🪴 Scaling Synthesis

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C- Context is necessary for knowledge reuse

Last updated May 18, 2022

Authored By:: P- Joel Chan

There is a long history of research in computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) that documents how knowledge needs to be contextualized to be usefully reused.

One common way that this insight has been demonstrated is when reuse fails due to a lack of context. For example, in a case study of calendar systems, @dourishInformationContextLessons1993 documented how having metadata for event information such as the title of the event or arrival time of the speaker, in addition to who the author of the information is, were critical for the interpretation of the events. Similarly, @hinrichsContextGrabbingAssigning2005 documented how decentralized project documentation made recontextualization difficult for engineers because they didn’t know the history of changes for a document or if a particular document was up to date, leading to issues such as “exploratory digging by hand” to avoid damaging power lines. Finally, in a field study of collaborative information reuse in aircraft technical support @luttersBoundaryObjectsCollaborative2007, engineers lamented reusing old records because information was missing, outdated, or not appropriate anymore because of procedural changes. Over the years if any changes to the records were not tagged, the context of those changes were lost.

Closer to the setting of synthesis that we care about, context can refer to methodological details like who was studied and with what measures, as well as the intellectual history of the authors of a study R- Collaborative information synthesis 1. Properly contextualizing knowledge claims with these details can mean the difference between loosely or superficially assembling an argument, or an effective synthesis