The aim of this paper is to clarify the concepts of knowledge to develop a better theoretical understanding based on one of the eldest semiotic insights from one unfortunately often forgotten philosopher of modern semiotic: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716). In his ‘Meditationes de Cognitione, Veritate, et Ideis’ (1684), he develops a systematical, dichotomous characterization of the different levels of knowledge acquisitions. According to his view, knowledge is essentially symbolic: it takes place in a system of representations which possesses language-like structures and which can be characterized on specific hierarchic levels from ‘dark knowledge’ (‘notio obscura’) up to ‘distinct knowledge’ (‘notio distincta’) to be distinguished by the criteria of recognizing and communicating the single elements (‘notarum notae’) constructing knowledge as a continuum.
From a semiotic point of view, the paper shows that the awareness of the hierarchy of knowledge intensity can supply a framework for conceptual analysis and modeling of knowledge creation processes. As a result, we actually should focus, not only in knowledge management, on the communication processes when creating knowledge. Leibniz shows the fundamental problem of decomposing knowledge in externalization processes, which is only possible by the use of symbols, needing clear explanations through symbols again. Therefore, organization should be concerned with the creation of shared representations and meaning systems with respect to different levels of explicitly as Leibniz showed us.
In this study we empirically map the field of media and communication studies (MCS) by focusing on relationships between
cognitive dimensions (such as research topics and approaches) on the one hand and material dimensions (such as funding and
institutionalization) on the other. Our analysis, which focuses on the field of MCS in Switzerland, identifies two clusters of research
institutions representing distinct strands of research in the field. Results show how these two strands differ in terms of their
resource base, institutional positioning and recognition, teaching and transfer activities, as well as activities of scientific production.
Similarities and differences in these dimensions serve to explain the general evolution of the field.