The only real knowledge is considered to be objective, rational knowledge, for which we need science’s drive towards precision and timeless truths. Science allows us to abstract experiential knowledge from practice in such a way that ultimately correct, general and definitive accounts of reality can be given that are objectively, universally and unconditionally true.Especially, the conclusion that we need a new economic theory of information, knowledge, and learning, is something that really appeals to me. I have once made an overview of a system I would like to see emerge, which in fact deals with these issues.
The prospect of value realization and economic growth through efficient exchange explains not only the generally strong appeal of transactional thinking to decision makers in both private and public sectors, but also the logic behind bjectification, or codification, as it is called in the knowledge management literature.
The consequence of this prevalent view is that the subjectivists’ perspective of information and knowledge residing in human minds and relationships that cannot be disembodied into distinct objects is ignored in economics. What cannot be quantified is consistently assumed away.
The logic behind objectification furthermore drives attention towards exploiting what we have or know rather than towards exploring what we do not have or understand.
By its very nature, ICT aids in enhancing the availability and accessibility of information and knowledge and contributes little towards making sense of the messages conveyed.
Consequently, economic reasoning stimulates information management to choose the supply and exchange of information as its domain of expertise and the promotion of this exchange by helping to remove any barrier that prevents information from flowing as freely as possible as its rationale. In theory and practice, therefore, information management is generally described in terms of acquiring, refining, storing, preserving and disseminating informational representations of practice and its goal is described as getting the right representations in the right form to the right person at the right time (Gurbaxani and Whang, 1991).
The promise of economics is: the more closely information and knowledge management adhere to the neoclassical assumptions and the organizing principles implied, the more perfect the established information and knowledge markets will be, and the more efficiently information and knowledge will be distributed. This appealing promise, however, obscures other aspects of reality that have been effectively wished away in economics’ drive towards theoretical rigor. Once captured by economics’ attractiveness, these other aspects of reality run the risk of getting ignored or downplayed, in theory as well as in practice. It is precisely at this point that the theory of the perfect market can become a market ideology.
The assumptions in neoclassical orthodoxy have been designed in such a way that prices contain all information and knowledge for transactions to take place efficiently.
If prices are unknown, why would anybody consider sharing information or knowledge? Extending the neoclassical assumption that rational people always maximize their self-interests and personal welfare, this issue can be solved by assuming that rational people will readily objectify and exchange their information and knowledge through market mechanisms other than price if they expect to be proportionately rewarded with tangible or intangible returns such as pay, promotions and bonuses or reputation, respect and prestige. Google and the many social networking sites available such as LinkedIn exemplify how deeply the market metaphor can inform the shaping of information and knowledge exchange.
Hence, neoclassical orthodoxy provides a static equilibrium model characterized by supply and demand forces that ignores any influence of context, time and immaterial values such as imagination, creativity or trust on people, relationships and transactions. The focus is entirely on the objects being discretely transacted, here and now, which is the aspect of reality the market metaphor exposes and
emphasizes. What it hides are the relationships between people engaged in exchange, their history and future, their affiliations with the objects exchanged, the interaction of which the exchange of objects is just a part, the context in which transactions take place and the dynamics of the organizational processes involved. Economics is a science of nouns, not of verbs. It deals with static objects rather than with dynamic subjects, with information, not in-forming; with knowledge, not with knowing or learning.
The implications for management and organization are straightforward: for information or knowledge management actions taken or technologies implemented, we should maximize the availability, accessibility and use of information and knowledge by attracting as many participants as possible and by avoiding creation of any entry barriers.
