The Social Context of Knowledge

The Social Context of Knowledge

Daniel Memmi (Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-543-6.ch011


Information and knowledge have become a crucial resource in our knowledge-based, computer-mediated economy. But knowledge is primarily a social phenomenon, on which computer processing has had only a limited impact so far, in spite of impressive advances. In this context have recently appeared various collaborative systems, that promise to give access to socially-situated information. We argue that a prior analysis of the social context is necessary for a better understanding of the whole domain of collaborative software. We will examine the variety and functions of information in modern society, where collaborative information management is now the dominant type of occupation. In fact, real information is much more complex than its usual technical sense: one should distinguish between information and knowledge, as well as between explicit and tacit knowledge. Because of the importance of tacit knowledge notably, social networks are indispensable in practice for locating relevant information. We then propose a typology of collaborative software, distinguishing between explicit communities supported by groupware systems, task-oriented communities organized around a common data structure, and implicit links exploited by collaborative filtering and social information retrieval. The latter approach is usually implemented by virtually grouping similar users, but there exist many possible variants. Yet much remains to be done by extracting, formalizing and exploiting implicit social links.

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