draft for intro to Check / Study at Experimental Society. Followed by slides on PDC/SA and look at websites.        will.pollard@gmail.com

new text in Courier

The "Dark Side" of Mode Two Knowledge

Before looking at Plan-Do-Check/Study-Act, a learning cycle for quality systems, this text looks at some of the issues that may block interest from some academics. Mode Two Knowledge is a way to describe work involving several disciplines and practitioners in an applied project. This could describe many quality activities. However at a previous occasion I found there was some support for the idea of a "dark side" to Mode Two Knowledge and this is worth exploring before assuming that quality ideas are worth some attention.

"Technology enhanced learning as a site for interdisciplinary research" is a paper found through Cloudworks, an online site about e-learning. It follows discussion through the Networked Learning conferernce and interviews with researchers. TEL is another way to describe e-learning but there is research funding. The original call stated that "Technology enhanced learning (TEL) requires interdisciplinary collaboration across the disciplines of learning, cognition, information and communication technologies (ICT) and education, and broader social sciences…"

( I find that TEL is not used as a term except by the people doing research on it. Also it usually ignores print technology and the consequences for learning over several hundred years. "e-learning" or The Web are easier to follow)

A section on "The challenges of doing interdisciplinary research" includes this paragraph on dialogue with the public and private sectors and other community stakeholders-

This dialogic model may be understood with reference to ‘mode two’ knowledge production, which is characterised by being carried out in the context of application, bringing heterogeneous skills and expertise to problems, and by transdisciplinarity (Nowotny, 2001; Oliver et al., 2007). The commodification of knowledge has been complemented by a shift from ‘mode one’ to ‘mode two’ knowledge: from ‘is it true?’ to ‘what can it do?’ (Giddens, 1999 cited in Oliver et al., 2007: 23). Nowotny makes the case that, with the right kind of communication, a ‘feedback loop’ between science and society that will encourage more relevant and more effective research may be established. As such, the base of those considered ‘users’ of science must expand beyond the scientific community and into contexts of application.

However, a number of concerns are raised.

There is always a risk that political or entrepreneurial interests might dominate purportedly academic inquiries. Funding and policy drivers dictate to a large extend what research is possible. The shift to commodification of knowledge and the knowledge society (see above) is also part of the problem.

(An earlier IAS conference considered the neo-liberal rhetoric associated with the knowledge economy.)

Some concerns are about the working situation of academics-

With the boundaries between the public and private sectors becoming increasingly unclear, the academic freedoms once guaranteed by classical Liberalism are increasingly marginalised in favour of entrepreneurial activity and the empowerment of managers (Slaughter, 2007).  

This is connecting with some of the themes of the conference," the experiment's long relationship with social ordering, technology and power, that has shaped the contemporary world of evidence-based policy, clinical trials and audits."

I take the audit to represent a particular view of quality as experienced. I am curious about when this period of classical Liberalism actually existed. When was it that universities were funded without intervention?

In the paper there is a concern for the loss of Mode One Quality Control-

effective quality control is normally ensured by disciplinary standards, but these are precisely what are subverted by transdisciplinarity.

However, there is a process aspect to most projects so that there can be a different form of evaluation. This may not be the same as a research output such as a document.

Derek Jones on Cloudworks has asked - “Is objectivity greater via cooperative action and consensus rather than top-down authoritative per review ?”


Fran Alexander has suggested that there could be a framework for managing and assessing objectivity. This recognises that a taxonomy reflects subjective viewpoints. The US philosopher Helen Longino in Science as Social Knowledge (1990) proposes that the subjective/objective distinction is a false dichotomy in scientific inquiry, arguing instead that objectivity depends on a process of intersubjective creation of meaning.


More on quality towards the end, but before that there is more on material found previously online

-----------------------skip towards the end for connection with quality-------------------------

There is a Facebook discussion that can be found from the Experimentality site. Notes there from Google searches show a collection on Changing Modes edited by Andre Kraak and links to Sheila Slaughter. I am not sure if this is the same reference as in the Cloudworks paper.

On the Experimentality blog I have asked

What is good about the medieval?

I am exploring the text describing what the conference is about.

In one strand, experimentation is associated with the opening up of the closed medieval universe into an open world of endless possibility.

So what was it about the medieval period that is attractive? I keep coming across objections from academics to what is happening recently. A Guardian report on JISC discussions includes

But universities' reliance on public funding, which comes with restrictions on how the money is spent, can stifle innovation and creativity. "If you want to raise participation and accept government subsidies, you've got to accept that it is a poisoned chalice," said one participant.

