[Asis-l] New issue of Information Research

Prof. Tom Wilson T.D.Wilson at sheffield.ac.uk
Mon Oct 14 12:30:08 EDT 2002

Dear all:

Volume 8 No 1 is now available. Check out
http://InformationR.net/ir/ - remember to hit "Reload" if you have
been using the journal recently.

Here is the Editorial - even if you don't normally read the Editorial -
please read the first para. :-)


First, some Editorial news. I have established a discussion list for
Information Research, which I hope authors, readers and members
of the Editorial Board will make use of. If it fails to attract much
discussion over the course of Volume 8, I shall discontinue it.
However, I'll be using it for announcements about the journal, so if
you are interested, do join. The list is "IR-
DISCUSS at jiscmail.ac.uk" and you can join by following the
instructions at the Web page:


The second Editorial matter is to announce some changes to the
Editorial structure of the journal. Originally, I anticipated that mirror
sites might be needed to speed access, but this does not seem to
have been necessary. Consequently, those who had previously
been designated as 'Regional Editors', will simply become
members of the Editorial Board, with the exception of Prof. Jose
Vicente Rodriquez, who remains responsible for the Luso-Hispanic
area, as we gradually build up a corpus of papers from that region,
and of Dr. Elena Maceviciute whose role in supporting the Book
Review section is recognized. As a result of swelling the Board's
numbers by recruiting former members of the Board of the Journal
of Documentation, we are also thanking some members who have
served their three years (probably temporarily!)

This issue

This issue is intentionally provocative. We called for papers that
took a critical view of 'knowledge management', in the personal
belief that it is a conceptually empty buzz word. Naturally, not all of
the authors agree completely with this proposition. One or two
believe that, although 'knowledge' cannot be managed, the concept
is of practical value in organizations when applied to the
management of people or work processes, so as to encourage
information sharing. Others, like myself, believe that for academics
to embrace the concept and seek to give it some kind of credibility
in scientific discourse, is to deny the scholarly aim of critical

We begin the issue with an invited paper: I came across Frank
Miller's Web site for his company, Fernstar, when I was exploring
the concept of 'knowledge management' some two or three years
ago, and when I invited him to update one of the documents on his
site, I'm glad to say that he accepted. Frank takes the view that if
we talked about 'meaning' and 'message' the notion that
'knowledge' could be managed would disappear - I'm not sure that
would be true, but 'I=3D0 (information has no intrinsic meaning)
presents an interesting argument.

France Bouthillier and Kathleen Shearer ask whether 'knowledge
management' is an emerging discipline or a new label for
'information management' noting the lack of clear distinction
between the two. They conclude that, '...although the concepts of
tacit and explicit knowledge, knowledge sharing and knowledge
technologies are often used, they are not clearly defined', but,
'Dismissing KM as simply a management fad could be a missed
opportunity to understand how knowledge is developed, gained and
used in organizations, and ultimately in society.'

Next, Paul Hildreth and Chris Kimble suggest that '...the term
knowledge suffers from a high degree of what might be called
"terminological ambiguity" and often requires a host of adjectives to
make clear exactly in what sense it is being used.' They suggest
that knowledge cannot be captured, codified or stored and that the
only way forward is to acknowledge that knowledge resides in
people. They offer the idea of 'communities of practice' as one that
could genuinely help in the more effective utilization of personal
knowledge in organizations.

Suliman Al-Hawamdeh, one of the two editors of this issue,
identifies the concept of 'tacit knowledge' as the main challenge for
any idea of 'knowledge management', which should focus on
people, as the repositories of knowledge, and the bearers of
'intellectual capital'.

The title of my own paper, 'The nonsense of "knowledge
management", presents my views in a rather obvious fashion.
However, after analysing a cross-section of the literature,
consultancy Web sites, and the sites of MBA programmes, I can
find little to support the notion that anyone is doing anything that
amounts to managing 'knowledge'. Managing information, yes;
managing work practices, yes; but managing knowledge - no. And
using the term simply as a label does not make the mish-mash of
subjects covered by the label anything like a discipline.

Finally, we have a Working Paper from Len Ponzi and Michael
Koenig, which reports on the first author's work towards the Ph.D.
The work is partly quantitative, exploring the literature of 'knowledge
management' and describing it in terms of prior work on
management fads and fashions. The authors conclude that, '...a
more detailed analysis, which the authors look forward to
conducting, needs to be undertaken to determine whether
knowledge management is more than an unusually broad-
shouldered fad.' We shall look forward to reading about that more
detailed analysis in Information Research.

In reviewing many papers for my own article, I came to the
conclusion that the root of the difficulty over 'knowledge
management' is semantic. This is why I sought to define
'information' and 'knowledge' in such a way that they can be seen
to be related, but separate. Many writers fail completely to define
what they mean by 'knowledge' and how it differs from 'information',
and, indeed, many define 'knowledge' in terms of 'information' =96 a
number of examples of this are given in my paper. The result is
semantic and conceptual confusion: not least for the practising
manager seeking to make sense of the research that is filtered into
the business magazines.

