Findings from study on WaterWiki by Anna


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Background to the Dissertation

Internship 2005

Good opportunity for a study

Literature in the academic on CoPs, Technology and wikis in the academic world still in their infancy. (Struggling to incorporate technology into social theories)

Based on survey and interviews

Study aimed to find out if the WaterWiki contributed to the development of the CoP

Key Findings

Knowledge Sharing in the CoP

1) Most important reason for sharing in the CoP and the wiki
  • To stay connected to other practitioners and the rest of the community
  • To share knowledge and experience. The WaterWiki is more used for sharing experiences than it is for storing information (documents, reports etc)

2) Reasons for not sharing
  • Time
  • Lack of water related projects
  • Membership in too many CoPs

The wiki contributed to CoP development in the sense that

  • It created a sense of 'togetherness' for the community: The WaterWiki brought the community closer together ('unitedness'), it overcomes time and space separation

  • Acted as an important knowledge and information tool for the CoP: Greatly improved access to information and knowledge on water and in the region ("Our own little Britannica").

  • The wiki has increased the salience of water governance issues: importance of these initiatives for the future... Anything that this type of exercise on water governance can produce at the beginning of the century may help to dampen the rhetoric and the political sword waving that will come later when fresh water access becomes more critical than energy.

  • The wiki technology can be seen as contributing to the CoP: 1) High usage 2) The technology is not difficult to use 3) CoP members like the look and feel of the WaterWiki 4) WaterWiki has acted as a vetted resource for the CoP through its constant peer review process

WaterWiki did not contribute to CoP development because...

Despite these benefits of the WaterWiki, it can not be said to have fulfilled its potential as a knowledge sharing tool for the CoP:

  • No spontaneous sharing, mostly based on requests to post information
  • Greater benefit to the work of the facilitator (Juerg) than to the practitioners
  • No CoP member thinks the WaterWiki has made a noticeable contribution to their work

Reflections on key findings

Why has the WaterWiki not spurred spontaneous knowledge sharing in the CoP??

1) Focus on codification and information storage rather than collaboration, interaction, and communication. The prevailing KM view of what knowledge is is static, individual, and objectified. That knowledge is something to be captured and codified from the heads of practitioners. It is more and more accepted in the academic work that knowledge is something that is created socially, through practice with other people (this is where the idea of CoPs come from!). This is also the potential of web2.0 technologies -knowledge sharing through communication and collaboration

Quote on knowledge sharing as a chore:

[There is] no extra time to contribute to the network. Although the issues are interesting and challenging, there is mostly no time to write, summarise and post. Although there is a requirement now that we should contribute at least two times to the network, that's the mechanism the management uses to incentivise us.

I don't upload enough information. I put it on my to-do list but it is always somewhere at the end. It's unfortunate because we have a lot to share. But what helps is that when people approach me, I send them the documents by e-mail. It's a matter of being committed, I have to have a personal commitment, put it in the calendar and update my WaterWiki page on a regular basis. It's a matter of personality, some people enjoy it a lot, it depends on the person.

But, the CoP showed a desire for knowledge sharing that is interactive and collaborative rather than knowledge sharing that focuses on extraction knowledge objects from their heads:

1) The survey and the interviews showed that the wiki to is too static, not dynamic or ‘alive’. The survey data showed that the CoP members would like to see more regular updates in the wiki, receive information that colleagues are using the material and knowledge that is shared, receive information on upcoming events, and for there to be an 'alerts' or notification system to inform members when new pages are added that are of interest. And the interviews showed that most of the respondents value interaction and communication rather than a static information repository.

If the wiki was more active, rather than being just a stationary, voluntary platform that would compel me to participate

When people are interacting virtually there is no direct feedback at every single moment, you might feel that there is probably no one using the information you have uploaded. You feel isolated, you are adding information but [there is] no visual way to see if anyone is using what you have uploaded

2) Knowledge should be seen as a public good. A public good has two critical properties. It is non-rivalrous consumption, meaning the consumption of one individual does not detract from that of another. And, second, it has non-excludability, that is, it is difficult if not impossible to exclude an individual from enjoying the good. If knowledge is seen as a public good within an organisation, people feel compelled to share out of a moral obligation. Introducing rewards and incentives for sharing wont help as this only encourages self-interested behaviour (The survey showed that if knowledge sharing was part of the practitioners job description, this would not make them share more).

 Anna Maron Thesis final Aug07.doc

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