Communities in the Digital Age : Towards a Theoretical Model of Communities of Practice and Information Technology
Sammanfattning: The global change towards a knowledge economy forces organizations to seek new and better ways to manage knowledge work and learning. Organizations have recognized that dfferent information technologies can play an important role in their quest to make the desired changes take place. Along with this increasing interest in information technologies we have also noticed a growing interest in a specific type of community, referred to as communities of practice (CoP). A considerable body of research that studies communities of practice in relation to IT continues to grow. Despite this we are far from a theoretical model of the relation between communities of practice and IT that may guide future research and understanding in a fruitful way.The basis for this thesis are the lack of a theoretical model to describe a dialectical relation between communities of practice and information technologies and how these relations come into being. The purpose of this thesis and research study is to contribute to existing theories of communities of practice by developing a theoretical model of a dialectical relation between information technology and communities of practice. In line with this, the study addresses the following research question How do a community of practice and information technology constitute and shape each other? Furthermore, the research study adheres to an interpretative philosophy, a qualitative research design, and longitudinal research case study conducted at Siemens Sweden.This research study was divided in two parts. Part One presented the theoretical chapters and a theoretical working model, referred to as the CoPIT model (Community of Practice model of Information Technology). In Part Two the initial CoPIT model was confronted with empirical data and used to analyze and illustrate the relation between CoP and IT. The main conclusion drawn from the research study is that the CoPIT model makes sense and is relevant, and also that the general principles upon which it is founded hold true. Furthermore, from the empirical confrontation of the CoPIT model we can draw the conclusion that relations exist both between IT in general and the CoP component’s specific constructs and between CoP in general and the IT component’s specific constructs. These key findings validate the point of departure of this study that there is a dialectical relation between CoP and IT, and that they mutually constitute each other over time.
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