A Relational Approach to Understanding Knowing in Communities of Practice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

The typology of knowledge communities and knowledge collectivities has aimed to enhance the analytical clarity of
the communities of practice concept (CoPs). This is achieved by outlining key differences in the knowing unfolding in
CoPs and in less ‘homogeneous’ collectives such as multi-disciplinary project teams. This paper argues that the
typology offers an account which denies any significant role to agency within CoPs. Additionally, it explicates the
knowledge processes CoPs engage with, by reference to their internal constitution and in isolation from the broader
contexts in which they are embedded. To address this limitation the paper employs a relational perspective of agency
and context interplay. It reports data from two case studies of CoPs operating within the context of a merger in the UK
brewing sector. The evidence reaffirms the significance of agency in CoPs. It also illustrates how the exercise of agency
is mediated by performative expectations derived from the positioning of work practices within broader relations of
production. The interplay of agency and context poses limitations to the reification of the characteristics of knowing—
in terms of the types of knowledge drawn upon and the outcomes of such a process—in different groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-79
Number of pages12
JournalKnowledge and Process Management
Volume17
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2010

Keywords

  • Communities of Practice
  • Collectivities of Practice
  • Relational sociology

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