Date of Award

5-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Embargo Date

5-23-2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Information Science and Technology

Advisor(s)

Steve Sawyer

Keywords

Informal ties, Knowledge sharing, Social media, Social technologies, Sociotechnical

Subject Categories

Library and Information Science

Abstract

This doctoral dissertation is focused on both empirical and conceptual contributions relative to the roles social technologies play in informal knowledge sharing practices, both within and across organizations. Social technologies include (a) traditional social technologies (e.g., email, phone and instant messengers), (b) emerging social networking technologies commonly known as social media, such as blogs, wikis, major public social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn), and (c) enterprise social networking technologies controlled by a host organization ( e.g., SocialText). The rapid uptake of social technologies, combined with growing interest in their broader social implications, raises pertinent questions about uses for knowledge sharing in organizations. The work reported in this thesis is motivated by two broad phenomena: (1) the importance of informal knowledge-sharing in organizations and (2) the rapid rise in the variety and prevalence of social technologies.

The empirical basis of this research is a field study focused on the uses of social technologies by knowledge workers, specifically those in consulting firms. Building from the theoretical lenses of sociomateriality, structuration, and technological frames, the findings from this work advances our understanding of: (1) the ways social technologies are used in combination as a suite of tools, (2) the ways in which organizational norms, policies, and arrangements shape the uses of social technologies for knowledge practices, and (3) the variations in uses of social technologies by different groups of knowledge workers.

The theoretical contribution of this work is to conceptualize the suite of social technologies used to support and enable knowledge workers is a more useful approach than the single-technological-tool-in-isolation approach, which is the norm in studies of computing. A second contribution of this work is to situate social technologies-in-use through incorporating complementary theoretical concepts: technology-mediated knowledge practices, social structures of organizations, and workers' distinct interpretations of social technologies (technological frames). Practical implications arising from this study both inform the ways social technologies can be collectively integrated in work practices and inform the design and implementation of social technologies for accommodating different needs and preferences of knowledge workers. This research also generates insight into how organizations can craft policies that realistically regulate the use of social technologies, while empowering individual workers to optimize their knowledge sharing capacity by supporting informal engagement via social technologies.

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Open Access

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