Analysis & counterpointsKM journal reviews

Journal review: Common Knowledge

This article is part of a series that is progressively reviewing journals for their KM content.

Official Journal Synopsis Common Knowledge (CKN) has opened lines of communication since 1992 among schools of thought in the academy, as well as between the academy and the community of thoughtful people outside its walls. Common Knowledge adopts a new intellectual model, one based on conversation and cooperation rather than on metaphors (adopted from war and sports) of “sides” that one must “take”. The pages of Common Knowledge regularly challenge the ways we think about scholarship and its relevance to humanity. The journal is published three times a year in association with Bar-Ilan University.
Publisher Duke University Press (since Vol 8; Oxford University Press published Vol 1-7)
Significant Figures Editor: Jeffrey M. Perl
Indexes Google Scholar
Issue Index (Vol 8 onwards only)
Issues 57 (since relaunch) Ongoing? Yes Open Access No

Common Knowledge (CKN) is a tantalising repository of articles that is almost completely inaccessible from outside the academic world. In the 25th anniversary edition of the journal, editor Jeffrey M Perl writes about the journal’s philosophical interest in the nature of knowledge:

Common Knowledge began as an enterprise of “Left Kuhnian” or “Left Wittgensteinian” contextualists, hoping to get beyond the problem known as “incommensurability” … [expressing unease with the] contextualist premise of [Thomas] Kuhn and the many scholars in the many fields he influenced, that truth and meaning are goods obtainable solely inside a language game, a paradigm, an episteme, a coherent circle closed on the outside—that truth and meaning are, in other words, local, untranslatable, and incommensurable with any knowledge obtainable across frontiers, whether those be spatial, cultural, or temporal.

Indeed, a cursory search of the online index titles finds many articles discussing philosophical figures that are well-known to Knowledge Managers:  Kuhn, Wittgenstein, Popper, Lévi-Strauss and Derrida to name a few (and noted the presence of contrarians like Feyerabend). While some will argue that KM definitely does not need to spend more time navel gazing and these articles definitely tend towards the abstract and reflective, it is irrefutable that an understanding of the nature of knowledge will forever remain fundamental to our discipline.

Unfortunately, the closed nature of the journal and a regrettable lack of (ahem) less official options for alternative access means that the knowledge contained in this journal seems likely to remain uncommon, at least to us ‘mere’ knowledge practitioners.

My main consolation from this review is that the abstracts are still available. This is sufficient to identify authors who are likely to have new and interesting things to say in other places. I am personally most pleased with my discovery of Daniel Innerarity, who has some valuable insights on modern knowledge society and knowledge overload, especially in his seminal 2013 article on knowledge and non-knowledge and contemporary book The Democracy of Knowledge.

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Stephen Bounds

Stephen Bounds is an Information and Knowledge Management Specialist with a wide range of experience across the government and private sectors. As founding editor of RealKM and Executive, Information Management at Cordelta, Stephen provides clear strategic thinking along with a hands-on approach to help organisations successfully develop and implement modern information systems.

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