Socio-Cultural Influences of Society on Knowledge Construction

Socio-Cultural Influences of Society on Knowledge Construction

Bo Chang (Department of Educational Studies, Ball State University, Muncie, IN, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/ijkm.2014010105


This study examined the socio-cultural influences of a society on promoting or constraining knowledge construction practice in a local administrative learning community. Findings show that socio-cultural factors such as hierarchical structure, economic reform, and traditional Chinese culture shape knowledge construction. The implications of this study for knowledge management are: The hierarchical structure allows knowledge to flow easily from the top to the bottom, but does not leave much room for grassroots knowledge to be developed, shared and circulated. Cultural norms such as saving face constrain people's choices of learning and knowledge sharing. Economic reform has resulted in fierce competition and introduced non-linear and decentralized management structure, which encourages creativity and high individual autonomy, and breaks the fixed pattern of circulating knowledge from the top to the bottom. However, fierce competition also prevents people from sharing knowledge with others, especially the tacit knowledge which is gained from experience.
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Theoretical Framework

Social constructionism is the theoretical framework for this study. Social constructionists assume knowledge in nature is not objective and neither is it neutral. It is created in the local context and is gradually objectivated into institutionalized knowledge (Berger & Luckmann, 1967), and is shaped by multiple forces, such as law, regulations, technologies, cultural norms, etc. (Foucault, 1976/1978). Knowledge is the social product “accepted for the time being by members of the discourse community but subject to revision or change” (Prawat & Floden, 1994, p. 44). Murphy (1997) suggested that constructionism values multiple interpretations and accepts the one that can explain the phenomenon and guide our actions in certain contexts. The criterion to judge whether this product is true or not is to see if it fits the local context at a particular point in time. In the knowledge construction process, learners’ different perspectives will be filtered and woven by macro socio-cultural factors. These macro socio-cultural factors influence which perspectives will be selected and institutionalized into publicly accepted knowledge.

People view the world through a lens influenced by their culture, which leads them to select some things and to ignore others (Crotty, 1998). People adjust their behaviors through negotiating and mediating their needs, behaviors, attitudes and expectations from society (Bandura, 1977). Through observing, imitating and modeling others’ behaviors, attitudes, etc., people get ideas about which responses are most appropriate in which settings, and how new behaviors are formed (Bandura, 1977). For example, the new managers in an organization assimilate the new organization context by observing and imitating the behaviors of their seniors and direct supervisors (Park, & Hatmaker, 2013). In the knowledge construction process, learners usually learn those new skills, attitudes and knowledge which society values most. They adjust their behaviors through negotiating and mediating their needs and the expectations from society.

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