Abstract - The Information Society 21(2)

"The Art of Knowing": Social and Tacit Dimensions of Knowledge and the Limits of the Community of Practice

Paul Duguid

Community of practice theory is inherently a social theory. As such it is distinct from more individualist accounts of human behavior, such as mainstream economics. Consequently, community of practice theory and economics favor different accounts of knowledge. Taking a community of practice perspective, this paper challenges economists' attempts to reduce knowledge to information held by individuals and to reject tacit knowledge as mere uncodified explicit knowledge. The essay argues that Polanyi's notion of a tacit dimension affected numerous disciplines (including economics) because it addressed aspects of learning and identity that conventional social sciences overlooked. The paper situates knowledge, identity, and learning within communities and points to ethical and epistemic entailments of community practice. So doing it attempts to limit, rather than expand, the scope of community of practice analysis and to stress the difference, rather than the commonalities, between this and other apparently congenial forms of social analysis.

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