The social construction of (the idea of) intellectual capital:Case study of small to medium-sized enterprises in the UK


Intellectual capital (IC) has been a popular fashion phenomenon, when IC scholars were considered trendsetters who created numberless IC definitions and frameworks; meanwhile, the idea of IC seemed to be poorly understood by companies (the followers) (Schaper, 2016). This applied especially in relation to people with different backgrounds (Marr and Chatzkel, 2004; Guthrie et al., 2001). Consequently, it is time to get to know what the companies (particularly people in those companies) really think about IC, and why so. Especially, this issue is becoming even more crucial during the time when there have been so many changes and uncertainties in our society. According to Hacking (1999), we can treat “something” as an object or an idea. Drawing on this argument, the literature review carried out reveals that most of the IC studies focus on the object IC. Meanwhile, just a small number of IC studies explored the idea of IC. However, IC scholars seem to have over-relied on preset IC frameworks and researchers’ support, which has partly eclipsed actual participants’ knowledge and the analysis did not yield a detailed interpretation of the participants’ opinions about IC. Additionally, they have not provided any explanations for such diversity in the understanding of IC among different people. As a result, taking a different standpoint from most IC studies, the research aims to investigate IC as an idea - a perspective which has not yet been addressed explicitly so far in the literature. Wearing the social construction lens, particularly Berger and Luckmann’s (1966), the researcher wished to unlock how IC is understood in practice, and why and how people have such understandings of it. In this research, the case study method was chosen. Different interviews with people (both Vietnamese and British) holding various positions in three small organisations in the UK were conducted. Other materials such as the company website, Facebook, their brochure, leaflet, consultant report, magazine article and recruitment advertisements were analysed in addition to the interview transcripts. Both texts and visuals were taken into account. The visual methodology adopted mainly relied on Rose’s guidelines (2016). The findings from the study indicated that via internal and external interactions, the understandings of IC have been constructed under the impact of culture, education, role, experience, length of service and type of organisation. Moreover, the way such understandings have been communicated is also determined by the different people involved, the target audience, and the technical and technological boundaries. By exploring the idea of IC, rather than the object IC, this study lies among a small number of studies in the voluminous IC literature. It has shed some more light on the two underexplored issues - how IC is understood in practice; and how (the communications of) such understandings have been constructed. Thus hopefully, the research can be of value to scholars, practitioners and it can open up new avenues for future research.

Divisions: Aston University (General)
Additional Information: ©Hoang Anh Thu Nguyen, 2021. Hoang Anh Thu Nguyen asserts their moral right to be identified as the author of this thesis. This copy of the thesis has been supplied on condition that anyone who consults it is understood to recognise that its copyright rests with its author and that no quotation from the thesis and no information derived from it may be published without appropriate permission or acknowledgement. If you have discovered material in Aston Publications Explorer which is unlawful e.g. breaches copyright, (either yours or that of a third party) or any other law, including but not limited to those relating to patent, trademark, confidentiality, data protection, obscenity, defamation, libel, then please read our Takedown Policy and contact the service immediately.
Institution: Aston University
Uncontrolled Keywords: social construction,intellectual capital,Berger and Luckmann,visual methodology,qualitative method,epistemology,theory of knowledge,interactions
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2023 08:59
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2022 09:56
Completed Date: 2021-09
Authors: Nguyen, Hoang Anh Thu

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