Under the influence of Enlightenment epistemological thought, the social sciences have exhibited a distinct tendency to prefer deterministic explanations of social phenomena. In so doing, social scientists of the ‘foundational’ school have sought objective knowledge of social phenomena by eliminating the subjective intrusions of concerned actors (Hekman, 1986)1. However, as Bruner (1990; p. 118) points out “…there are no causes to be grasped with certainty where the act of meaning is concerned.” It is clear that ‘foundationalist’ views of knowledge have come to dominate the information systems (IS) field in that they influence extant perspectives on knowledge management and on the posited role of IT in creating, capturing, and diffusing knowledge in social and organisational contexts. In order to address what many would consider to be a deficiency in such thinking, this paper offers an ‘antifoundationalist’ perspective that considers knowledge as being simultaneously ‘situated’ and ‘distributed’ and which recognizes its role shaping social action within ‘contexts of practice’. Insights drawn from this short essay are addressed to academics and practitioners in the IS field in order to illustrate the considerable difficulties inherent in representing individual knowledge and of the viability of isolating, capturing and managing knowledge in organisational contexts.
Butler, Tom, "Making Sense of Knowledge: A Constructivist Viewpoint" (2000). AMCIS 2000 Proceedings. 323.