Knowledge Diffusion


Knowledge Diffusion

1.0 Introduction:

Many times, we have heard the term viral. Yes, we know that this is very common terminology used in medical sciences usually denoting the spread of an epidemic. In recent times it is often used for spreading of any multimedia content such as video, image, artwork through the internet using social media platforms. In simple words, the term means it is spread in the community. The same thing has also happened in the academic world, but it is usually known by a different terminology called “diffusion.” Diffusion also means the same thing which happened, but it is much different from the context in which we use viral. Why diffusion over viral it is because the various studies are conducted to study the diffusion of knowledge in the academic community. Researchers are studying various antecedents and consequences of knowledge diffusion in a range of disciplines, i.e., statistical physics and computer science to sociology and management sciences and with the very diverse backgrounds. Thus, this has led to confusion of the concepts and procedure. Therefore, the various issues related to knowledge diffusion have been discussed in detail further (Ozel, B., 2012; Kumar, A. and Shivrama, J., 2017).

The Blind Men and the Elephant.
Figure 4.1:TheBlind Men and the Elephant.Source:Ozel, B., 2012, p.184

Till so far various theories, conceptual frameworks, models and approaches have been deployed by the researcher to study the various research questions of knowledge diffusion. Most of the inquiries are answering that

(a) how the knowledge is produced;

(b) what kind of knowledge is diffused in the community;

(c) what are the stages in knowledge diffusion;

(d) what are the various modes of knowledge diffusion;

(e) Social structure and nature of knowledge diffusion.

1.1 Knowledge Diffusion:

Usually, we denote that the scientific process of disseminating knowledge is the diffusion of knowledge. This diffusion of knowledge takes place between individuals or groups and organizations for communication of research and innovations in society. This spreading of knowledge can be seen as an indicator of the progress of the society because without effective diffusion of knowledge society may not progress. Thus, in simple words, it is the process of knowledge transfer.

However, according to Chen, Chaomei and Hicks, Diana (2004): “Knowledge diffusion can be defined as the adaptations and applications of knowledge documented in scientific publications and patents”.

Thus knowledge diffusion is a phenomenon which studies how knowledge diffused, why knowledge diffused, and at what rate knowledge diffused through academic community.

1.2 Data, Information and Knowledge:

How the data, information, and knowledge are interlinked with one other is discussed here.

1.2.1 Data:

as per the definition published in Online Dictionary of Library and Information Science (ODLIS) the “data is the plural form of the Latin word datum, meaning ‘what is given’, it is commonly used as a singular collective noun representing facts, figures, or instructions presented in a form that can be processed, comprehended, interpreted, and communicated by a human being or machines” (Reitz, Joan M., 2016).

1.2.2 Information:

As defined by Joan M. Reitz (2016) “data presented in the readily comprehensible form to which meaning has been attributed within the context of its use. In a more dynamic sense, the message conveyed by the use of a medium of communication or expression, whether a specific message is informative or not depends in part on the subjective perception of the person receiving it. The more concretely, all the facts, conclusions, ideas, and creative works of the human intellect and imagination that have been communicated, formally or informally, in any form”. (Reitz, Joan M., 2016).

According to the 10th Edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, Pearsall, Judy (1999) described information as “the facts or knowledge provided or learned as a result of research or study. What is conveyed or represented by a particular sequence of symbols, impulses, etc., genetically transmitted information” (Pearsall, Judy (1999), p.727).

1.2.3 Knowledge:

The Reitz (2016) explained the knowledge as the “information that has been comprehended and evaluated in the light of experience and incorporated into the knower’s intellectual understanding of the subject” (Reitz, Joan M. 2016).

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defined knowledge as “information and skills acquired through experiences or education, the sum of what is known, true justified belief as opposed to opinion. Awareness and familiarity gained by experiences” (Pearsall, Judy., (1999), p.727).

1.3 Knowledge Creation:

The 2lst century is regarded as the knowledge based society, where the awareness of scientific knowledge is regarded as an indicator of socioeconomic development. Processed data leads to information and information leads to knowledge. In simple words, raw data when processed and some attached value is derived from the processed data becomes the information and when this information is passed to others it becomes knowledge.

Data (texts, numerals, images, etc.)

Information (filtered and processed data within a relevant context)

Knowledge: (systematically processed information)

Knowledge Creation

1.3.1 Plato and Theaetetus Dialogues:

In philosophy, the study of knowledge can be traced in ancient Greece. Where the Greek philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and Socrates discussed the phenomenon of knowledge. Although Theaetetus immortalised is one of the famous dialogues but it failed to provide a universally acceptable definition of knowledge, however it sources for further discussions.

