Social business and asocial knowledge?

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Tue, 04/15/2014 - 15:20

MP900386088Aaron Kim writes thoughtprovokingly on the apparent information and knowledge barriers at workplace and compares it to the (seeming) abundance of access and information elsewhere in "Social Business: Enterprise Knowledge Goes Retail". The question of why many workplaces are crisscrossed by hedges of informational barriers is interesting. The already several decades long development of computerised and networked information systems have brought relief to many areas of information work, but it is still often quite hard to find out things that would be helpful in various situations of everyday work. The contrast to the easiness of finding information in the open web is striking as Kim writes.

But, the issue might not be as simple as to put enterprise knowledge in retail and to deprive experts of their authoritative position as the gatekeepers of knowledge. Social business is a game changer, but it takes some time to see what games are changing and to what extent.

It is apparently true that the economics of information have changed (e.g. Huvila 2012, p. 121+), but not necessarily as radically as the contrast between workplace information and colloquial information would suggest. The complex easiness of knowing

"We have learned to assume that in economic terms knowing is ‘cheaper’ than before. Technology is supposed to be personal and easily available for everyone as a ubiquitous part of everyday life. Similarly, it is assumed to be easy to use by everyone."  (Huvila 2012, 131-132)

and assumption of solvability

"The user-oriented, interconnected and convergent nature of technological infrastructures and the constellations of information as a miscellaneous repository of answers incorporate an expectation of manageability and a possibility of finding a solution.  " (Huvila 2012, 133-135)

catalysed by the easiness of accessing ordinary information extends easily to contexts where information can still be quite scarce, it can be embedded in human knowledge and practices and never properly articulated. At the same time, when a situation becomes specific enough, it is possible that there is no general repository, which would contain a suitable piece of retail information.

My suggestion is that successful information and knowledge managers is characterised by their capability to use and combine retail information, and social and embedded sources of information with specific situated enterprise knowledge that hardly ever can go retail and to make best out of it.

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