This is the economists’ way of presenting markets as non-hierarchical and powerless institutions, where everybody can and should find whatever one is looking for. Praising intranets or virtual community, for instance, for their capacity to cross vertical and horizontal organizational boundaries clearly hinges on this element of the market metaphor, as does the alleged social nature of wikis and other social software tools. Moreover, all these instruments express the belief that group consensus on the basis of free exchange discloses a more objective and thus more accurate analysis of reality than any individual ever could. ‘Crowds’ are assumed to be unconditionally wiser than any single expert could wish to hope for. What this supposed non-hierarchical ‘wisdom of crowds’ conceals is that all kinds of monopolies and power structures are at work in all information and knowledge ecologies. It also hides the fact that the participation of more people or availability of more information may not necessarily translate into higher-quality decisions or superior knowledge creation (Choo 2007). More is not always better.
standardization permits counting and measurement, which is needed to set equilibrium prices for the relevant commodities. It also allows quantitative evaluation of performance and value realized, which adds to economics’ theoretical and practical attractiveness. Commoditization furthermore entails that the identities of the exchange parties and their relationships can be considered irrelevant for economic analysis, because if goods are homogeneous, it does not matter who the buyer or seller is. Under these conditions, the price is the only factor remaining in deciding with whom to trade. Moreover, these conditions allow parties to transactions to be treated as mere producers or consumers, anonymous atoms who do not interact with each other in any other way than by exchanging standardized objects. Finally, commoditization enables organizations to be maximally streamlined, with optimized business processes supported by ICT enhancing organizational efficiency.
Objectivists focus on extracting information and knowledge from people through standardization and centralization processes to transform them into disembodied, de-contextualized commodities. Such standardization and centralization turns information and knowledge into economic values that can be hierarchically controlled ‘from above’ and measured in quantitative terms. Commoditization enables that, for example, information management’s contribution to organizations can be evaluated in terms of its storing and processing capacity. Interestingly, contributions to the information supply side are easier to quantify than those to the demand side, which adds to information management’s inclination to specialize on the supply side as its sole domain of expertise.
Put differently, information’s value is fully dependent upon the meanings people attach to that information and to the contexts they live in. That makes information subjective rather than objective and heterogeneous instead of homogeneous, implying that there is no fixed relationship between economic value and informational content. When a one-to-one relationship between value and informational content is missing, it is impossible to set equilibrium prices. And without equilibrium prices, the entire neoclassical edifice collapses.
Ideas and knowledge are increasingly seen as if they are tradable objects, the
effects of which are spread globally by modern communication.
The first core problem of objectivist economics is that dynamic processes are beyond the analytical reach of economics because they do not demand an exclusive focus on the exchange of static objects and they are not required to conform to rigorous quantification requirements.
Secondly, the emphasis in objectivism on discovering universal truths precludes context as a factor important to economics.
Thirdly, truth and meanings are relative not only to context, but also to people’s mental frameworks or conceptual systems of how the world works. For both reasons, human beings cannot act differently than to impute their own meanings to information. Hence, it is also possible that different people attach divergent interpretations to the same information or that the same person interprets the
same information differently when faced with a different context. Economists cannot deal with such divergent sense making behavior. Information is supposed to help bring supply and demand together in an equilibrium price.
..the so-called information or knowledge economy still misses one of its critical cornerstones - an economic theory of information, knowledge and learning.
..information management with its choice for objectivism and microeconomics as its foundation has precisely selected a philosophy and theory that are incapable of justifying and grounding the very heart of its existence: information. This conclusion also means that an integrative approach to information management should entail more or something different than ‘the management of information as a business resource.
2005 – 2012: The OpenCourseWarsThe initial beauty of open education quite rapidly turns grey with problems of the NC license again, with public opinion turning against OCW. Problems with defining Non-Commercial quickly becomes not only a theoretical problem, but a real problem indeed:
The publishers, clearly not very happy with the whole open education movement, follow with a brilliant strategy attacking the NC clause, and win in court: the NC clause is struck down, and all the content that used to be licensed only for non-commercial use, suddenly became available for commercial use. After this apparent success by the publishers, they could now use and commercially distribute the OCW content, which they did. Still, they would be obliged to mention the Creative Commons license, and share the (now commercial) content under the same open license (Share-Alike). Surprisingly, they even ignored this clause, and they did not Share-Alike, because the publishers thought they could attack and bring down the SA clause as well… but to no avail, and to their own demise.
