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The salience of boundaries : strategies of distinction, boundary reification and knowledge sharing in a nascent field of practice

The practice of knowledge sharing across socio-epistemic boundaries is one of the key areas of inquiry in Practice-Based Studies of knowledge and learning. A considerable body of work dedicated to issues of boundary transcendence has been developed by scholars working in this tradition. The main themes of this literature focus on the idea of bridging boundaries and include boundary-spanning practices, boundary spanners and brokers, and boundary objects. Due to its disproportionate reliance on a consensual and harmonious view of the practice of knowledge sharing, this approach has resulted in (implicitly) treating boundaries as structural givens. Such a conceptualization runs contrary to the predominant view of social and symbolic boundaries in social science, where they are commonly acknowledged to be enacted and relational phenomena. This thesis seeks to contribute to the considerably less developed strand of Practice-Based Studies of knowledge and learning that draws upon these insights and explores the themes of boundary salience, distinction, and reification. The empirical foundation for the thesis is a case study of a Regional Innovation Strategy (RIS) project, funded by the European Commission as part of the Lisbon Strategy for Europe and based in one of the New Member States that acceded to the European Union in 2004. The project was a partnership between three European regions and eight organisations. The key premise of the project was the idea of knowledge transfer from regions with experience of developing regional innovation strategies under the EC aegis to the focal New Member State region. As such, the project represented a heterogeneous knowledge-sharing context, where multiple boundaries could be expected to come into play. The main findings of the thesis reveal a far from harmonious nature of the practice of knowledge sharing associated with the project. The most salient boundary was found to be a pragmatic knowledge boundary, which polarised the nascent field of regional innovation development in the focal region. ‘Knowledge sharing’ took the form of a struggle over the definition of competence within the field, and thus over field dominance. The study identifies first-order and second-order strategies of distinction ii deployed by each of the opposing parties: the former included perspective-pushing, exploitation, and opportunity hoarding; the latter were knowledge transfer, consensus building, and collaboration. The study also identifies a set of six paired practices which constituted both the boundary work and the practice work between the two opposing groups. These practices were found to fall into two categories associated with the relative position of power of those practicing them, i.e. strong and weak practices. Eventually, the struggle for field dominance ended in the concession of defeat by one of the parties, which was immediately followed by the euphemization of the relations across the pragmatic boundary.
Date January 2013
CreatorsZduânczyk, Katarzyna Anna
PublisherUniversity of Newcastle upon Tyne
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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