Dissertation-Topic for Consideration
Scholarly Personal Narrative and Social Knowledge Management
CA Heidelberger
Friday, April 3, 2009

Working Title: Self-Organizing Social Knowledge Management: A Case Study Investigating Evolutionary Learning Communities and Scholarly Personal Narrative


  1. Define and demonstrate scholarly personal narrative (SPN) as an information systems research methodology.
  2. Develop a model of geographically based self-organizing social knowledge management built on the “evolutionary learning community” model proposed by Laszlo and Laszlo (2002).
  3. Describe and investigate South Dakota online communities as first-generation IS manifestations of self-organizing social knowledge management.


Laszlo and Laszlo (2002) argue that knowledge management has a social function beyond the boundaries of individual firms or organizations. They propose that we apply the lessons of knowledge management to the betterment of mankind in general. Laszlo and Laszlo discuss using knowledge management to promote not just competitive advantage for individual firms but also economic development for regions scaling up to the entire global community (p. 409). As I observed in class assignment earlier this semester, their research agenda calls for a “big picture” knowledge management that equips all of humanity with greater access to existing knowledge and expands humanity’s ability build new knowledge and meaning in response to economic, environmental, and political problems.

Laszlo and Laszlo’s work has been referred to by other authors in the context of “knowledge cities” and economic development (e.g., Ergazakis et al., 2004). I propose to apply Laszlo and Laszlo’s concept of social knowledge management on a broader scale suggested in their own research. Specifically, I would like to investigate the phenomenon of the self-organization of an online evolutionary learning community-or, arguably, an aggregation of interest-based communities united by geography and culture into a larger community-as a manifestation of social knowledge management made possible by Internet technologies.

This project would also have a methodological objective: to test scholarly personal narrative (SPN) as an information systems research methodology. Nash (2004) advocates scholarly personal narrative as a methodology with which researchers can ground their research in storytelling based on their own experience. I contend (in my submission to MWAIS 2009) that SPN can be a useful methodology to increase the relevance and communicability of IS research without sacrificing rigor. SPN offers researchers a chance to reflect deeply on their own experience as practitioners and share that experience for the benefit of their colleagues. Given my regular participation in South Dakota’s online communities as a blog author, commenter, and teacher, SPN is a particularly appropriate research methodology for me to use on this topic. There is also a certain synchronicity in methodology and object of study, as online communities often make use of narrative, which research has recognized as an effective knowledge management strategy (Nielsen & Madsen, 2006; Swap et al., 2001). This project could thus contribute both a greater understanding of storytelling and other knowledge management techniques on the social scale as well as a demonstration of storytelling as a valid research methodology within the knowledge management activities of the information systems academic discipline.

General Tasks:

  1. Create a model of self-organizing social knowledge management in a geographical context.
  2. Create a “map” of South Dakota online communities (political, community-based/hyperlocal, technology, education, business/industry, agricultural, home/garden, sports/hobby, etc.)
  3. Analyze public online texts and interview authors/contributors to trace the motivations, development, interaction, and effectiveness of these communities as a self-organizing social knowledge management process.
  4. Weave into this analysis a scholarly personal narrative of my own experience in these online communities.


Ergazakis, K., Metaxiotis, K., & Psarras, J. (2004). Towards knowledge cities: conceptual analysis and success stories. Journal of Knowledge Management, 8(5), 5-15.

Laszlo, K.C., and Laszlo, A. (2002). Evolving knowledge for development: The role of knowledge management in a changing world. Journal of Knowledge Management, 6(4), 400-412.

Nash, R. J. (2004). Liberating Scholarly Writing: The Power of Personal Narrative. New York: Teachers College Press.

Nielsen, L. and Madsen, S. (2006). Using storytelling to reflect on IT projects. Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application, 7(4), 35-47.

Swap, W., Leonard, D., Shields, M., and Abrams, L. (2001). Using mentoring and storytelling to transfer knowledge in the workplace. Journal of Management Information Systems, 18(1), 95-114.