Creative Commons’ own publicly posted discussion draft of Proposed Best Practice Guidelines to Clarify the Meaning of Non-Commercial in the Creative Commons Licenses suggested we approach the meaning of the term noncommercial from the “Nature of the User”. To put it simply, the guidelines asked if the would-be user of the noncommercially-licensed material was an individual or non-profit institution. If so, everything was kosher. If not (if the would-be user was a for-profit company), then they were not permitted to use materials. Seems very straightforward, right? MIT OCW, however, saw things in a very different way. They provided their own definition of Noncommercial, in which they said, “Determination of commercial vs. non-commercial purpose is based on the use, not the user”, and that as long as you’re not trying to make money off of their materials, they were cool with whatever else you did.
So on the one hand you had Creative Commons suggesting that Noncommercial should be determined by the nature of the user, and on the other hand you had MIT OCW defining the very same clause of the very same license in the completely opposite way. I had known about this problem for years, and had email discussions with a number of people at both Creative Commons and MIT hoping to get it fixed. But the problem was extremely thorny politically, and nothing had happened yet.
Putting professors’ lecture notes and things on an university website where students can’t trib test questions and photos and things makes about as much sense as using email. It’s for old people who just don’t get it. I mean, even this eBook reader thing I just got from my sister (who finally graduated, by the way) is pointless. Why would anyone use a device that won’t let you tribTribbing is contributing, as you might expect. On the other hand, the opencoursewares are R/O, or read-only, and is “associated with the kind of “authority” young folks want to rebel against, and embodies an entire generation’s frustration with top-down, un-democratic, un-participatory approaches generally.”
Embracing the trib culture, David says, opens up opportunities for new business models and new ways of learning, something I totally agree with. He created a very interesting future history of open educational resources, going through different transitions, mentioning important problems in licensing, student contribution, and describing great opportunities in learning, competition, and creating value in society. In all, the end depicts a very similar look on the future as I have described earlier (and just posted on this blog), about “How I want to wake up one day…”.
Generally speaking, OCWs were difficult-to-sustain R/O endeavors that relied on relatively small numbers of university employees and outside funding. As important as they were, they could never scale and were unsustainable in the ways their original funders wanted them to be. On the other hand, OER projects were generally democratic remix projects that lived and died on the quality of the trib’ing.
I wake up at noon, because I had to finish this last-minute assignment for a regular client of mine late last night. He pays well for it, so the fact that I could not attend an interesting online seminar this morning on Web 3.0 technologies doesn’t bother me so much. I will watch it back later online. I start up my computer, and go to my personal site on http://myopen.org, a website connecting communities of every interest and profession, where I have my friends, colleagues, employers, teachers, and peer-students, and where I am a friend, colleague, employer, teacher, and student. I see that there are some questions and remarks on an online article I just posted, and comment on them. My teacher status on this subject now increases, which may result in being employed. I post a text on my weblog about some problems I encountered during my last employment, hoping that some people read it and respond to it. Usually this takes no more than a day or two. Another employer has urged me to finish a certain job, and I tell her that I will most probably get the results of an essential research I delegated at the end of the week. I check my balance, and see that I made quite some money last week, which is also good for my credibility. People tend to have more trust in me now, when I have made some money, than before, when I just started living my life through this portal.
