The reasons why knowledge cannot be managed

If one trusted the assurances of the proponents of the knowledge society, then knowledge represented one of the highest values ​​of modern society. Knowledge, it seems, has become a precious commodity that is elaborately produced, carefully cherished and self-sacrificingly cared for.

In fact, however, the creation, storage, distribution, transmission and application of knowledge is thought of on the model of the production of any good. This is the only way that universities can boldly state the increase in their research performance in percentages.

Actually “the last dirt”

It can probably not be about knowledge. And in contrast to the constant assurances of the value of knowledge, this is generally not particularly valued because it has long since been robbed of its claim to knowledge.

One could certainly risk the thesis that in the knowledge society, knowledge is not of any value in itself. Since knowledge is defined as a product manufactured according to external criteria such as expectations, applications and possible uses, it is obvious that where it does not meet these criteria it must be disposed of quickly.

People then like to talk about the elimination of outdated knowledge, the deletion of data storage and the shedding of unnecessary knowledge ballast. In other words, the knowledge society sometimes treats its supposedly greatest good as if it were complete dirt.

Knowledge is not information

Knowledge, according to a common definition, is meaningful information. The concept of the knowledge society is therefore equated with that of the information society relatively carelessly in political rhetoric.

As a rule, the latter is even more emphasized because information seems to be even more closely related to the digital media that keep the new knowledge society on its toes. Against the popular thesis that we live in an information and knowledge society, there are good reasons to support the thesis that we live in a disinformation .

The known, as Hegel once put it, “is known not known .” Information has nothing to do with knowledge and insight.

Not clearly purposeful

Knowledge is more than information. Knowledge not only makes it possible to filter out those data that have informational value from a wealth of data, knowledge is actually a form of penetrating the world: recognizing, understanding, comprehending.

In contrast to information, the meaning of which lies in an action-relevant perspective, knowledge is not clearly purpose-oriented. A lot can be learned from knowledge, and whether this knowledge is useless is never decided at the moment of producing or absorbing this knowledge.

In contrast to information, which represents an interpretation of data with regard to perspectives for action, knowledge can be described as an interpretation of data with regard to their causal connection and their internal consistency.

Basic requirement: reference to truth

You could also put it in an old-fashioned way: knowledge exists where something can be explained or understood. Knowledge refers to cognition, the question of truth is the basic requirement for knowledge.

Since antiquity, the question of knowledge has rightly been separated from the question of the usefulness of information for systematic reasons. Whether knowledge can be useful is never a question of knowledge, but of the situation in which one finds oneself.

There were times — they are not long gone — when oriental studies were considered an orchid subject that many educational planners believed they could do without. After 9/11, everything was different, and basic knowledge of Arabic and Middle Eastern history became a highly sought-after skill.

Knowledge managers like materials managers

“Knowledge management” is now generally regarded as a new doctrine of salvation when it comes to questions of knowledge. The knowledge manager not only replaces the education expert, the educator and even the scientist should increasingly see themselves as knowledge managers.

This idea is only possible because the knowledge society has severed the relationship between knowledge and truth. Now data is described as raw material, information as data prepared for a system or company and knowledge as the “refining of information through practice”. It’s not about knowledge, it’s about best practice .

Precisely the difference that distinguishes knowledge as an epistemic process from other strategies for coping with the world is now drawn in. Ultimately, knowledge management works like a “materials management system” and the knowledge manager makes the paradoxical claim of finding out what kind of knowledge his company needs to solve its problems while “ignoring questions of truth and validity”.

Programmatic renunciation of truth

From this perspective, the question of truth can be omitted, as can the question of whether anyone has understood something and has a plausible explanation for a phenomenon that goes beyond the status of a practical opinion or generalized experience.

Precisely the knowledge that supposedly characterizes the knowledge society, scientific knowledge, obeys, at least according to system theory, the coding of true and false that its adepts now want to incorporate.

For Adorno, the renunciation of what one could call the truth reference of knowledge — in whatever form of scientific theory and practice it may then be reflected — was still a manifestation of half-cultivation, since it was not intentional, but an expression of objective inability. Now the renunciation of truth becomes programmatic and thus ignorance.

Company goals in the foreground

It is true that truth, conceived as an absolute, can only become a devastating ideologeme; however, what is wrong with this is the attitude of the constructivist, that truth should also be dispensed with as a goal that guides knowledge.

However, such a renunciation is the prerequisite for knowledge not being able to be viewed and managed according to its own criteria, but according to external points of view. The economization of knowledge requires its mitigation as a prerequisite.

If knowledge only represents the practice-saturated application of information for companies, it is defined by the company goal and no longer by a claim to truth. So far, the socio-political and philosophical drama of the transformation process thus initiated has probably only been inadequately grasped.

High-sounding language from the consultants

Otherwise, the theory of knowledge management, like many similar concepts, does not offer much more than common sense in the pompous language of management consulting.

The methods of research, selection, structuring, linking and presentation of information that are known to every pro-seminar student are stylized into strategic corporate tasks that can obviously only be managed through organizational effort that almost forces the heretical question of why the decisive advances in knowledge were made by mankind in epochs who had no idea about knowledge management.

“Brain-friendly” information…

After all, attention is drawn to the fact that knowledge can only circulate productively in a company if it is circulated in the form of “brain-friendly documents”.

A poorly written, continuous text is of course considered a prime example of a “non-brain-friendly documentation architecture”, while the conciseness of the text and its enrichment with keywords, symbols, graphics and tables, all PowerPoint fitting “brain-friendly” document. Visualization is the magic word, and clickable knowledge maps are the epitome of managed knowledge.

… makes thinking almost impossible

How knowledge is presented today can also be read as an indication of the increasing disdain for knowledge. The bad habit, which can be observed not only in presentations in companies but also increasingly at scientific symposia and at universities, of projecting simple sentences and bombastic terms via PowerPoint and then simply reading them off, not only represents contempt for the audience, but also for the audience a complete loss of what was once called the culture of lectures.

There are forms of presentation — and the brain-friendly documents are one of them — that make thinking almost impossible. Then only headings and slogans are formulated, all possibilities of giving sentences a logical and thus argumentative structure are cut off. And yet the protagonists of such shows are convinced that it is about knowledge and its transmission.

Universities are also based on this — unfortunately

If companies want to put their money into such concepts, that’s up to them. The idea of ​​managed knowledge becomes questionable when it shifts to the centers of knowledge themselves and eats away at them from within.

The fact that universities, which have almost a thousand years of experience in dealing with knowledge, base their restructuring on the flattest corporate ideologies is not only a sign of inadequacy, but also an expression of factual stupidity.

Instead of criticizing this nonsense based on one’s own knowledge and potential for reflection, one submits to it, driven by the panic fear of missing even one of the staccato-like modernization surges that are rolling by.

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