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[xmca] Re: Knotworking (ex: Double stimulation?)
I see that in the case described (of the librarians), the concept of
"knotworking" is a largely intentional (although not always controllable)
But I also see in Engestrom's earlier piece, When the Center Does Not Hold,
that knotworking is used as an etic concept, that is a concept used by him
and his colleagues to describe what people are doing. As such, it seems
like this kind of knot-working is somewhat less intentional or - maybe
better - less explicit. It is something that people are doing without
knowing it (to paraphrase Marx via Zizek).
Both usages of knotworking seem very productive and useful.
With regard to knotworking, I would like to suggest other, more traditional
forms of knotworking, such as kinship and gift-giving. The practices that
surround kinship and gift-giving are crucial for imbricating persons with
each others projects (to use Andy's concept in a way that he might or might
And, of course, despite our thoughts to the contrary, kinship and
gift-giving still play an important role in the here and now of hospitals
On Fri, Jun 14, 2013 at 2:44 PM, Antti Rajala <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> 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 working"
> 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 <email@example.com>wrote:
>> 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...)?
Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
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