Common Information Spaces in Knowledge-Intensive Work: Representation and Negotiation of Meaning in Computer-Supported Collaboration Rooms

Common Information Spaces in Knowledge-Intensive Work: Representation and Negotiation of Meaning in Computer-Supported Collaboration Rooms

Vidar Hepsø (Statoil Hydro Research and Norwegian School of Management, Norway)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-176-6.ch017
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In knowledge management literature, common information spaces (CIS) are believed to be instrumental in the development and sharing of knowledge. These information spaces provide the arena to facilitate knowledge creation, knowledge management, boost multidisciplinary collaboration and therefore increase the performance of the organization. In a global oil and gas industry an increasing part of the communication in day-to-day operations takes place in specially designed videoconferencing and collaboration rooms. This chapter addresses the role such information spaces play and some of the implications for practice when it comes to knowledge-intensive work: diversity, work relations and identity. What is regarded as “common” or ”shared” among heterogeneous groups of professionals working within such information spaces is challenged.
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Introduction To ‘Common’ Information Spaces

The need to have a strong integration between collaborative knowledge work and common information spaces has been apparent in the business literature since the development of theories of information management and BPR (Hammer & Champy, 1993) in the 1980s and 1990s. From there it has spread to knowledge management (Davenport, 2005; Ciborra, 2000). Boland and Tenkasi (1995) have argued that knowledge production requires communication within and between an organization’s multiple communities of knowing. The most important challenge for knowledge-intensive organizations is to make each community strong while at the same time nurturing the ability to take the perspectives of other communities of knowing into consideration. Before considering common information spaces (CIS) it is worth considering Boland and Tenkasi’s conception of perspective taking and perspective making since these two concepts are important in what follows. Communication that strengthens the unique knowledge and practice of a community of knowing is perspective making. As the community’s perspective grows stronger it becomes more complex and more able to meet the knowledge work requirements. Unexpected events or findings can only be recognized as such from within a perspective. Boland and Tenkasi argue that without a strong perspective a community of knowing cannot create important knowledge. The relevance for a discussion on CIS is that the community must have a ‘space’ for conversation and action that is isolated from other communities to be able to nurture their vocabulary, methods, theories, values and logic. Perspective taking is communication that makes it possible for the community to take the knowledge of other communities into account. This means that the community must be able to overcome the incommensurability between communities without sacrificing the integrity and distinctiveness of their own perspective. The main challenge for perspective taking is that communication must first support perspective making processes: “Only after a perspective is differentiated and strengthened can it be reflected upon and represented so the actors in other communities of knowing have something to integrate through a perspective taking communication” (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995, p. 359).

Let us now turn to CIS. I assert that there are two major literature ‘clusters’ of importance that will enable us to grasp the essence of work practices associated with CIS. The first is the interdisciplinary study of computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) and the other is science studies/the social construction of technology. Each of these has the potential to go beneath the simplified notion of CIS that is often found in the management literature. These two clusters of thinking will be elaborated upon.

The CIS approach in CSCW was initiated by Kjeld Schmidt and Liam Bannon (1992). They were the first to link the conceptualization of cooperative knowledge work and common information spaces (CIS) across people in heterogeneous communities. In their work they stressed the practices associated with CIS: …“how people in a distributed setting can work cooperatively in a common information space - i.e. by maintaining a central archive of organisational information with some level of ‘shared’ agreement as to the meaning of this information (locally constructed), despite the marked differences concerning the origins and context of these information items. The space is constituted and maintained by different actors employing different conceptualizations and multiple decision making strategies, supported by technology.”(Schmidt & Bannon, 1992, p.22). They argue that embedded in the CIS concept is a ‘shared agreement as to the meaning of information’.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Communities of Knowing: A particular group or collection of people that shares a similar educational background, language, interest and a practice

Perspective Making and Taking: Concepts used to characterize the learning processes within and across various communities of knowing

Boundary Object: Concept intended to describe information used in different ways by different communities. Such objects are plastic, interpreted differently across communities but has enough immutable content to maintain integrity.

