The role of virtual boundaries in knowledge sharing and organization

Elin K Jacob, Guo Zhang


The concept of boundary is essential to investigations of knowledge organization and information sharing in the virtual world. With information and communication technologies playing an increasingly significant role in today's networked society, the idea of a boundary can no longer be tied to notions of geographical locale or intellectual domain. After reviewing traditional approaches to space and place, two concepts closely related to boundaries, we propose that it is the notion of place that both generates boundaries and provides for recognition of and distinctions between knowledge domains. In the online world, however, traditional concepts of space and place, and thus traditional understandings of boundary, are inadequate for explaining virtual boundaries because of the lack of physical embodiment in the digital environment. Rather, it is the individual's personal sense of belonging that creates an awareness of domains and facilitates the sharing of knowledge. The lack of embodiment in cyberspace shifts responsibility for the creation and recognition of boundaries to the individual, indicating that the idea of place in cyberspace -- "cyberplace" -- would best be characterized by a sense of "place-like" that is at once stable yet fluid, consistent yet dynamic.

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