The Information Society: A Cloudy Forecast

I recently shared an article with my Twitter community members about the post-work economy in response to Dr. Burns’ tweet about a hotel’s robot concierge. Since then, I have often thought about my place in the workforce and my value as a social scientist to the larger economic picture. In consideration of Tremblay (1995) and Rule and Besen (2008), I think rhugenwrites gets it right by saying the future they forecast concerning the “information society does not present a message of hope, but rather a darker perspective on the future” (2016, para. 1). road_cloudy_by_neonxlt-d39l3rb

Tremblay (1995) points out that due to fast-paced developments in technology, phrases such as  “the information society” and “the knowledge economy” are often used interchangeably. Although Tremblay doesn’t offer clear distinctions of each, he does provide interesting ways for us to consider the changes in our society by labeling our past in the context of Henry Ford and our present in the context of Bill Gates. These comparisons illustrate clear differences from past to present, but perhaps most importantly, it serves as a catalyst to question where we go from here. Tremblay (1995) discusses the fact that our society has been through changes in the way we think about work, providing the example that “laid-off workers in the primary sector shifted to the secondary sector, and those in the secondary sector moved on to the tertiary sector, after often long and painful transition periods. But there are no more sectors” (para. 60). If, in fact, there are no more sectors, what do we do? How do we prepare? How might we embrace and adapt to changes in our society?

If, in fact, there are no more sectors, what do we do? How do we prepare? How might we embrace and adapt to changes in our society? Cowan, David, and Foray (2000) discuss the economic issues associated with the “intellectual property rights regime and the disclosure conventions of various epistemic communities” (p. 250). Can we work together to foster new sectors in the face of these tensions?

As scholars, I believe it’s important to look at the bigger picture. Powell and Snellman (2004) define the knowledge economy as “production and services based on knowledge-intensive activities that contribute to an accelerated pace of technical and scientific advance, as well as rapid obsolescence”(p. 201). These authors point out that existing research on the knowledge economy focuses on knowledge production rather than its impact. It makes sense that Powell and Snellman (2004) assert that this shortcoming is neglectful. They maintain that “a key insight of the productivity debate is that significant gains in productivity are achieved only when new technologies are married to complementary organizational practices”(p. 215). As a health and risk communication researcher, I know that more communication is not always better. Studying dissemination and the impact of knowledge is crucial in the era of big data.

Regardless of all the gloom and doom I can muster in considering the future, I remain optimistic. Rule and Besen (2008) say  “those whose work involves social analysis are also inclined to believe that such understanding promotes all sorts of other good effects. Educated understanding of social life supposedly encourages economic growth and prosperity; it renders the individuals who incorporate it more productive and successful; it makes organizations more egalitarian and effective; and it reduces the role of destructive conflict in human affairs” (p. 341).

Leonardo-Dicaprio-Cheers

Here’s to the future and, hopefully, job security.

 

 

 

 

References

Cowan, R., David, P. A., & Foray, D. (2000). The explicit economics of knowledge codification and tacitness. Industrial & Corporate Change, 9(2), 211-253.

Powell, W. W., & Snellman, Kaisa. (2004). The knowledge economy. Annual Review of Sociology, 30, 199-220. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.29.010202.100037

Rule, J. B., & Besen, Yasemin. (2008). The once and future information society. Theory and Society, 37(4), 317-342. doi:10.1007/s11186-007-9049-6

Tremblay, G. (1995). The information society: From Fordism to Gatesism. Canadian Journal of Communication, 20(4), 461-482.

 

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Knowledge Management is Relational

Engaging in reading literature and research of knowledge management continues to offer many philosophical questions of knowledge, the individual, and the collective. As Tsoukas (2001) points out, “it is not quite evident how knowledge becomes an individual possession and how it is related to individual action, nor is it clear in what sense knowledge merits the adjective organizational” (p. 974). The more I engage in thoughtful consideration of knowledge management, the more I return to the argument that these processes, whether tacit or explicit, are intrinsically relational.

customer-relationshipTsoukas (2001) characterizes organizations by their concrete settings, abstract rules, and historical communities. I want to emphasize community within this characterization in this post. In past blogs, I have described the importance of the individual in creating productive communities of knowledge. I maintain this view as I read of organizational stories, which include the narratives of employees and their managers and the subsequent interactions that take place (Colon-Aguirre, 2015). Talk about the importance of stories is crucial as the cultural knowledge within an organization is “central to the organization’s own existence” (Colon-Aguirre, 2015, p. 431).

Blackler (1995) largely supports activity theories that argue knowledge is constantly evolving due to the nuances of language among organizational members. He points out that language is essential for enabling collective interpretations, negotiating behavioral priorities, signaling group membership, and helping to create community. The importance of community is stressed in the description of knowing as a pragmatic tool for developing communal narratives in the face of expanded knowledge systems. Although this article was written before big data, I believe the importance of the individual contribution to the collective still rings true. Tsoukas (2001) supports this assertion by saying, “in knowledge management digitalization cannot be a substitute for socialization” (p. 991).

The culture of knowledge communities in organizations shapes the beliefs, norms, and values among organizational members (Colon-Aguirre, 2015). A great portion of the literature concerning knowledge management in organizations is inherently positive by nature. I have detailed the power of individuals in an almost motivational manner in prior blog posts. Despite my optimistic views of the ways we may bolster knowledge creation, sharing, and transfer, there are examples of negative knowledge behaviors in organizations. Connelly, Zweig, Webster, and Trougakos (2012) describe the nature of knowledge hiding, or “an intentional attempt by an individual to withhold or conceal knowledge that has been requested by another person” (p. 65). Hiding is not merely the absence of sharing – these attempts can include playing dumb, evasive hiding, and rationalized hiding. These behaviors may hinder the productivity and negatively affect the culture of an organization. cat hiding

So what may managers do to facilitate positive knowledge behavior and culture? Colon-Aguirre (2015) advocates for the use of organizational stories to employ change management, increase motivation through communication of triumphs and survival, perpetuate belief systems and attitudes based on organizational history. Emphasis on culture and the narratives within may aid in emphasizing shared identity, increasing employees opportunities for social interactions, and highlighting instances where trust has been created and nurtured (Connelly, Zweig, Webster, & Trougakos, 2012). This emphasis adds to the significance of heuristic knowledge described by Tsoukas (2001) in that organizational knowledge “crucially depends on employees’ experiences and perceptual skills, their social relations, and their motivation” (p. 990-991).

References

Blackler, F. (1995). Knowledge, knowledge work and organizations: An overview and interpretation. Organization Studies, 16(6), 1021-1046. doi:10.1177/017084069501600605

Connelly, C. E., Zweig, D., Webster, J., & Trougakos, J. P. (2012). Knowledge hiding in organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(1), 64–88. doi:10.1002/job.737

Colon-Aguirre, M. (2015). Knowledge transferred through organizational stories: a typology. Library Management, 36(6/7), 421-433. doi:10.1108/LM-06-2014-0073

Tsoukas, H. (2001). What is organizational knowledge. Journal of Management Studies, 38(7), 973-993. doi:10.1111/1467-6486.00268