Knowing in action: beyond communities of practice

Ash Amin, Joanne Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

539 Citations (Scopus)


This paper engages with the recent turn in the social sciences towards communities of practice as a driver of learning and knowledge generation across a variety of different working environments. While agreeing with the broad reinstatement of situated social practice in thinking on the dynamics of knowledge capitalism, the paper takes issue with the increasingly homogeneous and instrumentalist use of the term communities of practice to encapsulate ‘knowing in action’. On the basis of an extensive review of the available literature, the paper argues for the importance of differentiating between different varieties of knowing in action. The paper notes the differences – in organisation, spatial dynamics, innovation outcomes, and knowledge processes – between four modes: craft or task-based knowing; epistemic or high creativity knowing; professional knowing; and virtual knowing. The proposed typology is used to illustrate the insight gained from such analytical precision, through a discussion of the spatial configuration of knowing in action, long assumed to require spatial proximity. It is shown that spatial and relational proximity – which can be struck at a distance – should not be treated as one and the same.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-369
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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