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KFS (KM) in China:
II Different knowledge definitions

During the literature review for this study, a myriad of knowledge definitions was considered which vary according to the philosophy behind it.

"Information in context" is a definition which forms the basis of the DIKW model.
Context is thereby defined differently. Rationalists see it as the coherent whole and ultimately true body of knowledge while pragmatists see it as the usefulness in a particular situation. The concept of context can supply information with meaning but does not necessarily include either usefulness (pragmatist viewpoint) or absolute coherence with the total body (rationalist viewpoint).

"Knowledge is understanding based on experience" by William James (quoted by Firestone & McElroy, 2003)
"The most essential definition of knowledge is that it is composed of and
grounded solely in potential acts and in those signs that refer to them." By Charles Peirce (quoted by Firestone & McElroy, 2003),
"Knowledge is social acts" (quoted by Firestone & McElroy, 2003)
Since these definitions are based on understanding of experience, and the criteria of usefulness for social action, these definitions represent the pragmatist's view of knowledge.

"Knowledge is experience or information that can be communicated or shared" (Allee, 1997 quoted by Christensen, 2001) is based on experience and information. However, to say that "knowledge is information that can be shared" is problematic since this leads to the question which information is not shareable. But as information consists out of data which is always shareable, the definition equals information and knowledge, neglecting the difference of these two concepts. Additionally, Allee (1997 quoted by Christensen, 2001) has the viewpoint that "we literally cannot know anything without a word to describe it" and therefore binds knowledge exclusively to information. Her view on knowledge is very limited as language is only one out of many information channels such as visuals, sounds or practical demonstration. A defeater of her definition would be the fact that it is still possible to transfer knowledge without the use of language and often necessary when two individuals don't speak the same language.

"Knowledge, while made up of data and information can be thought of as much greater understanding of a situation, relationships, causal phenomena and the theories and rules (both explicit and implicit) that underlie a given domain or problem"
Bennet 2x "Characterizing the next generation knowledge organization"

"'Knowledge' is defined as what we know: knowledge involves the mental processes of comprehension, understanding and learning that go on in the mind and only in the mind, however much they involve interaction with the world outside the mind, and interaction with others." (Wilson, 2002)

According to Wilson, knowledge can only be in the minds of people. Although not directly expressed, the definition includes the empiricist ("interaction with the world) and the rationalistic ("comprehension, understanding and learning") viewpoint on the creation of knowledge. However, it is not directly mentioned that knowledge claims need to be justified. Adding to his knowledge definition, Wilson (2002) says that knowledge is bound to the thinking structures of each individual and when these wish to share it, they compose messages which are then decoded by another individual. However, "the knowledge built from the messages can never be exactly the same as the knowledge base from which the messages were uttered" (Wilson, 2002). The degree of loss of meaning thereby depends on the clarity of information. A mathematical theorem, e.g. the Pythagorean theorem of a2 + b2

"Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. In organizations it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, practices and norms"
(Davenport & Prusak, 1998).

This definition concentrates on the definition of organizational knowledge which due to the authors does not only include experience and contextual information, expert insight (which would probably include their wisdom as well) but also values. The element of truth and justification is missing, leaving out the criteria of validation of knowledge claims. The statement that knowledge can be embedded in documents and repositories shows that knowledge is seen as tangible which other academics would call information (NOTES).


"Knowledge is a term applied to the best performing beliefs, belief predispositions, and knowledge claims in question of an agent - that is, the individual or group that holds the belief or belief predisposition, or expresses the knowledge claims in question - in the course of the agent assessing the performance of those claims" (Firestone & McElroy, 2003). Thereby, they state that their definition does not require knowledge to be absolutely true but only temporarily true fallible when not able to survive our future tests.


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