Enabling Knowledge Conversion through a Sense of Virtual Community: A Case Study of Blog Community Conversations
By: Fa Martin-Niemi, Dr. Richard Greatbanks
Over the past decade, blogs have become an increasingly popular media for both personal expression as well as social networking. Initially used as a public forum for personal diaries, blogs continue to grow in variety and purpose. Blogs are now used as information sources, public forums for debate, and have even entered the domain of knowledge management (KM) as a location for communities of practice (CoP) discussions. Due to the virtual nature of the environment, and independent of face-to-face (FTF) interactions, blogs transcend many traditional barriers to participation, such as geographic location. Moreover, blogs have extended beyond communication tools to become virtual communities complete with their own social behaviours, and offering benefits inherently found within culture-sharing groups. Considering blogs from a KM perspective raises an interesting question; if blogs are virtual communities, do they provide an environment for knowledge conversion which has previously been considered the sphere of place-based communities? This research investigates blog conversations, specifically looking for evidence of enabling conditions for knowledge conversion from both tacit-to-tacit and individual-to-collective perspectives, within a blog context. The research methodology uses an adaptation of virtual ethnography to observe the extent to which blog posts and corresponding comments exhibit a sense of community between members. A collection of blog conversations were analysed to identify sense of community traits which also demonstrate a potential for knowledge conversion. This thematic analysis resulted in the identification of two major themes, enculturation and learning. Both these themes are underpinned by sense of community characteristics such as identity, common language use, influence and trust. In addition to revealing a sense of community among members, the findings of the study also confirm the knowledge conversion potential of blogs and their community.
Keywords: Knowledge Management, Enabling Context or 'ba', Blogs, Sense of Community, Virtual Communities, Social Networks