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Knowledge commonsyork20.9.11v2


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Knowledge commonsyork20.9.11v2

  1. 1. Knowledge Commons, Challenges for DevelopmentHow can less developed societies takeadvantage of the emerging globalcognitive context?
  2. 2. The Concept of Useful Knowledge• Useful knowledge is knowledge about any regularity or pattern of nature that, potentially, can be applied to generate economic value and benefit human beings.• This approach does not focus on the origin of knowledge (its epistemology), but on the potential benefits of knowledge application.• It refers to its reliance for practical application.
  3. 3. Propositional KnowledgePropositional knowledge catalogs natural and socialphenomena, it refers to ‘know what’ about nature andsociety. It explains what things are and how they work. Propositional knowledge is important for making sense of the world. Propositional knowledge includes scientific knowledge, and all sets of known patterns, empirical tables, documented experiences, interpretations, analogies and local beliefs that can be applied to practical uses. For their importance, analogies deserve particular attention.
  4. 4. Prescriptive knowledge• Prescriptive knowledge is the collection of techniques and instructions for manipulating nature and social institutions for human purposes.• Examples of prescriptive knowledge are: – recipes for doing or for consuming a drug, – instructions for building a bridge – operational features of a machine – a manual containing norms for managing a natural resource commons
  5. 5. The concept of the commons• The commons are sources of goods that can be used collectively by groups of people. – The commons can be natural resources such as rivers, lakes, fisheries, forests, atmosphere, deep sea, corals, and so on. – The commons also can be human constructed such as streets, public buildings, highways, playgrounds, Internet, and knowledge.• The commons can be a matter of controversy.• History is full of examples of wars for the dispute of the commons.
  6. 6. Differences between Knowledge and Natural Resources1. Intangible: not visible for our eyes.2. Non-rivalrous: many people can use the same knowledge at the same time.3. Non-erodible: can be copied many times (multiplied) without being damaged, and cost of copying is dropping close to zero.4. Human made: natural and social patterns have to be grasped by human mind to become knowledge.5. Tacit and explicit: when used, knowledge has implicit (tacit), and explicit (codified) dimensions.6. Contained by multiple receptacles: (a) Working inside minds, (b) Imbedded in machines, (c) Stored in artifacts, and (d) Distributed in processes.7. Unlimited: There is no foreseeable ceiling or limit for the growth of knowledge.
  7. 7. The 7 Steps of the History of the Knowledge Commons1. Before language: individuals, tacit knowledge, only prescriptive knowledge was part of the knowledge commons2. Oral language: small groups, explicit knowledge, propositional knowledge becomes part of the knowledge commons3. Written language: storage of knowledge outside people’s mind, access exclusive to national elites4. Alexandria Library: first attempt for creating a universal culture5. Printing: massive diffusion of knowledge into the middle classes6. Scientific method: systematic production, start of exponential accumulation of knowledge7. Internet/digital technologies: the achievement of a universal culture global storage and sharing of knowledge
  8. 8. Knowledge and Innovation Evolve Together• For 12,000 years, after the Neolithic Revolution, economic and technological history of countries was an up and down curve without clear tendencies.• The epistemic (knowledge) base of innovation was narrow, conspiring against its success.• After 1750, this stagnation was broken by the systematic accumulation of knowledge and the dynamism of technical innovation
  9. 9. Knowledge and Economy, a 12.000 years story40.000.000 Scientific35.000.000 Knowledge30.000.000 and the25.000.000 beginning of Industrial20.000.000 Revolution15.000.00010.000.000 5.000.000 0 1000 1500 1600 1700 1820 1830 1840 1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000
  10. 10. Open Access is solving the supply side of the equation• By 2000, almost 20% of academic production was open access. Open access is growing faster than academic knowledge, approximately 25% annually• This difference means that financial accessibility to academic literature is going through a process of qualitative change.• If this trend goes on for five more years, open access journals will be the predominant form of academic literature.
  11. 11. The Wealth of Knowledge is growing 3% to 5% yearly The barriers and costs to access knowledge are falling, 50 million but complexity + sophistication are growing1.5 million new academic articles are written yearly
  12. 12. Propositional knowledge is the base of new techniques• All technique requires a set of propositional knowledge that, in some degree, “explains” the phenomenon that is being manipulated. – Engines with internal combustion could not be invented before the development of thermodynamics. – Knowledge about microbiology was decisive for the development of medicine. The history of medicine has two phases: before and after microbiology.• This set of propositional knowledge is the epistemic base of the technique.
  13. 13. The synergy between Useful Knowledge and New TechnologyUseful Knowledge or Epistemic Base Innovation or New Prescriptive Knowledge The likelihood of success of an innovation depends on its epistemic base
  14. 14. Using Knowledge for InnovationUseful Knowledge or Epistemic Base Innovators Innovation or New Prescriptive Knowledge Innovators tap on the knowledge base they can access and process. Their success depends on the quality of the knowledge of the epistemic base they rely on.
  15. 15. The Role of the Absorptive Capacity of Innovators UsefulKnowledge Innovators Innovation Absorptive Capacity
  16. 16. The cognitive challenge for Innovators• For any innovative effort, it is critical how broad is the epistemic base that local innovators can effectively access and assimilate.• Frequently, innovators struggle with problems whose understanding is already part of the stock of knowledge, but it is hard for them to access and assimilate that knowledge.• Absorptive capacity of innovators becomes critical.