So when was this time that there was no public funding and no outside pressure? What was it like? Is it continued?

Later I added a comment following a Guardian report-

Is the university part of modernity? Was it better before 1300?

Submitted by will789gb on 4 June, 2010 - 13:03.

I have found a report about a talk at the Hay festival. Apparently there were several good things about the medieval period, mostly the twelth century as mentioned in the story. Long periods of leisure for one thing.

David Boyle and Andrew Simms from the New Economics Foundation spoke about the banking arrangements and the lack of work ethic.

They also pointed to the "12th-century renaissance" – a period of intellectual growth, the establishment of great cathedrals and the beginnings of the universities. "Towards the end of the 12th century there were fascinating social experiments in northern Spain and southern France, in which, for instance, women were involved in running Provence," said Boyle. "But that was followed by a wave of intolerance lasting for centuries afterwards. We need to look at what happened after the end of the 12th century and make sure it doesn't happen to us."

So was there a brief moment before the universities settled down as organisations? Was there some sort of academic life around the cathedrals that had some advantages?

If there is a dark side to modernity it is interesting to know what came before.

-----------------------------skip to here for quality link / if short of time----------------------------

Quality could be seen as a Mode Two subject. There are university courses on quality but Deming's "The New Economics" could be looked at as statistics, psychology, systems and theory of knowledge. PDC/SA is part of this when applied to a project. This may explain why quality is not accepted as an academic subject. Most of the ideas developed outside universities. Shewart used control charts at Bell Labs. Deming was a professor of statistics at New York University's graduate school of business administration (1946–1993) but is rarely referenced by academics.

According to the Wikipedia-

Deming advocated that all managers need to have what he called a System of Profound Knowledge, consisting of four parts:

So most of this is outside statistics and can be interpreted. The current Quality World includes an article by Alan Clark and Terry Peterson about Deming that lists "Knowledge and explicit learning" instead of "theory of knowledge". So the link to learning is made clearer. In a comment copied to Cloudworks from LinkedIn, Alan Clark has considered mode two and systems (the question was about the status of systems as a subject)-

Some parts of systems thinking have made it through into Mode 1. Systems Dynamics (MIT, Jay Forrestor and Peter Senge), Soft Systems (Peter Checkland and Brian Wilson-of Lancaster Uni) and the Viable System Model (Professor Stafford Beer) are subject areas. Some of the post War pioneers were people like von Bertalanffy (General Systems Theory), Norman Wiener and W Ross Ashby. Gregory Bateson is someone you could also look into.

To me Systems Thinking is by definition Mode 2! Effects, behaviours and results or outcomes emerge from interactions (between people). Even in Mode 1 systems theory tended to be interdisciplinary.


This shows some of the problems in keeping the mode one/two distinction. If Systems Thinking is Mode Two, why is it a discipline? Checkland recently published "Learning for Action" so there could be more connection here, as with Senge.

At Lancaster quality is seen as part of Management Science, not part of Management Learning.

See blog post



The interviews in the Cloudworks paper show a number of practical issues that relate to universities as organisations.

Academic career structures do not easily favour people doing interdisciplinary research. Funding bodies are often organised along disciplinary lines. In addition, there are relatively fewer interdisciplinary job opportunities, so the career opportunities for interdisciplinary researchers probably remain within established  disciplines. Established disciplines can be hostile to interdisciplinary, which may be seen as parasitic, or lacking rigour. So there is a view that time spent participating in interdisciplinary work ‘has actually damaged the career prospects of a whole cohort of bright young researchers.’ [IntI]

Therefore thinking about how the research project might offer practical support or pastoral care in providing value for their future academic careers is of benefit and will help attract researchers.

Page 21 shows the disciplines that people working on TEL come from. So far there is not much representation from business schools or organisation studies.

Also there is not much involvement with places where printing and publishing is studied. The London College of Printing is now the London College of Communication, part of the University of the Arts London. The school of printing and publishing has closed and there are now faculties for Design and Media. The rationale is not yet clear but may relate to some ideas about academic subjects.



Refs to be tidied up later



Slaughter, S. (2007). Academic freedom and the neo‐liberal state. In P. Hutchenson

(Ed.), Academic Freedom. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.


Changing Modes

New knowledge production and its implications for higher education in South Africa

Andre Kraak (ed)

The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), South Africa's


refers to Sheila Slaughter










Mode Two cloud

Learning for Action . Peter Checkland and John Poulter  Wiley 2006


The new economics: for industry, government, education By William Edwards Deming   MIT Press