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Electronic ‘knowledge factories’ versus micro-environment of innovation: Who will win?

The end of the 20th century was marked by several studies that revealed the collective mechanisms of the development of knowledge as a joint activity in working teams. Thus, the idea that acquiring knowledge was an unproblematic transfer of what is already available and can be unilaterally transferred and assimilated was rejected [Lave, Wenger, 1991]. The aim of this paper is to study the possibilities of electronic network platforms to use the collective nature of knowledge in the interests of further developing knowledge and innovation through online communication of professionals. Based on a literature review on the development of knowledge, the paper compares the basic principles of knowledge application in formulating new decisions during real joint activity and during online communication within specialized platforms for ‘knowledge exchange’. The author argues that electronic networking platforms contribute to the fragmentation of knowledge representation of participants, eluding a common sense and purpose. Thus, such platforms blur the boundary between knowledge and information. The article indicates that the desire to increase the effectiveness of collective creativity via online communication risks not developing competencies, discretion, and exploration of others’ experiences. Instead, this desire leads to strengthening external control and separation of functions into primary routine operations when an individual participant is valued not for his/ her knowledge and previous experience, but for his/ her communicative capabilities. The produced effect is akin to the industrial revolution of the machine era; when this effect is widespread, there are risks that knowledge workers will be turned into easily replaceable, piecemeal workers. To avoid this, electronic platforms should either learn to recreate the conditions of offline micro-environments of innovation, or not claim to fulfil the role of knowledge production.