Knowledge Creating Communities

As an undergrad, the idea of community surfaced quite often as theories of organizational culture and communication were brought to light by my professors. Now as a graduate student, these same thoughts and conceptualization of community and how knowledge is shared and expressed within these groups have begun to surface again. As I analyzed various research throughout the semester I couldn’t help but to pull out certain connections with what I had already known and what I was currently being taught. Various articles seemed to construct a new and deeper conceptualization of knowledge management, including research and theories of how much the advancement of technology has proven to change the scope of public sociability and information sharing.

Several of these theories and arguments seemed to jump off the page, rendering my own questions as to the dichotomous effects communicative technology, and more specifically the introduction of online communities, seem to have on how we interpret community and knowledge management as a whole.

Analyzing and applying Nonaka’s (1991) Knowledge Creating Company theory to a modern day KM platform helped bring to light several connections to past literature of previous courses. Nonaka’s theory explains how an individual’s participation and commitment are highly dependent and strongly influenced by culturally specific communitarians, group orientation and external pressures (Glisby & Holden, 2003, p. 35). Although Nonaka focuses his lens to that of organizational productivity, I began to wonder how some of these conceptualization of how knowledge is shared and transferred might apply to a community setting. As I went back to previous literature, I found several interesting connections.

Of these connections, Friedland’s (2001) “local imagined community” was the first idea to really stand out. The concept is simple, and stems from Jurgen Habermas’s (1981,1987) “lifeworld” versus “system” theory of communicative action. The theory dictates that all communities lie at the interaction of various social arenas. While the lifeworld arenas form culture, personality, and institutional legitimacy through communicative action, the system arenas form integration through economic and political power.

The “local imagined community”, as described by Friedland (2001), lies at the seam of the lifeworld and system, where the national media, the subcultural media and the various forms of social networking creates a person’s sense of place in the community. This was a fascinating analysis of something that seemed so very clear and highly evident in today’s world. I began to consider how often what we see in the media and what we experience within our social community shape our communicative knowledge sharing tendencies, as in who we talk to and what we talk about. An ever growing amount of our daily conversations are tethered to our participation and commitment in our respective local imagined communities similar to ways in which Nonaka observed individuals within his knowledge creating companies.

The more I seemed to think about this connection the more fascinating it became. Feel free to share your thoughts on this connection. I thought it was pretty cool.

References:

Friedland, Lewis. (2001). Communication, community, and democracy: Toward a theory of the communicatively integrated community. Communication Research, 28(4), 358-391.

Habermas, J. (1981,1987). The theory of communicative action: Life world and system: A critique of functionalist reason (T. Burger, Trans.) (Volume 2). Boston: Beacon.

Glisby, M. & Holden, N. (2003). Contextual constraints in knowledge management theory: The cultural embeddedness of Nonaka’s knowledge creating company. Knowledge and Process Management, 10(1), 29-36.

Nonaka, I. (1991). The knowledge creating company. Harvard Business Review, Nov.-Dec.

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