Shared Situational Awareness: Shared perceptions of environmental elements among a group of people within a given context of time and space, the comprehension of the elements meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future.

Common Information Space (CIS): Virtual or actual space constituted for people that collaborate whether co-present or distributed in time and space. A CIS contains shared information resources for those that participate in the activities of the space and facilitate their work.

Immutable Mobiles: An object or artefact that moves around but keeps its shape, like a map or a newspaper

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Dariusz Jemielniak, Jerzy Kociatkiewicz
Dariusz Jemielniak, Jerzy Kociatkiewicz
Chapter 1
Davydd J. Greenwood
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Are Research Universities Knowledge-Intensive Learning Organizations?
Chapter 2
Juha Kettunen
The aims of knowledge management are to create knowledge and stimulate innovation. Knowledge management allows the knowledge of an organization to... Sample PDF
Construction of Knowledge-Intensive organizations in Higher Education
Chapter 3
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Collective CPD: Professional Learning in a Law Firm
Chapter 4
Paul Trott, Andreas Hoecht
The United States and European economies have witnessed an enormous increase in the amount of specialized business services, which now provide... Sample PDF
Innovation Risks of Outsourcing within Knowledge Intensive Business Services (KIBS)
Chapter 5
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A new knowledge management perspective and tool, ANT/AUTOPOIESIS, for analysis of knowledge management in knowledge-intensive organizations is... Sample PDF
Actor-Network Theory and Autopoiesis: A New Perspective on Knowledge Management
Chapter 6
Jo A. Tyler, David M. Boje
This chapter fits the theme, the interplay between creativity and control in organizations. Story is often claimed to be a way to elicit tacit... Sample PDF
Sorting the Relationship of Tacit Knowledge to Story and Narrative Knowing
Chapter 7
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Exploring Organizational Learning and Knowledge Exchange through Poetry
Chapter 8
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“How do we define our project goal?” “How are we going to coordinate our independent national studies?” “Who is responsible for what?” “How are... Sample PDF
Vagueness: The Role of Language in the Organizing Process of Knowledge Intensive Work
Chapter 9
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In this chapter the author offers an argument towards the resurgence of a proto-alphabetic imagination in electronic and mobile communications. It... Sample PDF
Tyranny of the Eye? The Resurgence of the Proto-Alphabetic Sensibility in Contemporary Electronic Modes of Media (PC/Mobile Telephony); and its Significance for the Status of Knowledge
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Knowledge Management Strategies Implementation in Innovation Intensive Firms
Chapter 12
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The ambition of this chapter is to pay some attention to more obvious, as well as more subtle, methods for organizations to become independent of... Sample PDF
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The Knowledge-Based Approach to Organizational Measurement: Exploring the Future of Organizational Assessment
Chapter 17
Vidar Hepsø
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Common Information Spaces in Knowledge-Intensive Work: Representation and Negotiation of Meaning in Computer-Supported Collaboration Rooms
Chapter 18
Agnieszka Postula
This chapter presents and discusses two factors – creativity and control – which correspond to every organizational reality. IT specialists’... Sample PDF
Creativitiy and Control in IT Professionals' Communities
Chapter 19
Patrocinio Zaragoza-Saez, Enrique Claver-Cortes, Diego Quer-Ramon
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A Qualitative Study of Knowledge Management: The Multinational Firm Point of View
Chapter 20
Cliff Bowan, Pauline Gleadle
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Culture as a Dynamic Capability: The Case of 3M in the United Kingdom
Chapter 21
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Cultural Issues, Organizations and Information Fulfillment: An Exploration Towards Improved Knowledge Management Relationships
Chapter 22
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Chapter 23
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Chapter 28
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Chapter 29
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Knowledge is implicitly assumed to form an increasingly important, or even the dominant source of values for today’s knowledge based organizations.... Sample PDF
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Chapter 30
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Chapter 31
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