Transcending or confining

Transcending or confining: how knowledge sharing among multi-embedded members transcends the boundaries between different knowledge networks.

Since the rise of social media we see a growth in the number of networks in which people interact, share and learn. As a consequence, people are often embedded in multiple networks that may reside both within and outside as well as across organisations: they are members of a community-of-practice in their organisation, participate in work-related LinkedIn groups and follow relevant persons on Twitter. Whereas knowledge had to be pulled from different sources in former times, it is now often pushed to ones profile and can easily be shared by one mouse-click. Prior studies suggest that knowledge tends to remain confined within the boundaries in which it was developed, but these new technologies might encourage multi-embedded individuals to transcend the boundaries between networks. Since knowledge networks have been found to foster collaboration, knowledge sharing and learning, gaining insight in how the boundaries between these networks may be transcended has profound implications for organizations and our knowledge society at large. We propose to study this issue by investigating the conditions under which knowledge is shared across the boundaries of these different knowledge networks. To do so, we will apply a multi-method research approach.

First, we will identify the characteristics of online networks that may influence if and how knowledge sharing transcends their boundaries. Lab experiments will test how these network characteristics (e.g., fluid or fixed boundaries; broad vs. narrow scope) and technological affordances (e.g., effort required to access or to share knowledge) affect knowledge sharing inside and outside that network. Second, we will conduct an in-depth case-study (i.e., interviews, observations and content analysis) to extend the findings from the lab experiments to an organizational context. Herein we will explore how membership of multiple networks affects knowledge sharing and learning within and across different organizations and networks.



Marlous Agterberg


Bart van den Hooff


Sonja Utz


Nicoleta Bălău

Student assistants:

Jorn Varenhorst

Ana Levordashka