  17. 17. Barriers from the supply side1. Digital divide. Urban X Rural2. Language barrier: most knowledge is only in English3. Censorship: Lack of democracy in many countries4. Non-digitization: Materials of Museums and libraries.5. Scarcity: lack of knowledge for some critical problems6. Fragmentation: knowledge is dispersed7. Structural complexity: level of abstraction, terminology and complexity make knowledge difficult to grasp.
  18. 18. Barriers from the demand side1. The awareness of the need and importance of external knowledge,2. Knowledge about existence of knowledge,3. The capacity to assimilate and contextualize external knowledge, and4. The conditions to apply new knowledge to develop innovative solutions.These four elements work as a chain. If a single linkis not present, the demand will not fully realize.
  19. 19. Absorptive Capacity, Cognitive Blindness and Unsolved Problems• Absorptive capacity is a set of cognitive skills and tools that make possible to assimilate and apply external knowledge.• Without absorptive capacity we can remain cognitively blind.• Unsolved problems are related with some kind of Cognitive blindness.
  20. 20. Conditions for Absorptive Capacity1. Openness of mind, lack of conceptual prejudice2. Prior related knowledge, to make sense of new knowledge3. Experience with similar subject, source of analogies4. Familiarity with theories, concepts and analytical tools of the field, to establish an intelligent and active dialogue
  21. 21. Knowledge Communities• Absorbing and creating new knowledge is not a work of individuals, but of communities.• Cognitive agency is achieved through knowledge communities – Thought collectives (Fleck, 1979), – Epistemic community (Hass, 1992) – Communities of practice (Wenger, 1989).• Knowledge communities are networks inside and crossing existing institutions.
  22. 22. We all belong to epistemic cultures and communities• Features of Epistemic Communities (generalizing the concept): 1. Common language: common concepts and terminology 2. Cognitive (epistemic) beliefs: what knowledge is and how to produce knowledge 3. Cognitive tools: analysis, aggregation, visualization, synthesis, etc. 4. Cognitive skills: types of cognitive operations that can be carried out 5. Subject related theories and sources of analogies 6. Organizational arrangement to produce and share knowledge 7. Common narrative: a way to communicate knowledge 8. Contextual knowledge: the understanding of the local context• For systemic problems, that require intense use of external knowledge, these features define the assets of knowledge that are effectively applied to address the problems.
  23. 23. Mechanisms for Cognitive Intermediation• Purpose: increase local absorptive capacity to approach systemic problems• International partnerships to approach two sides of the knowledge sharing equation: – make knowledge more intelligible – increase absorptive capacity.• Process oriented: – contextualizing external knowledge – Building and informing local knowledge• Developing sustainable institutional arrangements to address the cognitive challenges of innovation and policy making.
  24. 24. Selected References 1Beinhocker, E. (2007). Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business PressCohen, W. & Levinthal, D. (1990). Absorptive capacity: A new perspective on learning and innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35(1), 128-152. Cornell UniversityDirectory of Open Access Journals. (2011). DOAJ statistics. Retrieved June 7, 2011, from of Open Access Repositories. (2011). Growth of the OpenDOAR database-Worldwide. Retrieved June 7, 2011, from: legacy.php?cID=&ctID=&rtID=&clID=&lID=&potID=&rSoftWareName=&search=&groupby=l.lName&orderby=Tally%20DESC& charttype=bar&width=600&caption=Most%20Frequent%20Languages%20in%20OpenDOAR%20-%20WorldwideFleck, L. (1979). Genesis and development of a scientific fact. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Florida, R. (2002). The rise of the creative class, and how it is transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life. New York, NY: Basic Books.Haas, P. (1992). Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination. International Organization, Vol. 46, No. 1, Knowledge, Power, and International Policy Coordination. (Winter, 1992), 1-35. Retrieved from:, F. (1945). The Use of Knowledge in Society. American Economic Review 35(4), 519-30. Retrieved from:, C. & Ostrom, E. (2007). A framework for analyzing the knowledge commons. In C. Hess & E. Ostrom (Eds.), Understanding knowledge as common: from theory to practice (pp. 41-81). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  25. 25. Selected References 2Jinha, A. E. (2010). Article 50 million: An estimate of the number of scholarly articles in existence (Post-print version). Learned Publishing, 23(3), 258-263. doi:10.1087/20100308.Knorr-Cetina, K. (1999). Epistemic Cultures: How the sciences make knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Maddison, A. (2007). Contours of the world Economy, 1-2030 AD; Essays in Macroeconomic History. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Mokyr, J. (2002a). Useful knowledge as en evolving system: the view from economic history. Presented in the Conference “The economy as an evolving system,” 2001, Santa Fe, NM. Chicago, IL: Northwestern University.Mokyr, J. (2002b). The gifts of Athena. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University PressMokyr, J. (2005). The intellectual origins of modern economic growth. The Journal of Economic History, 65(2), 285-351.Olson, M. Jr. (1965). The logic of collective action: Public goods and the theory of groups. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Ostrom, E. (2003). Governing the commons: The evolution of institutions for collective action. (Kindle’s Edition). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations. New York, NY: Penguin Press HC.Waters, D. (2007). Preserving the knowledge commons. In C. Hess & E. Ostrom (Eds.) Understanding knowledge as commons: from theory to practice (pp. 145-167). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Wenger, E. (2006). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. Retrieved from
  26. 26. Thank you