Affiliated Organization

University of Amsterdam, Netherlands


Deliberate corporate attempts to stimulate organizational learning, such as for instance topromote “knowledge cultures” by creating virtual communities, can evoke unforeseen and unintendedresponses. Moreover, such formal, imposed attempts of stimulating knowledge cultures may runagainst informal ways of seeking information, establishing bonding relationships, and raising personalmarket value. This chapter shows how management and moderators as well as employees of a large ITfirm have appropriated the language of the organizational change discourse surrounding the virtualcommunity idea. It also illustrates how differences in their patterns of appropriation have preventedthe virtual communities to evolve into the intended collective learning mechanisms.” First, wepresent the research framework and methodology used. Subsequently, we discuss the community ideaas interpreted by management and moderators of the virtual communities. This is followed by thesame procedure for the participants of the communities. In both cases, the arguments put forward forthe various interpretations are depicted, which are then generalized into patterns of appropriation.Hereafter, we illustrate the differences in appropriation between the various subcultures and discussthe different factors responsible for their situated and negotiated behaviors. Finally, conclusions andimplications are given.