Trust me, I'm an expert: Identity construction and knowledge sharing

  • Crane L
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Purpose – Knowledge management (KM) is a global organizational practice that focuses on core questions around knowledge sharing and creation, and which is characterized by definitional issues and a schism over the nature of knowledge. Against this by definition problematic background, this study aims to investigate how KM practitioners construct identities as expert in an online discussion forum, showing how knowledge sharing is inextricably linked to identity construction. Design/methodology/approach – The study adopts a discourse analytic approach, grounded in the discourse psychology paradigm, and its underlying theory that all language, including both talk and text, is situated action in social interaction, marked by variation, function and consequences. Findings – Analysis demonstrates how forum contributors deploy discursive devices constructively, actively and relationally to formulate membership of an expert elite group, and that group membership is marked by inter-group competitive rivalry. This has synergies with the theory of creative abrasion. Practical implications – The study has implications for KM theories and practice in showing how attention to the social-interaction practices of talk and text can reveal deeper understanding of how people share knowledge, and in demonstrating the important and consequential relationship between identity construction and knowledge. Originality/value – This is among the first studies to take a discursive approach to the study of language in the KM domain, and demonstrates the rich potential for future studies.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Discourse analysis
  • Discussion forum
  • Identity construction
  • Individual behavior
  • Knowledge management
  • Practitioners
  • Rivalry
  • Stance-taking

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  • Lesley Crane

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