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Knowledge creation and play: A phenomenological study within a multi-professional and multi-organizational community

Anna Reetta Suorsa (Department of Information Studies, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 4 October 2017

Issue publication date: 12 October 2017




The purpose of this paper is to present a framework for empirically studying knowledge creation (KC) with phenomenological approach and propose that understanding interaction as play conceptualized by Hans-Georg Gadamer allows examining KC starting from the idea of a human being interacting in the events of co-creation. The presented framework is used to examine KC in a community of librarians and teachers collaborating to promote children’s joy of reading.


An ethnographic approach is applied to investigate knowledge-creating interaction in a working community. The triangulated data consist of ethnographic observations and video recordings of the community’s gatherings, its members’ interviews and produced documents.


The phenomenological conceptions of temporality of a human being and play are suitable for understanding being in the knowledge-creating interaction, as they give means to understand the meaningfulness of the past experiences, but promote an open attitude toward the future possibilities in a way which promotes KC. Studying interactive events allows understanding how KC can be examined as a collective accomplishment. The playful mode of being in the event was seen as a way to use the limited time available for interaction effectively.

Research limitations/implications

The empirical study was conducted in one community, and further research is needed to test the developed approach in other contexts.

Practical implications

The results may be utilized to develop organizational circumstances, which promote KC by acknowledging the meaningfulness of interaction.


The study presents a novel way to conceptualize and examine KC as an experience and an event with phenomenological approach.



The study is funded by the Strategic Research Council, Finland, Project No. 292854. The author is very grateful to the anonymous reviewers who provided valuable comments for the improvement of the paper. The author wants to thank the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture; Professor Maija-Leena Huotari, Professor Riitta-Liisa Korkeamäki, Project Manager Eeva Kurttila-Matero and Planning Officer Marianna Junes of the JOR program; and the JOR community for the opportunity to conduct this study.


Suorsa, A.R. (2017), "Knowledge creation and play: A phenomenological study within a multi-professional and multi-organizational community", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 73 No. 6, pp. 1167-1191.



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