(i) Knowledge is the various arts and sciences

(ii) Knowledge is perception

(iii) Knowledge is true judgement and

(iv) Knowledge is true judgement with an “account” (Logos)

Based on the above dialogue Moser, Paul K. and Nat Arnold vander (2009) further explained human knowledge can be categorised into the following categories:

1) Empirical (or, a posteriori) knowledge: based on evidence, justification, component of sensory experience, Knowledge of physical objects).

2) Non-empirical (or, a priori) knowledge: depends on its evidence component solely on “pure reason” or “pure understanding and knowledge of logical and mathematical truths.

3) Knowledge by description (a kind of propositional knowledge): knowledge by description means knowledge that something is the case.

4) Knowledge by acquaintance (a kind of non-propositional knowledge): knowledge by acquaintance includes direct non-propositional awareness of something, and does not necessarily include knowledge that something is the case.

5) Knowledge of how to do something.

1.3.2 SECI Model by Nonaka and Takeuchi:

Organisations are supposed to be the major players in producing knowledge. Organizations are intended to create, share and preserve knowledge for future retrieval. This process is popularly known as knowledge management in Management Science. In 1995 Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi provided a detailed analysis of knowledge creation among the Japanese firms, as discussed in their publication entitled “The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation”. This study revealed that the Japanese approach to knowledge is very much different as compared to the western approach. In the Japanese approach, the knowledge creation takes place at three levels: individual, group and organizational.

The Nonaka and Takeuchi explained the process of knowledge creation in four steps popularly known as the SECI Model (Socialisation, Externalisation, Combination, and Internalisation). This model explained the two different dimensions of knowledge and their transformation tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge and explicit knowledge to tacit knowledge. The term tacit knowledge was introduced by the Hungarian Michael Polanyi in 1958. The tacit knowledge refers to the cognitive knowledge which is not coded and which lays in the human brain i.e. personal skills, experiences, ideas. It is the knowledge that cannot be expressed in words. Whereas when this tacit knowledge is recorded in the form of articulated data, codified in a form which is suitable for communication in the universe it is regarded as explicit knowledge (Takeuchi, Hirotaka. 2006).

a) Socialization (Tacit to Tacit): The mammoth share of knowledge lies in the human brain in the form of tacit knowledge. This knowledge can only be collected through the process of socialization i.e. a process of sharing knowledge via personal and social interaction. Face to face sharing of personal experiences like a tutor-student relationship. However, people are not keen to disclose their personal secrets and skills.

b) Externalisation (Tacit to Explicit): when someone received tacit knowledge via socialization and recorded it in the visible form (explicit knowledge). For example, when students take class notes during the teaching.

c) Combination (Explicit to Explicit): when recorded information is improved, re-synthesised, recombined to enhance and standardise the importance of existing recorded knowledge for universal acceptance and generalisation it is called the process of combination. For example, when notes prepared by the students are resynthesised based on the standard theories. Formulation of hypothesis and its testing according to the universally accepted process.

d) Internalisation (Explicit to Tacit): internalisation can be seen as a process of knowledge diffusion. When newly acquired knowledge is tested practically. Thus, it converts explicit knowledge in to tacit knowledge i.e. learning how to ride a bike after reading the manual. Thus, it converts acquired knowledge into personal experiences learning by doing.

                    Figure 4.2: Nonaka and Takeuchi KM Model shows the process of knowledge diffusion.

1.3.3 Modes of Formation of Subjects:

In 1950 Padmashree Dr. S.R. Ranganathan, the doyen of library and information from India. He generalized the concept of knowledge organization and subject structure by proposing the modes of formation of subjects. He explained how a subject develops over a period of time in following steps:

i) Lamination: This is the result of the combination of the layer of a basic subject with an isolated idea.

ii) Loose Assemblage: It is the combination of basic or compound subjects.

iii) Fission: It takes place when we split a subject into two or more parts.

iv) Fusion: When two subjects are fused together they formed new subject this process is known as the fusion.

v) Distillation: During the distillation process a subject is distilled and a new subject is emerged out of the basic subject.

vi) Cluster: Clustering takes place when the subject of study is diversified and scattered in various fields is taken together for study.

vii) Agglomeration: Agglomeration (earlier called partial comprehensions) happened when the entities of larger masses collected together without cohesion (Ranganathan, S.R. 1967).

Reference Article:

  • Kumar, A. (2018). Global Knowledge Diffusion Vocational Education and Training.


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