I sit back, take a sip of my coffee, and decide on what I want to learn today. A week ago, I really got stuck in a school project on e-government solutions for municipalities, so I type in the tags e-government, municipality, online voting, and corruption. Two communities, a dozen persons, and even more resources pop up. I see that a specific community is quite popular, has a high rating and quite some people involved, and I decide to enter. This is what I am looking for, I was thinking, when I browsed through their collection of free resources. I contact someone online, Susan, and tell her about the problems I encountered. She does not know the answers herself, she is new in the community, like me, but she directs me to George, someone who did a similar project and has a lot of experience. George says he is willing to talk to me for $45 an hour, which I think is reasonable considering his status. He also promises me an assignment, which, if I do it correctly, will earn me $120. In the end, George sells my results to his employer for $200 and earns $90 dollars for teaching me some very useful information. George was helpful, also in recommending me some free online courses and papers, so I make some comments on his public profile. I spend two hours learning from an expert on e-government and put this knowledge directly into practice, creating me a lot of understanding, practical and theoretical, and earning a little money ($30). Besides, it improves my online portfolio, increasing the trust it transfers to other people. Because of my specific knowledge gained in another field, which might be useful in this community, I decide to share this using freely available educational software.
However, instead of embracing the same connective processes and technologies that create and foster this new flat world we live in, Friedman says we must “shut off the iPod” and avoid the “instant gratification” that technology has to offer in order to prepare students for this new flat world. He spends an entire book describing countless examples of how connective technologies are flattening the world, but then recommends that students put away these technologies when they learn. Given that the thrust of Friedman’s book is about embracing the factors and technologies that have created and now foster this flat world, I find it troubling that Friedman does not make the connection that these same connective processes and technologies can (and should) support education.The Long Tail (How endless choice is creating unlimited demand)
Wealth of Networks (How social production is transforms markets and freedoms)
“they run against the grain of some of our most basic Economics 101 intuitions, intuitions honed in the industrial economy at a time when the only serious alternative seen was state Communism… an alternative almost universally considered unattractive today.”By the way, social production can by no means be compared to communism, which stifles individualism. Social production is all about the individual, and the only egalitarian issue concerns the ability to access the relevant information.
“Human creativity is too special and divers to standardize and therefore veryMalone puts a more narrow, but practical perspective, by saying that when people are doing things for themselves, their motivation, creativity, flexibility in response to differences in their own situation, and quality of work increases. More choices in our work makes us think about what really matters to us, human values, such as making money, spending time with friends/family, having a sense of achievement of what you do, or making the world a better place.
difficult to be specified in the contracts necessary for either market-cleared or hierarchically organized production. As the weight of human intellectual effort increases in the overall mix of inputs into a given production process, an organization model that does not require contractual specification of the individual effort required to participate in a collective enterprise, and which allows individuals to self-identify for tasks, will be better at gathering and utilizing information about who should be doing what than a system that does require such specification.”
“Billions of connected individuals can now actively participate in innovation, wealth creation, and social development in ways we once only dreamed of. And when these masses of people collaborate they collectively can advance the arts, culture, science, education, government, and the economy in surprising but ultimately profitable ways. Companies that engage with these exploding Web-enabled communities are already discovering the true dividends of collective capability and genius.”Tapscott and Williams use a number of interesting case studies to explain different ways of how companies nowadays have embraced the collaborative power of all connected individuals. They explain that companies should find the right combination between incorporating external ideas and knowledge, with internal efiiciency and core knowledge, following the paradigm coined ‘open innovation’ by Henry Chesbrough (2003). I will post something about the changing relationships regarding employment and work in a separate post, but want to highlight one specific issue that I find extremely interesting in the book, because it can be a means for sustainaing OER.
In this authorative report on Open Educational Resources, education, and other related issues, skills for knowledge workers are discussed (amongst other things). Professional skills needed in a knowledge economy are acquired by using interactive, collaborative, and constructive tools as weblogs and wikis. The reason I am now blogging, and more or less used to it, is because of a course given by David Wiley (http://opencontent.org). Not because of my university, where not a single course mandated or suggested any of these technologies. (BTW. I assisted in setting up a wiki for a course, which was one of the first wikis to be used for a course on the uni :: evaluation on my blog next week)
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