NWAC Rome 2011 Newsletter

Tapping into the Cognitive Surplus to Share, Create, and Educate - An Interview with Carlos Bollini, MD, a Founder of Grupo de Estudio de la Anestesia Regional (GEAR)

By Andrea Ralya, MBA

Carlos Bollini, MD, one of the founders of GEAR, spoke with us about the application of the theory of cognitive surplus to create and sustain the Grupo de Estudio de la Anestesia Regional in Argentina. GEAR was created in 2008 by Argentine anesthesiologists Carlos Bollini, Fernando Cacheiro, Gustavo Carradori, Alejandro Lucchelli, Pablo Lassalle, and Miguel Moreno. All of them shared a passion for their speciality, regional anesthesia, and wanted to find a cost-effective way to learn, teach, update, research, publish, and share their information and experience. By working outside of a professional society structure, they took on an unusal project by forming a study group. The main objective was to funnel their passion for regional anesthesia into a media forum for stimulating discussion, updated and enlarged clinical investigations, and sharing of information and experience. In February 2010, after using Facebook with his children and observing how they used this new tool, it seemed to Dr. Bollini that the social network web page, “could be a perfect environment to promote the benefits of the regional anesthesia, to communicate with the remainder of the Group, and also with those many colleagues that we got to know through the years, and with the youngest generation, born in this digital era.” As a result, the GEAR Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/GEAR-GRUPO-DE-ESTUDIO-DE-LA-ANESTESIA-REGIONAL-ARGENTINA/481522785176) was introduced. The page remains the first scientific Facebook page in Spanish. Dr. Bollini described the web site as, “a new and innovative tool for the transmission of knowledge in the field of regional anesthesia that encourages social networking and takes advantage of a new resource, cognitive surplus.”

GEAR Team (from left to right): Dr. Gustavo Carradori, Dr. Carlos Bollini, Dr. Fernando
Cacheiro, Dr. Pablo Lassalle and Dr. Miguel Moreno. Dr. Alejandro Lucchelli is not pictured.

Theory of Cognitive Surplus

The new resource takes it shape from what has been called the cognitive surplus by internet guru and author Clay Shirky, who advances the idea that the world is undergoing a revolutionary change in communication because of two factors – increased free time among many people who live in more developed nations and the global connectivity afforded to almost all populations by the low-cost access to people, information, and knowledge via computers and mobile telephones. Each person who contributes to the pool of information and knowledge translates their free time into a collection of millions of hours of free time, which results in sharing, contributing, and socializing on a global level. Previously, use of free time was limited to activities that consumed media offerings in the form of such things as reading and watching movies or television. The internet gives ordinary people the opportunity to make contributions to those media offerings, either by commenting or sharing or making additions. Shirky views the surplus as a potential resource to people all over the world, which satisfies the intrinsic motivation of every human being to be in contact, to create, and to share with others. Dr. Bollini said that when the Study Group began to investigate this phenomenon of communication and socialization and happened upon Shirky’s work, they realized that it was clear that “everything that our GEAR Group had been doing intuitively, as passion for teaching, participating, creating and sharing, in autonomous form, next to colleagues that share our interests, using our free time with the facility of our technological resources and with Facebook as agile an platform without cost, was the perfect example of a ‘Clay Shirkly`s Group’ sharing their ‘cognitive surplus’ in the field of regional anesthesia. Do regional anesthesiologists have the capability to do something with their cumulative free time, the motivation to do it, and the opportunity to do it? Positive answers to these questions help establish the link between the person and the action; expressed at a large scale, accounts of means, motive and opportunity can help explain the appearance of new behaviors in society.”

