Producing knowledge in collaboration

Business & Innovation
re:publica 2015

Short thesis: 

Knowledge is not created in a bubble, it builds on the collective effort of many. A group of contributors can create high quality content in a short period of time with the help of effective collaboration techniques. Collaboration is a skill to be learned. We discuss Book Sprints and Data Expeditions as examples of how to successfully structure collaborative knowledge production, making use of both online and offline tools and spaces.


Working with groups to produce knowledge in forms of books, data storytelling, databases, and other media is effective and enriching if done right. Collaboration can range from weak to strong, from sending the occasional email to going on intense teamwork retreats. The stronger the collaboration, the more the differences of opinions, experiences, working styles, and time zones come into play. Questions of co-ownership and sharing need to be negotiated. A structured process such as a Book Sprint or a Data Expedition facilitates successful collaboration by creating an enabling environment in online and offline spaces.

Book Sprints bring together a group to produce a book in 3-5 days. Without any pre-production, the group is guided by a facilitator from zero to published book. Close to a hundred books, from software manuals to fiction, have been written that way. Data Expeditions are guided quests to discover, map and storify data to follow a question or solve a problem. The method is used by School of Data to foster learning by doing while working with real data, creating real results. Book Sprints and Data Expeditions stress learning and exchange as much as the outcome. We discuss different tools and techniques, online platforms, publishing methods, peer learning, and real-time and real-space collaboration.

Thursday, May 7, 2015 - 11:15 to 12:15