Friday, January 18, 2008

DIAC - 2008 (Thinking and Research for Paper)

So I’m currently engaged in an extensive review of ICT for NRM projects (I will post references later). There are a number of programs that focus upon the utilization of ICTs for dynamic systems modeling or for predictive modeling needed for early warning systems in a number of natural resource based industries. However, many of these systems (at least as far as I can tell) ignore some of the more qualitative information that is directly connected to the human dimension of NRM. For example, there seems to be little that deals with community-centered knowledge, culture, local politics and local information. This prompted a question: What about systems that enable community participants to interact or to record their knowledge in relation to their community of place?

Continuing along, I have become increasingly concerned that current programs seem to be out of date, or do not seem to address some very important elements of NRM within a community based context. For the most part a lot of the things I see are connected more to big agro-business, and global commodity systems rather than with locally based development and NRM. To me this is a serious shortcoming considering the number of people who are living in poverty and the fact that many poor persons are the ones dependent up natural resources for livelihoods. As a result, I would think that this population would be the most central human dimension to the NRM ideal.

Now this probably isn’t indicative of the entire scope of NRM focused ICT projects as there are a number of geo-spatial based programs out there that seek to integrate indigenous knowledge, yet even these seem to be geared almost exclusively to the trained “expert” rather than providing content or access to the so-called non-expert. In this sense the systems of knowledge are directed towards the experts and not the actual people these systems are meant to support and benefit.

Perhaps I’m miss reading a number of these projects, but they nonetheless appear lacking. If anything, these programs present an opportunity for further investigation that emphasize community, collaboration and local knowledge. Based upon this standpoint one might consider the use of knowledge management systems and local knowledge mapping as a potential application for evaluation within a local/rural community context. In this way it might be possible to create a useful dialog between the so-called development expert and the actual community participants that these NRM based development programs are meant to address.

From this perspective I think my current research project makes perfect sense as it intends to address the types of information and knowledge archived within a system as well as the ability of local groups to make sense of this knowledge. For the purposes of this project I hypothesize that pattern based thinking could perhaps make an important contribution in the area of qualitative and heuristic based knowledge, especially for community centered adaptive planning and development.

Now, this paper is just a “think-piece” of sorts that will highlight the shortcomings of current systems, yet it will present a model that could be empirically tested and evaluated. The trick then is to develop a model that can be tested.

So the current focus of my work is to develop a system and model that utilize patterns as central content components which reference other pieces of knowledge to develop a holistic model that utilizes a broad scope of tools to support community planning and NRM focuses eco-design.

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