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[xmca] Knotworking (ex: Double stimulation?)

Hello Greg,

Sorry it took a while to respond to your inspiring question. I guess the
authors themselves would be better to answer your question but I'll give a

In the study, knotworking was mainly used as an intentional response to the
problems of work that were in the focus of the change lab or emerged as its
consequence. After all, the interventionists proposed the concepts of knot
and knotworking as second stimuli, and explained these concepts to the
librarians in the beginning of the intervention. The project was even
called “Knotworking in the Library.”

In another published study about the project, Engeström, Rantavuori, and
Kerosuo (2013, Expansive Learning in a Library: Actions, Cycles and
Deviations from Instructional Intentions) make an argument that knotworking
(corresponding to co-configuration type of production) was not a usual way
of working in the library:

"In academic libraries two types of work exist simultaneously; craft-like
work on collections and standardized mass production with customers. This
means that academic libraries are focused on taking care of collections of
physical books and journal as well as streamlining standardized services
for the individual clients, particularly for the students. Academic
libraries are not used for the collective and mutual co-creation and
co-configuration of services with their clients. Furthermore, they are used
to instruct their clients, not negotiate with them."

Another quote from Engeström, Rantavuori and Kerosuo (2013) highlights why
the interventionists thought the knotworking would be appropriate:

"Our preparatory analysis led us to assume that the present object of the
library’swork with researchers was an individual researcher’s discrete
request for publications or publication-related information. The needed new
object would be a long-term partnership with a research group needing
support in the management of data, publishing, and following the global
flow of publications. This new object would require a new division of
labor, new competences, and a new organization model for the library. Not
all services that would meet these emerging needs were yet there. They
needed to be co-constructed and continuously reconfigured in flexible
knotworking between librarians and research groups"

Thus, knotworking was intentionally introduced by the interventionists, and
taken up by the librarians. Originally, the knotworking was intended as a
way of working between the librarians and their customers, the research
groups. But, as the intervention evolved, a version of knotworking was
developed for organizing the librarians internal cooperation. In the latter
form, knotworking involved crossing traditional boundaries of hierarchy.
Again a quote from Engeström, Rantavuori and Kerosuo (2013):

"Perhaps more importantly, the librarians worked out and began to implement
in practice their own version of the idea of knotworking as a concept
to guide the long-term development of the library’s organization and way of

Greg, I interpret that knotworking was thus an intentional response (your
first usage) to societal circumstances that were beyond the control of the
participants (your second usage). Yet, I guess whether the circumstances
are fortunate or unfortunate depends on the perspective. In this
intervention, I was helping with the data collection in the project, and I
remember the library director saying something like unless the librarians
transform their work, their work will not exist in the future. In a way, at
least a bit of determinism was involved.

Thinking about positive and negative, I am reminded of what Engeström,
Engeström and Vähäaho (1999, When the center does not hold: The importance
of knotworking) wrote about ethical dimension of knotworking:

"What is less obvious is the need for an ethical dimension. Knotworking
regularly calls for a redistribution and reconceptualization of control,
responsibility, and trust. In the mental patient's example, the physician
had to give up his attempt to take control over the situation. This does
not imply that knotworking is automatically a bening phenomenon of
empowerment - in the example, the patient ended up being hospitalized
against her will. Our claim is simply that the emrgence of knotworking
shakes and makes questionable the given forms of hierarchy and segmentation
of professional and organizational authority."

In the case of the library example, I think that knotworking involved a
possibility of better serving the research groups in a situation when the
library did not anymore have much to give to the researchers who
increasingly found the resources on their own from the internet.


On Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 6:29 AM, Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>wrote:

> Antti,
> And not to overwhelm you Antti, (and first thanks for sharing your notes
> with me offline), but I have a follow-up question about how the concept of
> "knots" and "knotworking" is being used by Engestrom and Sannino (I recall
> some fondness for knots and knotworking by folks at LCHC - Jay, Mike, Ivan,
> Camille, and Robert preeminent among them, but most literally embodied by
> the work of Rachel Pfister who is studying Ravelry - an online knitting
> community - knots indeed!).
> With regard to the concept of knots and the librarians, I see at least two
> uses: one in which knots are positive, as in knots intentionally tied, and
> in which you imbricate the interests of others with your own interests (and
> it seems that this would be wise for librarians to do...), and the other in
> which knots are negative, as in knots that are caused by unfortunate
> circumstances, and in which the aim is to "work" out the knots that others
> are experiencing in their lives (something that would also be wise for
> librarians to do and which will de facto result in the first kind of
> intended knots!).
> In the end I'm just wondering what work the concept of "knots" and
> "knotworking" are doing for the librarians?
> Any chance you could provide some insight into this knotty problem? And
> perhaps unravel the knot that my words have caught me up in (or, perhaps,
> which I have tied...)?
> -greg
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