Ok this week’s topic is personal knowledge management (PKM). I think the biggest problem for connectivist PKM environments is the omnipresent incline towards premature pigeonholing of stuff into folders. We know that concepts are related to each other in a networked fashion, but we keep getting lured into tree-shaped, hierarchical structures of concept organisation.
Many new affordances and tools have made it easier to tackle the network structures: from links such as hyperlinks or library cross references or folder “shortcuts”, to relational databases. And a given item can simultaneously reside in two virtual “folders” when you consider “stacks” of items assigned to the same “tag” or search keyword.
But when it comes to visually representing these stacks, the networked characteristics is quickly lost. You don’t “see” how an items belongs to two stacks unless there are connection lines drawn that connect the respective icons. The connections that are so crucial to connectivism, are still not catered to by most of the PIM tools. And the networked structure is still the step-brother of the hierarchical structure, because it still lacks one of the three modalities verbal, visual, virtual.
This is particularly inappropriate for new, emerging topics that are typically to be positioned on an interdisciplinary bridge between two established baskets, or for complex scenarios that cannot be represented by a ramified, i.e. merely complicated, tree-structure.
And it unequally affects the three levels of connectivist connections (neural, conceptual, and personal/ external):
- The user’s information artefacts in their file storage obviously affect the external level of connections between resources, and
- similarly, the person-to-person level as soon as communication such as emails or memos are concerned.
While these sort of connections of artefacts can usually be classified according to discrete criteria such as temporal, geographical, personal provenience such as projects or conferences, i.e., have no problem with the hierarchical structure, the conceptual connections are often harmed by hierarchical classifications.