I love examples of how we learn new things and in new ways. I am especially fascinated by how our digital realities and tools are helping us think about "the familiar" in new ways. This is why I'm interested in the digital humanities. For example, historians are now using contemporary GIS and biological systems thinking to reconsider how land formations shaped historical events - it's called spatial humanities.
Here are three examples of this kind of "new tools change how we think about what we think we know." What I like about each of these is how they challenge our assumptions about what is data and what is analysis - what is the information we're using and what are the conclusions - what is input and what is output?
Believing is Seeing - a NYT book review of a new book of photography
Describing place through user-generated content - how we can "map" places by seeing how people "talk" about them
Using news reports and content to "forecast" events (Culturomics 2.0) I was raised in a world where news came on paper and the "newspaper" told us what was going on now and what had just happened. It's kind of amazing that scholars are now mining massive sets of digital news reports to find trends of what might lie ahead.
What does this have to do with philanthropy? It's an opportunity to challenge our own thinking about where change comes from and what information we use, what information we need, and what information we now have accessible.