Power, conflict, and ideology in communities of practice

[German title: Macht, Konflikt und Ideologie in Praxisgemeinschaften]

Title: The importance of power and ideology in communities of practice: The case of a de-marginalized user interface design team in a failing multi-national design company 
Author(s): Marcel Veenswijk, Cristina M. Chisalita 
Journal: Information Technology & People 
ISSN: 0959-3845 
Year: 2007 Volume: 20 Issue: 1 Page: 32 – 52 
DOI: 10.1108/09593840710730545 
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Limited 

Abstract: Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to identify and discuss some underdeveloped issues in Community of Practice theory and their practical implications for the study of the organization.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper shows that, in order to achieve this goal, first the blind spots are identified (such as power issues and the relation of the community with its environment) based on a literature review. Then, a case study is presented, carried out in a large Dutch organization (referred to as the Design Company), which designs and produces complex technology. The focus is on one community of practice (The User Interface Design Team) and the process of its development (internal and external) within a particular environment. The consequences of this development on the environment are examined. The methodology employed is mainly ethnographical observation and qualitative interviews.
Findings – The paper finds that the case study demonstrates the relevance of considering such concepts as power, conflict, and ideology in CoP theory. Enriched in this way, CoP theory can account for both the internal and external development of communities (in terms of empowerment), as well as the conditions that constitute a favorable context for such development. It can also explain how the bottom-up process of change that was induced by the User Interface Design community takes place within the organizational life-world.
Originality/value – The paper reveals that the insights provided by this research have the potential to enrich the body of knowledge surrounding CoP theory. The results of this research are considered to be useful for organizations that present similar conditions to the one presented in this case study. 

Keywords: Change management, Design, The Netherlands, User interfaces 

Article Type: Research paper 

Article URL: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/10.1108/09593840710730545

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