Making and mending your nets: the management of uncertainty in academic/practitioner knowledge networks
Alferoff, C. and Knights, D. (2009) Making and mending your nets: the management of uncertainty in academic/practitioner knowledge networks. British Journal of Management, 20 (1). pp. 125-142. ISSN 1467-8551
Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8551.2007.00556.x
Making and mending your nets is concerned to examine, from an actor–network theory perspective, how the relevance debate concerning research and teaching is a significant non-human actor in the development and management of industry–academic networks associated with UK business schools. By significant, we do not imply the most important because it is only one of many human and non-human actors that may arouse interest, be problematized, enrolled and/or mobilized for such networks to become ‘obligatory passage points’ and ultimately irreversible collective assemblies. The paper then utilizes actor–network theory as a framework for examining our primary empirical research on academic–practitioner knowledge networks – nets that require a continuous making and mending in managing relevance, participation and uncertainty. We argue that the actor–network framework is more compatible than alternative knowledge diffusion or transfer models with the data we have collected on academic–practitioner knowledge networks in the UK. In accounting for the dynamic instability and precariousness of knowledge networks, it avoids raising false expectations about business knowledge and its relevance or effectiveness. If knowledge in the physical sciences and engineering unfolds slowly and unevenly in the face of many disputes, disruptions and setbacks, as actor–network theory has claimed, then how much more likely is this to be the case in the social sciences? Consequently there should be no expectations of one-to-one, direct causal chains between knowledge production and application, as some business school critics seemingly demand.
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