The Role of Technology in Supporting Communities of Practice

The Role of Technology in Supporting Communities of Practice

Alton Chua (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-556-6.ch075
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Most KM literature which investigates the role of technology in supporting communities of practice is oriented either technically or socially. Works that adopt a technical orientation tend to focus sharply on issues such as robustness, scalability, interoperability, and security. Furthermore, they invariably include a plethora of KM tools ranging from databases, portals, and search engines. The dynamics that occur in communities of practice, on the other hand, receive cursory treatment. Works that adopt a social orientation tend to delve into cognitive and social processes but are usually confined within the context of distributed communities. They discuss how technology is used to mitigate the geographical separation among members. However, beyond citing the generic capabilities of technology, such as enabling connection among members, holding electronic content, and providing search functions, the role of technology to meet the peculiar needs of communities of practice has rarely been expounded. For this reason, this article seeks to clarify how technology can be used to support communities of practice. First, it develops a conceptual model which provides a parsimonious approach to unravel the nebular properties of communities of practice. Next, it explains the power and limitation of technology within the realm of knowledge management and proposes a suite of capabilities found in extant technology tools which supports communities of practice. Finally, this article briefly discusses emerging technologies that could be used to meet the rising needs of community members.

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