Sense‐making theory and practice: an overview of user interests in knowledge seeking and use

Brenda Dervin (Professor of Communications, Ohio State University)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Publication date: 1 December 1998


The Sense‐making approach to studying and understanding users and designing systems to serve their needs is reviewed. The approach, developed to focus on user sense making and sense unmaking in the fields of communication and library and information science, is reviewed in terms of its implications for knowledge management. Primary emphasis is placed on moving conceptualizations of users, information and reality from the noun‐based knowledge‐as‐map frameworks of the past to verb‐based frameworks emphasizing diversity, complexity and sense‐making potentials. Knowledge management is described as a field on the precipice of chaos, reaching for a means of emphasizing diversity, complexity and people over centrality, simplicity and technology. Sense making, as an approach, is described as a methodology disciplining the cacophony of diversity and complexity without homogenizing it. Knowledge is reconceptualized from noun to verb.



Dervin, B. (1998), "Sense‐making theory and practice: an overview of user interests in knowledge seeking and use", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 36-46.

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Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited

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