What we are trying to do
One context of contemporary work , as we see it, is the sheer volume of potentially relevant material. This is particularly true of work in the international development support sector which crosses boundaries of language, culture, gender, discipline and class. This creates a requirement for detailed and, ideally, collective attention to and investment in the management of information in the sector. We argue that this has not happened, with the result that there are major gaps in available knowledge, especially relating to local realities and perspectives, at the same time as an almost universally perceived stress of overload. Instead, there is a growing dependence on the private solutions offered by companies like Google, with their algorithms tuned to different realities and purposes, which creates further informational asymmetries, even before their political and economic implications are taken into account.
We are developing our critiques of this reality and what may be done about it in our current writing. We have also sought to explore alternatives. IKM Emergent piloted a different approach to search - IKM Vines - in which biases were made explicit. (We have to admit the irony that this is now more visible on You Tube because the open source php files used to construct the demos became obsolete). It also had a rudimentary topic map which fell victim to an upgrade in the Java software it was written for. For this site, we have created a new browser compliant topic map, using Drupal 8. This allows us to shows the relationships between the concepts we use to categorise our material in a dynamic way, shaped round the concept the user chooses to focus on rather than organised in a rigid hierarchy. We also continue to use the metadata form, developed for IKM, which allows material to be categorised and searched for in a multitude of ways - see thematic search. We do not have sufficient material in our archive to really demonstrate the value of this tool here but something like this is essential for any organisation/ archive which combines material of many different types (academic, operational, media, local voices) around particular places or themes. Without good data, important material, especially that not formally published, gets lost.
These tools have been developed for this site with enormous help from Naomi Rosenberg (naomi at aktivix.org). It is currently maintained by Autonomic Co-operative and hosted by Web Architects. The code for the new topic map can be found here.