What, then, to do about it? At the very least those in the academic
community and those in consultancy companies, who are
concerned about the vacuous nature of much of the so-called
research output, could band together in common agreement on
terminology. Frank Miller has suggested that we should talk about
'message' and 'meaning' instead of about 'information' and
'knowledge', but that may be a little too radical for some. Equally
radical is my suggestion that we ought to drop the word
'knowledge' from all work in this area and talk about 'information
management' or 'information resource management' or 'information
technology management' when that is what we mean, and use
'intellectual capital', 'intangible assets', 'organizational change',
'human resources management', etc., when we are using
'knowledge management' as a synonym for any of those things.
The truly useless thing is that different writers are using the same
term, 'knowledge management', to talk about all of these matters.


It's curious (or perhaps not) and certainly frustrating for the Editor,
that so many people appear appear not to read the simple
instructions on preparing bibliographical references. If you are
contemplating submitting a paper to Information Research, please
read the instructions to authors, especially section 3.2

I shall be augmenting these instructions to include how to give
references for Web pages and other electronic documents, when
time allows. The absolutely essential point here is to check that
the page exists at the time you submit the paper - they have a
tendency to disappear at a quite amazing rate.

Another reminder for those contemplating a submision: the
evaluation form is available on the site.

'Best sellers': an update on the most 'hit' papers on the site (as of
the morning of 12th October 2002), expanded backwards in time to
Volume 3 no. 4 (as far back as the counters go) - there have been
one or two changes since the last issue. And no-one has answered
my question - does the use of an issue of an electronic journal
decline less rapidly than a print journal?

Vol. 3 No. 4 - Business use of the World Wide Web: a report on
further investigations, by Hooi-Im Ng, Ying Jie Pan, and T.D.
Wilson, Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield,
U.K. -
6,833 hits.
Vol. 4 No. 1 - The Internet as a learning tool: a preliminary study,
by Kate Garland, S.J. Anderson, and J.M. Noyes, University of
Bristol - 5,896 hits
Vol. 4 No. 2 - Student attitudes towards electronic information
resources, by Kathryn Ray & Joan Day, Department of Information
and Library Management, University of Northumbria at Newcastle,
UK - 8,631 hits
Vol. 4 No. 3 - Information in organisations: directions for information
management, by Joyce Kirk, University of Technology, Sydney,
Australia - 10,853 hits
Vol. 5 No. 1 - Experiencing information seeking and learning: a
study of the interaction between two phenomena, by Louise
Limberg, H=F6gskolan i Bor=E5s Bor=E5s, Sweden - 4,747 hits
Vol. 5 No. 2 - Textual and chemical information processing:
different domains but similar algorithms, by Peter Willett,
Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield, UK. -
3,202 hits
Vol. 5 No. 3 - Recent trends in user studies: action research and
qualitative methods, T.D. Wilson, Department of Information
Studies, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK - 7,696 hits
Vol. 5 No. 4 - Information exchange in virtual communities: a
typology, by Gary Burnett, Florida State University, Tallahassee,
Florida, USA - 3,912 hits
Vol. 6 No. 1 - Designing internet research assignments: building a
framework for instructor collaboration., by David Ward and Sarah
Reisinger, University of Illinois, USA - 7,446 hits
Vol. 6 No. 2 - National Information Infrastructure and the realization
of Singapore IT2000 initiative,, by Cheryl Marie Cordeiro and
Suliman Al- Hawamdeh, Nanyang Technological University,
Singapore - 2,714 hits
Vol. 6 No. 3 - Determining organizational information needs: the
Critical Success Factors approach, by Maija-Leena Huotari,
University of Tampere, Finland and T.D. Wilson, University of
Sheffield, U.K. - 5,261 hits
Vol. 6 No. 4 - Scholarly communication, scholarly publication and
the status of emerging formats, by Leah Halliday, Department of
Information Science, Loughborough University, UK - 1,128 hits
Vol. 7 No. 1 - Environmental scanning as information seeking and
organizational learning., by Chun Wei Choo, Faculty of Information
Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada - 4,524 hits
Vol 7 No. 2 - Critical realism and information systems research:
why bother with philosophy?, by Philip J. Dobson, School of
Management Information Systems, Edith Cowan University,
Churchlands, Western Australia - 1,241 hits
Vol 7 No. 3 - The role of motivation and risk behaviour in software
development success, by Kenneth R. Walsh and Helmut
Schneider, Information Systems and Decision Sciences
Department, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana,
USA - 969 hits
Vol 7 No. 4 - The Semantic Web: opportunities and challenges for
next- generation Web applications, by Shiyong Lu, Ming Dong and
Farshad Fotouhi, Department of Computer Science, Wayne State
University, Detroit, Michigan, USA - 692 hits

Professor Tom Wilson Publisher/Editor-in-Chief 

Professor T.D. Wilson, PhD
Publisher/Editor in Chief
Information Research
University of Sheffield
Sheffield S10 2TN,  UK
e-mail: t.d.wilson at shef.ac.uk
Web site: http://InformationR.net/

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