Knowledge sharing

So far, nothing suggests that human presence is requisite to knowledge sharing, but Davenport and Prusak coined the term ‘frictions’ to point at a number of cultural factors that may inhibit knowledge sharing (ibid.: 96). Amongst these, lack of trust, lack of common ground (cultural, hierarchical), lack of time and lack of meeting place are noteworthy aspects in terms of the spatial issues discussed here.

Fairly similar results are noted in other disciplines, such as in space syntax theory where it is expressed in more spatial terms that proximity, visibility and layout stimulate interaction. In cognitive science, similar terms are used to discuss factors that contribute to poor synchronizing in human interaction (Argyle and Cook 1976), such as when the subtleties of nonverbal communication are lost (Heath and Luff 1991; Rutter et al. 1984). One such feature is eye contact, which is used as a control mechanism in social behaviour, for example, to signal intimacy. Hence, mutual gaze is important to the establishment of trust, both in real space and in mediated interaction.[31] While the benefits of information technology in facilitating the transmission of data and explicit knowledge were already quite obvious, we have now identified several aspects that can be related to spatial design, and which matter in terms of tacit knowledge sharing. As noted earlier, the relationship between knowledge sharing, human presence and workplace layout is complex, and our aim here has not been to make conclusions, but rather to discuss the expectations of collaborative work practices, and more importantly, whether other means of supporting knowledge sharing in future workplace contexts—for example, remote presence—can be considered as viable solutions. What, in consequence, would be required from workplace design, were organizations to place the same expectations on knowledge sharing in mediated environments? We can use the ‘frictions’ proposed above to discuss whether mediated workplaces support knowledge sharing as adequately as real workplaces. In the following, we will look at recent examples of mediated workplace design to ascertain/discuss whether mediated spaces add to the ‘friction’ in the development of trust, common ground, time and meeting places. Will remote presence, as enabled by the design prototypes, in effect, reduce the frictions? If so, what is the potential for future workplace design within the emerging paradigm of remote presence?

Note 31: Op cit: (Heath and Luff 1992; Heath et al. 1995; Rocco 1998; Acker and Levitt 1987; Ishii and Kobayashi 1992; Fullwood 2006).