Because cognitive surplus as a resource is only potential, it means that it has to be harnessed and directed by a group of interested and connected human beings. Working in this way, social media tools are more than an escape from real life but rather become part of it by its use as medium to coordinate events in the real world. Those older than about 40 years did not have this experience or available resource when growing up. These people often are more amazed by the “miracle” of technology. Those younger than 40 years are part of a generation that grew up with this technology and find it a natural part of everyday life. It is this younger group of users who shaped the idea of media as not only for pure consumption but a natural interactive and creative forum for all types of communication. All people who are connected to the internet now have opportunities to look at media offerings, make published comments, share them with friends, and discuss them with other connected people around the world. Shirky says that, “We live for the first time in history, in a world where being part of a globally interconnected group is the normal case for most people.” He believes that, “People want to do something to make the world a better place. They will help when they are invited to. Access to cheap, flexible tools removes many of the barriers to trying new things.”

Measuring Success

As with any new idea, resource, or theory, it makes sense to ask how likely to succeed are these attempts to use the cognitive surplus to achieve a common goal. In a talk given at a meeting on the subject, Clay Shirky stated:

Maybe this will succeed or maybe it will fail. The normal case of social software is still failure; most of these experiments don't pan out. But the ones that do are quite incredible, and I hope that this one succeeds, obviously. But even if it doesn't, it's illustrated the point already, which is that someone working alone, with really cheap tools, has a reasonable hope of carving out enough of the cognitive surplus, enough of the desire to participate, enough of the collective goodwill of the citizens, to create a resource you couldn't have imagined existing even five years ago. (Clay Shirky, The Cognitive Surplus, by Scott Beale, May 1, 2008; laughingsquid.com; accessed January 14, 2011)

When asked if the GEAR initiative has been successful, Dr. Bollini stated, “I´m proud to say that after a few months more than 900 colleagues, mainly from Latin America, are connected and share their information.” In fact, the network is growing and GEAR is associated with NEPAR (Nucleo de Ensino e Pesquisa en Anestesia Regional), a Brazilian Group of Regional Anesthesia, and a Peruvian Group (CARSPAAR).

Study Group of Regional Anesthesia members at a monthly dinner meeting for camaraderie (from left to right): Dr. Pablo Lassalle, Dr. Miguel Moreno, Dr. Carlos Bollini, Dr. Fernando Cacheiro, and Dr. Gustavo Carradori.

Collaborative works are under construction via a Wiki page, which currently consists of three projects (http://pbworks.com/Links; web page in relation with the Facebook page to add information http://anestesiaregionalargentina.com/). The page offers more than 450 links to things related to anesthesia and the forum has 60 discussions ongoing as well as access to photographs, videos, and clinical cases. In March, 2011, the first GEAR Refresher Course in Regional Anesthesia will take place at the Buenos Aires at the Society of Anesthesiologists Analgesia and Reanimation of Buenos Aires.

The GEAR Group is networked with NWAC and will be presenting ultrasound workshops in Spanish at the NWAC Rome 2011, April 11 through 15. Dr. Bollini describes this connection as, “a great opportunity to carry on our goals of socializing, sharing, and improving our own and our colleagues practice, for better specialization and to advance the prestige of regional anesthesia, and our main goal, to benefit all patients.”

About Carlos Bollini, MD

Carlos Bollini lives and practices in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He graduated from the Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA). The UBA is the largest and best-ranked Argentine university. He practices anesthesiology at the Instituto Argentino de Diagnóstico y Tratamiento in Buenos Aires. The institute is affiliated with the Medical School of UBA. He completed residency as Chief of Residents and Instructor of Residents at the Community Hospital Jose Ramos Mejia under Professor Jaime Wikinski, Program Chair. He spent a rotation as an Observer at the Department of Anesthesia at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, where he got to know two inspiring teachers of regional anesthesia in action, Doctors Niegel Sharrock and William Urmey. In 1994, upon his return, he began his deep involvement in regional anesthesia in Argentina and Latin America. His passions are teaching, studying, updating the science, investigating, and sharing knowledge of regional anesthesia with other practitioners in Argentina, Latin America, and the World.