networks relationship ties

Networking knowledge through relationships and connectivity

In order to enhance the connectivity of the members through interaction within the network, we have to closely examine the relationships. The characteristics of relationships are the “platforms” for knowledge exchange. Relationships within networks can vary in duration, intensity, as well as in the frequency of the interactions. This naturally implies the personal involvement, commitment and care behind the relationship. The way members of knowledge networks communicate is also about how they use communication tools and the media richness[1]of the relationships describes distinct characteristics of the relationship. The connectivity of a knowledge network also depends on the size of the network. Entry barriers, participation possibilities and ownership can limit the flow of knowledge. Narrow personal relationships are needed on the one hand for creating a climate of trust, which is necessary for sharing knowledge, and on the other hand  for the actual exchange of implicit knowledge. In order to achieve a high knowledge network connectivity, appropriate communication-facilitating conditions have to be in place. Ideally, there should be a high degree of face-to-face contact and an intensive communication among the network members, which includes long-term interaction and a low degree of lingual and cultural differences. Social closeness are also required in order to enable sharing experiences as well as context-bound knowledge. With regard to communication-facilitating conditions, the use of tools must be aligned to the needs and objectives of the network and appropriate ICT tools must be employed and designed for virtual knowledge networks. Knowledge forums, conversation, negotiation techniques, moderation and language tools such as dialogue, controlled vocabulary and thesaurus, may be used in order to support communication too. Open source software communities run on instantaneous, transparent back-and-forth communications and rapid product iterations. Conversations use instant messaging, e-mail and whatever is fast. Open source projects can be kicked off by an individual who writes part of a program and posts it online. Updates may be published daily, enabling a global community of users to test and fix the product continually. And, since the end product is free and anyone can change the code, the product remains in development long after it is released.

Virtual communities demonstrate that establishing personal relationships, trust, and sharing experience and implicit knowledge are to some degree possible. Therefore, ICT communication tools – especially synchronous technologies and tools with a high degree of media richness – are the most relevant. Also, an appropriate knowledge culture that provides values such as care, trust and openness is extremely important. Without such values, network members won’t be willing and able to make their tacit knowledge explicit.

Media richness theory,sometimes referred to as information richness theory, is a framework that can be used to describe a communication medium by describing its ability to reproduce the information sent over it. More specifically, media richness theory states that the more ambiguous and uncertain a task is, the richer format of media is suitable to it. Essentially, it explains that richer, more personal means of communication are generally more effective at communication than leaner, less rich media.


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