Information ecologies

March 6, 2010

An interesting day yesterday in New York. I was part of a small but select group discussing the information ecology of crisis management. I knew two of the participants (Clay Shirky and Patrick Meier) by reputation so it was good to meet them, and the gentle hand of the facilitator Eric Klinenberg meant that we got a lot done. Our goal was to discuss the ways and means by which research could be carried out into the best ways to deploy (or more likely utilise existing) communications technology in a crisis. its a highly complex area. After all you don’t know where a crisis is going to hit, or how severe it will be. Some are natural disasters, others political and frequently a mixture of both. Agencies appear to help, the military (local and/or foreign) will be involved but never on a common pattern.

Critically we talked about the need to recognize that people themselves will have found ways of coping before the outside agencies arrive. Further that forms of communication can be very sophisticated even in so called primitive societies. There was a general recognition that the old style information centric knowledge management approach would not work (although many government agencies are going down that path). There was a strong focus on resilience (ironically I had been working on the book the day before with Mary Boone and we had more or less settled on Resilience, or The Resilient Organisation as its title. Resilience is contrasted with robustness. In the latter case you try and prevent failure, in the former you recognise that failure of some type is inevitable and aim to detect it fast, and recover quickly. More on that research as it develops, it was too rich a conversation to capture.

I’ve found another interesting hotel in New York as well, the Washington Square Hotel. Its Art Deco which is the most interesting period in modern architecture, especially in New York. Downsides are no way to make a drink in the room and too thin walls (vigorous couples on both sides last night at 0200 in the morning). However its well situated, free internet, comfortable etc. Also Dylan Thomas once stayed here, one of the greatest of the modern poets.

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