Making large-scale information resources serve communities of practice Chapter uri icon


  • 2000 by Taylor & Francis. As communities of practice begin to store their collective knowledge in large-scale libraries, databases, or electronic memories, an important issue arises. How do communities "know what they know"? More importantly, "how do members learn about, access, and utilize what others have contributed to this collective knowledge store?" What Marshall, Shipman, and McCall term community memory-the open-ended set of collective knowledge and shared understandings developed and maintained by a community- becomes the key to unlocking the processes, intellectual capability, and evolutionary lifecycle of "what a community knows." The authors see community memories as having three distinct stages: seeding, evolutionary growth, and reseeding. Each of these stages becomes an interpretation of the daily activities and collective experiences of each member. However, as communities grow, the ability to identify and catalogue what is stored in community memory becomes overwhelming. Similarly, vibrancy-which requires continued maintenance to weed out growing inconsistencies and redundant contributions-becomes juxtapositioned with the need to remain connected to large-scale external resources, such as networked repositories or the Internet. These concepts are additionally addressed through viewing the community as an information agency. As the authors state: "Perhaps the central point about obtaining information within communities of practice is that informed people are frequently the best source of information. This function of a community as an information agency-as mediator of retrieval-is in fact one of the primary reasons for its existence.".

author list (cited authors)

  • Marshall, C. C., Shipman, F. M., & McCall, R. J.

complete list of authors

  • Marshall, CC||Shipman, FM||McCall, RJ

Book Title

  • Knowledge and Communities

publication date

  • January 2009