The Role of Writing in Knowledge Sharing and Development: Evidence From Letters

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community




[USER:395|profilelink] and Anca Metiu, ESSEC


In this paper, we elaborate on the literacy theories’ premise that writing is a fundamental communication modality and investigate the central role played by written communication in knowledge sharing and development. Through an analysis of historical correspondences in two distributed settings – a large multinational company and a scientific collaboration – we identify four mechanisms – objectifying, addressing, reflecting and specifying – through which writing enables the development of an organizational memory and of new knowledge. These mechanisms are critical to revitalizing scholars’ conception of the role of writing in knowledge sharing and creation, and provide a constructive way of reconciling conflicting claims and findings regarding the capabilities of written forms of communication in conveying and developing rich, complex, nuanced knowledge. They also offer productive ways for analyzing current communicative practices and potential implications for knowledge sharing and development.

Keywords: writing; knowledge sharing; knowledge development; organizational communication; literacy theory; discourse analysis; letters.