Knowledge Management is a Cultural Activity

When June started, I had roughly 600 tags identifying everything from blog posts to notes to links to book reviews across nearly ten different sites. You could say I had a really fine-tuned control over all of my digital artifacts. You could also say that 600 tags was probably overkill, especially since an artifact was rarely ever tagged correctly. I’m slowly working on fixing both the number of tags I use and how they’re employed in the hopes I can actually use my system in a way that both makes sense to me and allows me to retrieve information.

As I was trying to get a feel for how my multitude of tags was implemented, I noticed that a lot of my knowledge and information management posts fell under the anthropology tag (or category, as the case is on this site). At first, I tried to figure out what I was thinking when I classified knowledge management and information management both as anthropology. Surely, they would be better suited to some other tag (that doesn’t exist on nearly half the sites involved).

The more I thought about it, the more I thought that I might not be so crazy after all. Taxonomies, folksonomies, and classification systems are created according to rules set down by the utilizing culture. I spent high school helping to keep both the collections and the acquisitions card catalogs in my high school’s library up to date. I got that task because I had learned how libraries organize information. In grad school, I had to learn whole new systems of classification as I learned about collections management. My current views on setting up a classification system for anything is governed by nearly ten years of library and museum experience.

Had I worked in other fields, had I experienced different cultures, I’m sure my ideas on classification would be different because they would have been shaped differently. I love reading about card sorting in information architecture (and may just resort to it to finish sorting out my own tags) because it shows how differently groups of people will group information because of their own needs and experience.

We all handle knowledge and information, and we all interact with them differently. Call me crazy, but I think that does actually qualify knowledge management and information architecture as cultural activities.

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One thought on “Knowledge Management is a Cultural Activity

  1. Pingback: Crossing Cultures | a musing kiry

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