Cities, trees, webs, whatever

In the first issue of Global Knowledge Review, the ultra-cool Lilia Efimova (Mathemagenic) writes about her irritation with the dominance of tree models in knowledge and information management and provides a great reference to Christopher Alexander on organic city design.

This is the corollory (sp? – other side anyway) of the challenge we faced at the Commission for Patient & Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH) earlier this year of building a knowledge management system that was more like a city than a tree – we came up against enormous resistance and unwillingness to try this model out to see whether it worked.

My perception of what people said was “We know what an information system looks like and it looks like a tree. This does not look like a tree and therefore, it cannot be a good information system.” At the same time we also had people saying “I don’t know where to put stuff”, to which the answer was a very empowering, “You should put it where you would expect to find it again, but it’s really up to you, there is no single right place to put it” which many people chose to interpret as “We’ve designed this badly, we’re a bit incompetent and don’t know where you should put it”.

I sincerely hope that the CPPIH KMS survives the governmental jiggery-pokery after the NHS arms-length bodies review – it’s still one of the strongest ideas in the whole patient involvement movement.

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