Scientific or organizational knowledge creation has been addressed from different perspectives along the history of science and, in particular, of social sciences. The process is guided by the set of values, beliefs, and norms shared by the members of the community to which the creator of this knowledge belongs, that is, it is guided by the adopted paradigm (Lincoln & Guba, 2000). The adopted paradigm determines how the nature of the studied reality is understood, the criteria that will be used to assess the validity of the created knowledge, and the construction and selection of methods, techniques, and tools to structure and support the creation of knowledge. This set of ontological, epistemological, and methodological assumptions that characterize the paradigm one implicitly or explicitly uses to make sense of the surrounding reality is the cultural root of the intellectual enterprises. Those assumptions constrain the accomplishment of activities such as construction of theories, definition of inquiry strategies, interpretation of perceived phenomena, and dissemination of knowledge (Schwandt, 2000). Traditionally, social realities such as organizations have been assumed to have an objective nature. Assuming this viewpoint, the knowledge we possess about things, processes, or events that occur regularly under definite circumstances, should be an adequate representation of them. Knowledge is the result of a meticulous, quantitative, and objective study of the phenomenon of interest. Its aim is to understand the phenomenon in order to be able to anticipate its occurrence and to control it. Organizations can instead be understood as socially constructed realities. As such, they are subjective in nature since they do not exist apart from the organizational actors and other stakeholders. The stable patterns of action and interaction occurring internally and with the exterior of the organization are responsible for the impression of an objective existence. The adoption of information technology applications can reinforce or disrupt those patterns of action and interaction, thus becoming key elements in the social construction of organizational realities (Lilley, Lightfoot, & Amaral, 2004; Vaast & Walsham, 2005).
The Rational and Emotional Nature of Personal Knowledge
Individual knowledge is actively constructed by the mind of the learner (Kafai & Resnick, 1996).
We make ideas instead of simply getting them from an external source. Idea making happens more effectively when the learner is engaged in designing and constructing an external artifact, which is meaningful for the learner, and he or she can reflect upon it and share it with others. From this constructionist description of the learning process, we can emphasize several elements associated with the creation of knowledge, namely, cognition, introspection, action, interaction, and emotion.
Through cognitive processes, humans construct mental representations of external and mental objects. Introspection is a specific type of cognition that permits the personal inquiry into subjective mental phenomena such as sensory experiences, feelings, emotions, and mental images (Damásio, 1999; Wallace, 2000). Through action and interaction, we create our experiences of the world we live in. The effective construction of personal knowledge requires the building of relationships between concepts and other mental constructs, in profoundly meaningful experiences (Shaw, 1996). All human experience is mediated by emotions, which drive our attention and concentration in order to help us to process external stimuli and to communicate with others.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Objectivism: A set of theories that views true knowledge about external realities, and the process of its creation, as neutral and independent of the knowledge creator.
Social Constructions: External and sharable concepts, associations, artifacts, and practices that people actively develop and maintain in their social settings. An organization is an example of a social construction that interconnects its members in a specific social setting, in which many other social constructions are continuously being developed and maintained.
Constructionism: A set of theories that defines the human beings as active constructors of their own learning and development. This learning and development of knowledge happens more effectively when individuals are involved in the construction of something external, something that can be shared, or both.