Intro 1: The concept of Practice

Wenger’s Communities of Practice, p45

Wenger points out how, in the claims office, to many, the sense that the practice was communal escaped many. He argues that the community formed (one as a function of the job they did, but also the reasons why, their and their employers shared sense that few wanted to be there…all sorts of bonds) was necessary to the business. He argued that it

  •  Provided avenues to resolve the conflict between measures and work (here I assume he means the conflict between mandated things like talk time on the phone versus on the job generated requirements…but it’s not clear)
  • suppports a communal memory that means no one person needs to know everything (I’m guessing this is a form of knowing where/who, and not knowing what – ala the Connectivists)
  • “helps newcomers join the community by participating in it’s practice”
  • “generates specific perspectives and terms to enable accomplishing what needs to be done”
  • makes it all bearable – rituals, habits, etc etc that make the whole thing psychologically doable

The practice, or social practice that they have…engineered…”in order to be able to do their job and have a satisfying experience at work” comprises a lot of different but related things. The said, and the unsaid. The explicit and tacit. “language, tools, documents, images, symbols, well-defined roles, specified criteria, codified procedures, regulations and contracts…but it also includes all the implicit relations, tacit conventions, subtle cues, untold rules of thumb, recognizeable intuitions, specific perceptions, well-tuned sensitivities, embodied understandings and shared world views.”

Hmm. I’d argue that these are often, though not universally somewhat shared. It is, however possible to exist outside many of these codified and agreed upon understandings. People exist outside these markers, and communities that share them, or belong to communities with differing codes that share the same work. It is even possible to excel while remaining oblivious to them, or consciously discounting them.

That said,, the ideas of shared “embodied understandings and shared world views” again covers a lot of connectivist thought.

The idea of the communal memory is explicitly and implicitly a characteristic of connectivist thought – the network is the memory, and the learning. But Wenger’s analysis seems more complete, sophisticated, and carefully thought out in terms of internal consistency.






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