Capital from Community

Huysman, M., and Wulf, V. (2006) IT to support knowledge sharing in communities, towards a social capital analysis. Journal of Information Technology 21 (1) 40-51

This paper argues for a social capital approach to system analysis, based on the failure of KM 1.0 to acknowledge the importance of factors such as community ties and belonging to motivate and stimulate knowledge sharing. Intoducing sociotechnical approaches to design, the authors stress the need to understand “infoculture” (providing the motivation) in addition to infrastructure (opportunity) and infostructure (ability). These correspond to the relation-based, structural and cognitive dimensions of social capital respectively.

Design approaches that concentrate on structural aspects are criticised as technologically deterministic, and more socially determined design approaches are needed to better adapt technology to the real ways that people interact.

Written as it was before the meteoric rise and mainstreaming of social networking and web 2.0, the paper shows its datedness through some of the examples cited. But many of the principles expressed, such as the need for ethnography and pattern recognition are highly relevant today.

The hypothesis closes the paper – that better social alignment of IT will reduce the need for sociotechnical brokers – has probably not been borne out despite the popularising of the social web. Though perhaps these roles are becoming more devolved to “normal users” today.

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