We live in a world with complex issues and complex solutions. This fact often makes it difficult to learn efficiently about any given topic on the Web, especially a subject you are unfamiliar with.
An easy subject may just require a few searches and couple of articles. But a lot more effort is required on more complex issues, often taking several hours of search and reading.
I use the Knowledge Atlas as my primary research tool on the Web. This has been invaluable for the community activism that my wife Caroline and I take part in. We volunteer our time to help preserve the largest urban forest in Canada, The UNB Woodlot, here in Fredericton on the east coast of Canada.
To write our messaging, we needed to gain a good working knowledge of concepts that range from ‘stormwater management’, ‘watershed-based source water protection’, ‘municipal land use zoning’, ‘transition cities’, and “urban wetlands’. Not only are they complex issues but they are also inter-related.
I use the Knowledge Atlas because it is a great tool to organize your thoughts. You can start right away by putting in scattered concepts and ideas, and worry about organizing them and connecting them together in later editing sessions, i.e. a contributor does not have to write out complete storylines or trees in one session.
Here’s an example of how I used the Knowledge Atlas to research the above and organize our messaging:
1. Start building “type-of” Trees, one each for ‘urban infrastructure’, ‘permeable paving surfaces’, ‘stormwater management’, ‘soil’, ‘wetlands’, etc.
2. Start building storyline for my own authored article entitled “The Value of Urban Wetlands – Priceless”
3. Start building storylines that can be authored by the whole KA community, including the following:
- “"Capture Rain Where It Falls" - North American Cities using Green Stormwater Infrastructure”
- “Ecoservices that Nature Provides for Free: Why Not Include Them in the Cost of Development?”
- “The Secret Life of Soil: The Soil Food Web”
- “Making our Cities More Resilient: Preparing for Climate Change”
4. Start adding Tree concepts as anchors to the Storylines. This will connect together related Trees and connect together related Storylines.
The above editing was spread out over several weeks but it was very low stress; the whole exercise happened easily/organically and it did not require a great deal of planning or the need to write a linear article. It is more like building a "web" of concepts and ideas! And the Knowledge Atlas made it easy to attach Web references/links to these storylines and trees.
When we organize information visually, like a map, the uncharted areas quickly become apparent. As more related information is provided, a greater understanding takes form. Similar to a map, the contexts and relationships reveal themselves through pattern recognition. This is the Knowledge Atlas.