There is something rotten in the state of (I)KM?

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Wed, 11/06/2013 - 16:15

I have to admit that I participated only the second time (the first time was the first ever conference in Charlotte, NC in 2004) in the International Conference on Knowledge Management (ICKM) 2013 held this year together with ASIS&T 2013 Annual Meeting in Montreal. In spite of this I have followed rather closely the conference and its programme, and also worked at the programme committees of several past conferences. One highly positive aspect of the event is that in contrast to many "international" conferences, it is a truly international event, and here the internationality and dialogue work actually works pretty well in contrast to other events where the interactions tends to stop after the half-polite niceties like "Great, before listening to your presentation I didn't really know that much about how things are done in your country".

But about the conference. I could discern at least three recurring themes. One was the anxiety of educators to be relevant within their academic communities and to the industry. This is of course a very timely topic even for me because of the launch of the new master's programme in Information and knowledge management at Åbo Akademi University. (I)KM has problems with legitimacy both in academic institutions and in industry. Neither universities nor businesses are always very well informed of that what (I)KM (education and research) are  and what they are good for.

The second theme relates to measuring and understanding of the impact of IKM. All in all there is relatively little and sporadic empirical evidence on the precise implications of IKM and information/knowledge, and how IKM make the difference it makes. My own paper on the situational appropriation of information discussed this broad are of interest together with a relatively large number of papers that presented and discussed examples explicit impact measurement and metrics.

The third theme was somewhat unsurprisingly the US Affordable Care Act and the well-known problems with its associated web service. Many presenters used this as an example of the lack of IKM, lack of understanding of information systems development and the lack of understanding of very fundamental principles of user centred design and development. There are of course multiple non-technical and non-management related reasons why healthcare IKM and technology projects are often discussed in great detail in the press, but it is still  rather peculiar that healthcare IKM related problems and challenges have become a topic of such an intensive debate not only in the US but around the world. In Finland, a lot of critique has been expressed on the Apotti project of the hospital district of Helsinki area. The Swedish research project DOME is looking at another information system implementation project that has been criticised heavily in the media, this time by the healthcare professionals rather than politicians or IKM professionals.