In this paper, I want to argue for the importance of considering materiality in our studies of knowledge in organizations. In particular, I want to make the case that our understanding of organizational knowledge, learning, and capabilities is limited to the extent that we disregard or downplay the critical role of material forms, artifacts, spaces, and infrastructures in everyday knowledgeable practice.
I have two aims in this paper: (i) to highlight how and why materiality matters and why we should take it seriously; and (ii) to briefly illustrate how my colleagues and I have been exploring materiality in our studies of knowledge work in our research projects.
The view of knowledge that I adopt here is a performative, not a representational one. From this perspective, knowledge is not an external, enduring, or essential substance — but a dynamic and ongoing social accomplishment. This is a view of knowing in practice that is receiving much attention by a number of researchers in the field (e.g., Blackler; Lave; Nicolini and Yanow; Tsoukas). It leads us to focus on knowledge not as static or given, but as a capability produced and reproduced in recurrent social practices.