2. Knowledge Creation Ritual The main process around which a knowledge-creating system could organize is the production of socially recognized knowledge, which means, as the literature shows, creating original combinations of ideas integrated in group members’ personal images of the world.Since knowledge emerges as a result of making new combinations, its creation involves receiving new information and forging individual understandings which then internally interact and converge, the integrated result being new combinations of individual images. However, the only way to ‘socialize’ individual understandings (i.e., to create knowledge) is to make meanings shared by people in the group.5 Knowledge emerges as a result of continuous negotiations between many actors.6 This means that knowledge creation necessarily involves communication that brings together personal images of the world and mediates their interaction. Further knowledge evolution also depends heavily on the structure of communication network:
the more coherent and denser the network, the quicker is knowledge evolution.Simultaneously, emergence of communication ties is linked to and is embedded in knowledge networks.8 Sharing knowledge in a network increases the chances for a communication tie between participants to arise.Thus, communication processes are under strong influence of present and possible knowledge.
Additionally, knowledge creation is always fuelled by emotional involvement.10 This is an idea behind a widely known concept of intellectual Nikita Basov and Anna Shirokanova work proposed by Randall Collins.11 Emotional energy is not energy in the way physics puts it, but rather it is the cognitive expectation of successful interactions and the feeling of emotional lift during these interactions. The need for emotional empowerment makes individuals seek for communication contacts that may deliver emotional energy.12 Thus, communication and emotional energy are mutually influenced.
Knowledge creation consumes large amounts of emotional energy and simultaneously reproduces this energy when insights are collaboratively achieved (i.e., when knowledge is successfully created). Thus, knowledge and emotional energy influence each other in the interaction process.
All three aspects, knowledge, communication and emotional energy, form the basis of understanding the shared knowledge creation. These aspects are brought together in the micro-level process we propose to call ‘knowledge creation ritual.’ This ritual is an intensive micro-level interaction performance in which knowledge is produced. Intellectuals engage in knowledge creation rituals in various spheres of human activity through such practices as consulting, coaching, various trainings, lectures, and other public events; seminars, round tables, brainstorming, and other forms of group discussions; tutoring, benchmarking, etc.
Our idea of knowledge creation ritual builds on the concept of ‘interaction ritual’ developed by Collins.13 The author describes interaction ritual as an internally structured mechanism of interaction between copresenting individuals. At the centre of it lies the process in which participants develop a mutual focus of attention and become entrained in each other’s bodily micro-rhythms and emotions.14 In the process, individuals produce symbols that carry common meanings and emotional energy for those who can decode them. This mechanism generates mutual understanding, solidarity and common emotional mood between participants.
In the ‘knowledge creation ritual’ individuals contribute their individual understandings and emotional energy to a common event, share information in intensive interaction and, if the ritual is a success, its participants change their individual semantic positions on some subject and gear their emotional conditions toward some common state of ‘knowing.’ As a result, knowledge is created, and new information flows into communication network (through texts, face-to-face communication, knowledge artefacts, etc.) to influence individual understandings of a wider circle of actors. At the same time participants of a ritual carry with them transformed individual understandings in which produced knowledge is rooted, and then develop them further.
As a result of successful knowledge creation ritual, personal knowledge of participants transforms to a more common state in new combinations. Emotional energy is produced in a similar manner.Knowledge and emotional energy influence each other and co-evolve. Only 60 From Distributed Knowledge when there is a synchronised tension between personal knowledge and emotional energy levels of the interlocutors, the ritual chain may be established and the micro-level mechanism of shared knowledge creation begins to work. Communication, the third element, first serves as a mediator for other two levels of interaction and then integrates as a significant element in the system of knowledge creation ritual.
To sum up, communication, knowledge, and emotional energy jointly constitute the chains of knowledge creation rituals. Simultaneously, it is only knowledge-creation rituals that make shared knowledge creation a sustainable collective cognitive process taking place on the social micro level. Series of knowledge creation rituals provide constant production of knowledge constructs, emotions and communication structures.As the interacting group evolves, its common experience gets filled with shared symbols, narratives, and collective representations that turn the knowledge stored in collective memory into a ‘knowledge field,’ which is a basis for creating new shared knowledge. Knowledge does not literally circulate in or penetrate this field as soon as it is individuals who carry it.
What we mean by that is that knowledge field is filled with symbols representing common understandings on some key issues necessary for the group to cooperate. Knowledge field represents the principal coordination mechanism between individuals’ semantic positions which are not the same.
Similarly to the concept of knowledge field, the concept of ‘emotional energy pool’ may be useful to define a field of synergetic interaction between individuals’ emotional energies. Analogically to the knowledge field, emotional energy pool is not a store where emotional energy of all group members gathers, but some virtual space where emotional energies of group members co-evolve and where intrapersonal generation of emotional energy is coordinated. As long as group members get involved in collaboration process, it is evoked in the series of knowledge creation rituals.
Communication network serves as a link between the knowledge field and the emotional energy pool, while chains of knowledge creation ritual pull all three of them into a constant process of co-evolution in the common space of experience. Communication conditions information exchange that feeds knowledge production and charges emotional energy.
Emotional energy gives impulses to perform intellectual work and stimulate further interaction rituals. Developments in the knowledge field nourish the network communication structure and provoke splash-outs of emotional energy. Bringing all the dimensions together is the way to provide sustainable knowledge creation.
