Johari Windows and Historians

For readers who do not know about Johari, the theory of knowing what you know, knowing what you don’t know, not knowing what you know and not knowing what you don’t know. Although this is used for personal development, it is just as applicable (in my opinion) to other aspects of life. The first two are particularly helpful in planning contingencies and for working out where to start research, fill in gaps etc.

Not knowing what you know can be a bit challenging relying on triggers to remind you of what you know or read somewhere. The frustrating thing here is often that the evidence, confirmation or reference is invariably hidden in a pile of unsorted handwritten notes or amongst unsearchable electronic downloads or photographs waiting to be labelled and worked with. Trawling through some old papers I’d written I was rather surprised to see I’d looked at books I had no recollection of (sigh). What gems they held I will need to revisit.

More challenging though is what you don’t know you don’t know…this is where wider reading and an eclectic range of friends, colleagues and associates play a significant role, especially in cross-cultural/continental work. This is a huge thanks to them all.

Another huge contributor to discovering these unknown unknowns is the internet and the constant updating of information. As a result, having thought I had identified all (most) novels of World War 1 in Africa, in late 2021 it became obvious this only concerned English language books. German authors who had been hidden all of a sudden started coming to light and seem to have been more prolific in their writing. I had previously identified that more German women wrote about life in the colonies than British, but this hadn’t led to my recent novel discovery. What helped on this front is a German colleague mentioning a name/book in an English translation (book forthcoming) which effectively opened the floodgates – helped by more German author biographies featuring online – once one gets Google and other search engines to accept multi-lingual and diverse search terms. As a result, I need to revisit hypotheses and conclusions previously drawn. Some might stay the same but others are likely to change. Then there is the issue of bringing such developments to other researchers’ awareness, especially those who might not have access to paywall material or who conversely discount material not in “recognised academic” publications. This division is unwittingly (purposefully?) creating or rather perpetuating the gulf in knowledge transfer, sharing and development – adding to the ‘known unknowns’. That’s a challenge for another day.

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