Achieving knowledge across borders: Facilitating practices of triangulation, obliterating “digital junkyards” [Book Review]

Ethics and Information Technology 8 (3):143-154 (2006)
Abstract
International companies expanding and competing in an increasingly global context are currently discovering the necessity of sharing knowledge across geographical and disciplinary borders. Yet, especially in such contexts, sharing knowledge is inherently complex and problematic in practice. Inspired by recent contributions in science studies, this paper argues that knowledge sharing in a global context must take into account the heterogeneous and locally embedded nature of knowledge. In this perspective, knowledge cannot easily be received through advanced information technologies, but must always be achieved in practice. Empirically, this paper draws from two contrasting initiatives in a major international oil and gas company for improving its current ways of sharing knowledge between geographically distributed sites and disciplines involved in well planning and drilling. The contrasting cases reveal that while a shared database system failed to improve knowledge sharing across contexts, a flexible arrangement supporting collaboration and use of different representation of knowledge was surprisingly successful. Based on these findings the paper underscores and conceptualizes various triangulating practices conducted in order to achieve knowledge across borders. More accurately these practices are central for individuals’ and communities’ abilities to: (i) negotiate ambiguous information, (ii) filter, combine, and integrate various heterogeneous sources of information, and (iii) judge the trustworthiness of information. Concerning the design and use of information technologies this implies that new designs need to facilitate triangulating practices of users rather than just providing advanced platforms (“digital junkyards”) for sharing information.
Keywords communities, global IT, Knowledge Management Systems, knowledge sharing, theory
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