An evolutionary (memetic) perspective on 'How and why does organizational knowledge emerge?'

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Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2002
Thesis identifier
  • T10598
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Department, School or Faculty
  • This thesis explores how and why organizational knowledge emerges. An underdeveloped branch of evolutionary theory called memetics, which applies to social evolution, is used as a theoretical back-drop. Evolutionary theory is an explanation of knowledge that assumes knowledge emerges in a system without foresight, making the system infinitely self-sustaining. This thesis explores the dynamics of knowledge emergence during social interactions. This is done on the basis that knowledge is created through social exchange and social exchange has to happen before knowledge can become embedded in minds and embodied in artefacts and anyway the knowledge stock of any social system can never be known as it is forever changing. The research is exploratory in that the theory, the research strategy and the empirical element of the thesis are all very novel. Two empirical settings are explored: 'un-managed' Internet chat rooms and a 'managed' organizational setting, with the aim of being able to compare these settings to determine how management can affect the emergence of knowledge. In order to be able to compare the emergence of knowledge within these settings knowledge emergence is described and explained. Knowledge emergence is decribed in terms of both content, specifically variety of content; and process, specifically the nature of the steps involved in adding that variety. Knowledge emergence is explained by characterising the system in which knowledge emerges. The system attributes of community interactivity, differential retention dynamics, rules of knowledge emergence and reflexivity are shown to be responsible for knowledge emergence. In comparing the three cases within each setting and the two settings, it is shown that each case of knowledge emergence has its own unique 'fingerprint'. which is more or less similar to others. Using these comparisons in association with the theory, the thesis elucidates the system attributes and concludes that the system is beyond perfect control, but the system attributes are more or less controllable and hence more or less manageable. Community interactivity and retention dynamics are difficult to manage whereas rules of emergence and reflexivity are more manageable.
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Date Created
  • 2002
Former identifier
  • 654900