social media is that it takes some effort. Having knowledgeable and trusted networks takes time. They say that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today. It’s the same with sensemaking networks.

Personal knowledge mastery is the discipline of seeking, make sense of, and sharing through knowledge networks. Sometimes this is done on public platforms like Twitter. Other times it may be in a private community. Today, our coffee club discussed how difficult it is to make sense of all the complexities facing us today. We made some sense together but even more so we strengthened our bonds of trust through deep conversation.

It’s only the efforts of connected humans who will get us out of the various messes were are mired in. This connectedness has become evident in many of the coordinated actions taken in the last week.

I feel sheepish that I spent most of the weekend glued to what was going on [in Ukraine]. However, it was so out of the realm of what I ever imagined would happen that I was metaphorically slack-jawed watching events play out. The balance of power in the world shifted more in two days than it has in the five decades I have been alive. For the first time in my life, it felt like maybe we could actually pursue big things — at a time when we really, really need to address big things.—Rachel Happe 2022-02-28

dead soldier with sunflower

Image by @badiucao“Take those seeds and put them in your pocket, sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here.”

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2 Responses to “sensemaking networks”

  1. Chris Corrigan

    For a while I had a sock puppet twitter account that followed right wing and populist conservative accounts just to see what kinds of conversations are happening well outside my bubble. I think sensemaking requires us to be exposed to different and uncomfortable ideas too, just to triangulate what we are learning through our more carefully curated channels. There is always a danger that if you are building your own list, you won’t find the voices that will challenge your thinking. Easier when we are in conversation in the diverse groups and in community.

    • Harold Jarche

      That’s a great idea, Chris!
      I guess you could do the same with lists, but then they would know who you are.


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