3. Knowledge Creation in Intellectual Networks While building on micro-level rituals, knowledge-creating system is itself a vast network ensemble that includes dozens of heterogonous groups Nikita Basov and Anna Shirokanova and hundreds of individuals connected by various communication ties. On this level of theorising we face the problem of integrating parts of the system, which cannot rely solely on the micro-level knowledge creation rituals. Here, the principal differences between mental models, discourses, and practices of knowledge creation characterizing various knowledge fields come into play.
As a result, these fields remain structurally autonomous. Relations between Academia and Civil Society (including business structures) in contemporary western countries may serve as an example of this. While the latter declares to be an equal knowledge creator and speaks of democratisation of knowledge, the former sticks to its autonomy, impartiality and the right to keep the monopoly on creating ‘true’ knowledge. Both sides appear to be unable to understand the values, norms, practices and mission of each other.
Instead, Civil Society and Business attempt to push Academia into market principles of functioning, with the latter locking itself in the ivory tower, refusing to interact and taking complacent and haughty position. Mutual incomprehension grows, and the knowledge fields of the two become ever more separated structurally.
The problem of integrating knowledge fields on the network level, we argue, is a matter of bridging knowledge, communication and emotional energy, just like on micro-level. And yet the underlying mechanism here is not the knowledge creation ritual, but those of long-term structural coupling (in the sense suggested by autopoiesis theory) and co-evolution between knowledge fields, communication structures, and emotional energy pools.
The need for structural coupling between different knowledge fields as well as between communication networks or emotional energy pools stems from functional and structural differentiation and specialization of intellectual network structures that vary significantly.
We take proximity and frequency of interaction as basic variables and distinguish between four types of intellectual network structures. They could be conveniently presented in a Cartesian system of coordinates with the axes ‘proximity’ and ‘frequency of interaction.’ For the sake of convenience we label the four quarters of this system in a counter-clockwise way from I to IV starting from the top right-hand quarter.
Examples of Type I (combining high proximity and high frequency of interaction) are ancient scientific schools, local project teams, or problemoriented laboratories. Its main communication tools are face-to-face interaction, public speeches, and group discussions which allow its participants to frequently perform knowledge creation rituals.17 By contrast, Type III structures (low proximity and low frequency) are popular associations where communication usually happens at conferences, symposia, and via social networking services.
Two other structural positions of this system are not empty either.
High level of proximity combined with low interaction frequency (Type IV) 62 From Distributed Knowledge corresponds to official institutions where cooperation is a professional duty.
Principal communication tools here are the same as in Type III, but knowledge creation rituals are scarcer far less intensive. As a result, joint work can remain no more than collections of independent pieces. Such structures reproduce existing shared knowledge. At last, the top-left position (II) combines spatial distance of actors with high frequency of interaction and intensive knowledge creation rituals, which can be found in distributed teams, e.g. open content developers. Here interaction is mediated by various IT devices, and the set of communication tools involves e-mails, telephones, sms-messages, video and text chats, web-based software for real-time collaboration, etc. Such groups are most likely to include members from different intellectual areas, cultures, and languages who construct a heterogeneous knowledge field. Groups of this type do not have constant membership.Type I structures are traditionally considered the most effective form of intensive knowledge production.19 Such a group may spontaneously organize into an effective problem-solving structure with no centralized control; this type is relatively easy to build and sustain mutual understanding and trust. Members of such groups are tied by numerous knowledge creation ritual chains and act much like entities.20 However, Type I group is likely to result in knowledge homogeneity.21 It also risks developing identical cognitive norms that hinder dialogue and variety.22 If Type I group tries to diversify, it splits into smaller groups rather easily.One of the reasons for cognitive homogenisation is cutting off weak ties of the group members. Weak ties (i.e. those characterized by occasional, more than once a year but less than twice a week seeing the contact person) are the most important channels of bringing new information to a group.Types III and IV seem to fit this condition, but weak ties are context free in them and can hardly produce the necessary degree of trust and understanding between the members.25 Loosely connected network structures allow for conflicting visions of reality and low mutual dependence.26 In turn, uncertainty favours fragmentation of the network into very small groups or single actors where many theories and ways of doing research are generated, cognitive disorganization proliferates, ideas spread slowly, as do innovations.27 Hence, Types III and IV do not satisfy the conditions of knowledge creation ritual in themselves.
However, Type II intellectual network structures may represent a new type of social organization where spatially distributed actors create the common ground of virtual experience, knowledge fields, and emotional energy pools. In such groups, it becomes possible to carry out international projects of knowledge creation with a high degree of synchronization through frequent knowledge creation rituals. Gradual shrinking of the gap between sending a message and getting a response leads to a new quality of Nikita Basov and Anna Shirokanova interaction where knowledge creation rituals are possible even in geographically scattered groups. The frame involves multiple realities that allow the intellectuals to deal with the complexity of heterogeneous environment, though it remains coherent and maintains generality through constant verification of meanings between the participants. This provides conditions for simultaneous action in heterogeneous environments. By interacting through media, participants of the teams get instant response to their inquiries - and yet remain immersed in the world of their own working conditions, in many aspects different (culture, language, organization, etc.).
Knowledge creation process becomes continuous and constantly synthesizing the understandings of various actors embedded in a wide variety of cognitive situations.
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