Communities of Shattered Practice

Miguel Cornejo Castro, a com-prac stalwart, has published this seminal paper over at Knowledgeboard: “Revisiting Communities of Practice: from fishermen guilds to the global village” (you’ll need to register for free to download it).

It’s the best and most sustained critique I’ve seen yet of the “traditional” Wengerian definition of CoPs (heavens, it’s not that old a concept, we’re calling it traditional already!). Specifically, Castro deconstructs two core Wengerian concepts, pointing to the fragmentation of practice and the porosity and fluidity of domains, enabled by technology, and calls for a fresh view of CoPs seeing them less as well-bounded entities, and more as “conversational spaces” in an ecology of resources. A closing, and very significant observation is that online CoPs are increasingly privately owned (even if they are democratically run), simply because the resources and channels to maintain the CoPs are no longer collectively maintained. This resonates strongly with the shock shutdown by Yahoo Groups of the ACT-KM group in January this year.

This is a must read for anyone interested in communities of practice (thanks Eric).

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