PKM, PLE, PLN & acronyms

Building on Drucker’s framing, the new way of thinking about knowledge, that began in the mid 90s […], was that knowledge was an organizational asset and if an asset then it needed to be managed. After all, organizations manage their other assets, (e.g. capital, people) so it made sense to also manage an organization’s knowledge – thus the term (which nearly everyone now regrets) “knowledge management”.

Knowledge Management as a discipline must therefore live with an inappropriate name and acronym that predates the emergence of social media, that is more than often associated with information management and that doesn’t reflect exactly what Knowledge Management is about in 2010.  Adding a P to the KM only serves to confuse the issue even further.  At the end of a blog post published on 22 October last, Harold Jarche notes:

I am moving away from the term personal knowledge management (PKM) and using “network learning” instead, as I believe it is a more accurate term for online sense-making.

He also reiterated his view in his Elluminate presentation to #PLENK2010.  In a way, this goes to show how acronyms can be problematic and I often tend to liken acronyms to a variation on George Orwell’s newspeak.  In “Principles of Newspeak – An Appendix to 1984“, George Orwell stated:

It was perceived that in thus abbreviating a name one narrowed and subtly altered its meaning, by cutting out most of the associations that would otherwise cling to it.

Of course acronyms and abbreviations are useful in an article or a research paper to avoid repetition, or as tags, but expecting an acronym to define a concept out of context is questionable. Depending on the context, I think that terms like “xyz-learning” [be it social/workplace/corporate/dynamic/network(ed) learning] are far superior to PLE/PLN/PKM (which also seem to have spawned a new breed of acronyms like PLEM/LaaN/PKN etc.)  I also like the term of “new age knowledge management” as Jay Cross puts it in his comment to Rita Kop’s post Feeling uncomfortable with Personal Knowledge Management.My understanding is that the concepts of Personal Learning Environments and Networks and the current  Personal Knowledge Management have now more or less merged into the same approach to personal sense making through networked learning and all the associated activities it entails.  Context will dictate what needs to be tweaked.  No need to get bogged down by acronyms any longer.


  1. says

    Hi Guillaume,
    Thank you for saying this. I have not had the guts to put the same thoughts online for the fear of being beaten up by the strong armed theorists.
    Wish you a happy and Successful 2011!

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