Community, communication, learning and practice – think piece


These are just some thoughts that have been going around my head on and off for some months now, they will need developing and I will use this blog to go back to them from time to time. Please feel free to comment if you are driven to or just read. (Warning there be academic dragons ahead and you may feel I’m talking a load of burble!). I haven’t done much reading on the subject recently – books and papers are somewhere in the junk room…

In the early 2000’s, just after taking a 1st degree in Information & Communication Management I embarked on a PhD looking at how organisations change when the technology they use change and how they each affect the other.  I really did not anticipate that this would lead to the huge spread of reading that it did eventually lead to.  One of the issues about information, communication and knowledge is that the definitions are very woolly and professionals / academics in this area could be using those words in a conversation and mean entirely different things.  Anyway, small digression over one of the areas that I began to follow was that of the world of Communities of Practice & the Learning organisation.  This slotted into my work because I was looking at communication as part of the information continuum – that part of the process that added to the ‘knowledge’ inside someone’s head (note human not machine) and also allowed that knowledge to be shared with other individuals which resulted in their knowledge state to be affected. Hmm this sounds like learning to me!

Etienne and Wenger’s work was very interesting to me because it didn’t address structured, formally taught, learning but certainly in their early work – situated learning- learning that happened in the social context of the practice of the particular (in this case work) community the individual was part of.  They actually made a point of defining this ‘community’ as one other than the ‘normal’ one that is immediately thought of – the community around where you live but as one that is based on a collection of shared practice.  However, I’m wondering if that definition could be stretched to include the ‘traditional’ meaning – after all isn’t communication based on shared practices, repertoires, media and patterns?

I had a recent interview for a post as  public member of the local AAP board of the district where I live and they asked me the standard question about what improvements I would make to ‘my’ community. My answer surprised even myself – ‘it depends what community you are talking about as I regard myself as a member of many separate but overlapping communities’.  I’m the typical boundary spanner where I transfer learning around all of my communities…

I’m wondering if there is a way to use this concept with digital inclusion – enabling individual to become stars and boundary spanners – embed ‘digital skills’ within the practice of one area so that the boundary spanners can transfer this knowledge to another ‘community’ that they are part of …

Also this maybe an approach to take with co-production within social and health care services – both within patient ‘communities’ and in communities of HCP’s and patients.  (For instance the diabetes specialist team and their patients ).

More will come when I’ve had a chance to dig into my books, papers and the www. But comments appreciated!






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