Doing Business with Theory: Communities of Practice in Knowledge Management
from 04:15 PM to 05:15 PM
This CITO research seminar will be held in Q233 at 4:15pm on Friday 19 November.
In this talk I will explore how the notion of communities of practice was translated and popularized from its original inception by Lave and Wenger in 1991. I argue that the Institute for Research on Learning (IRL), a spinoff of Xerox PARC, proved instrumental in enrolling CoP into the knowledge management (KM) discipline. IRL objectified, packaged, and made a business out of CoP. CoP in KM are now a formalized process coupled with technological artifacts to build groups of people whom effectively share knowledge across boundaries. Drawing from participant observations, archival documents, and interviews with KM practitioners as well as key players of IRL, this research seeks to unveil the invisible history that the popularization of a theory can often obscure. Communities of practice is a case study for understanding how abstract concepts in science are strategically and subconsciously reified, or made objects of inquiry, and appropriated by actors. Finally, this reification of a “soft” science blurs the line between theory and technology.
Norman Makoto Su is a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Information and Library Studies at University College Dublin. He received his PhD in Information and Computer Science from the University of California, Irvine, and his B.A. in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley. His dissertation work utilized a mixed-methods approach to discern how information workers temporally appropriate communication mediums to deftly accomplish work. Norman’s recent fieldwork drawing from sociological perspectives has looked into the diverse everyday practices of nomadic workers, knowledge management professionals, and head-to-head fighting video game players. In these works, he draws heavily from actor-network theory and social constructionist lenses.