If your job or passion is to do good communications work using new technology, how do you think of yourself? Others may call you variously a blogger, online journalist, community manager, information worker, editor, researcher, even hacker. Perhaps we'll find some shared interests wearing the badge of knowledge activist.
The term has been floating around those in knowledge management interested in bottom--up systems, and the use of personal media ranging from digital cameras, mobile phones and PDAs to personal websites and the latest open source tools for activism, and technologies that will change the way we learn. It arose at a recent workshop on personal knowledge management (PKM), and there's even a Knowledge Activist's Handbook which says "The role of the knowledge activist is to be unreasonable, to identify and combine those small grains of truth that have the potential to become pearls."
At the workshop, Ton Zijlstra reports that he talked about "how PKM builds on the notion of taking responsibility for ones own life and actions. And that taking responsibility means taking an activist stance about changing your environment or your world." Lilia Efimova has a PHM diagram.
I floated the term in a question to Geoff Mulgan at the recent Tomorrow Network event. One of his ten stories about the future of electronic media was about the inadequacy of much of today's journalism. I asked whether a committed young person wishing to do something socially useful with electronic media might consider themselves a knowledge activist ... and if so was there a job in it, and where would they get advice and support? No clear answers, but enough nods around the room to make me think there might be some value in the term.
I tried it again yesterday meeting some academics to discuss a new research programme on technology and social action, and got "Aha, that's a nice one" from a couple.
I for one would certainly value a new way of describing what I do. Many years ago I could say I was a newspaper journalist, which was always understood if not always applauded. Since then I done facilitation, organisational development, and consultancy in various nonprofit fields. Not nearly as sexy, and always a puzzle to my mother who would occasionally say "well dear, I'm sure it is all very worthwhile, but how can I tell people what you do these days?"
I'm not sure knowledge activist answers that question, but it may help in finding some kindred spirits.