Market and Division of Labour
The facility-focused and livelihood-focused knowledge conversion processes of different actors (pico, micro, meso and macro) interact according to market and non-market mechanisms. These mechanisms embody rules and norms that exist in a socio-economic environment with evolving institutions and infrastructures.
Market mechanisms enable socio-economic progress by a progressive division and specialisation of industries, including the knowledge conversions. The division of labour is inherently connected to characteristics of the market, including its extent, institutions and infrastructures.
Questions on the Knowledge Market
Looking at a global community where multiple actors are continuously converting, combining and trading knowledge, giving it the features of private, collective or public goods, several questions can be asked:
- What is the suitable unit of externalised knowledge for trading and combining it, and for awarding intellectual property? Is it a scientific paper, a book, a patent (as we know it, in some jurisdictions without a precise scope defined), a performance indicator, a photograph, a problem and its solution, or what else?
- Referring to the definition of infrastructure resources in Convention on Knowledge Commons, Art. 2 Use of Terms, which part of the externalized knowledge must be considered infrastructure resources?
- How must one cope with the combination of knowledge commons as part of commercial knowledge products? What forms of combination do add genuine value? And what is a fair price for such combinations? Are combinations that "hide" the commons status of some of the content legitimate and fair?
- The embodiment of much externalized knowledge as printed matter, in combination with ICT-enabled efficient means for content re-ordening and mark-up, implies opportunistic and wasteful publishing and authoring attitudes. Should and can we discipline such unsustainable knowledge-conversion aberrations (with dramatic consequences for people at the base of the pyramid, and for the environment)?
Answers that suggest a Knowledge Provide Failure
The following answers to the four questions are proposed:
- In spite of their merrits, growing volumes of scientific papers, reports, books and comparable knowledge carriers, and the expanding patent scope in poorly-governed patent systems present growing hurdles in the progressive division and specialisation in the knowledge industries.
- The wasteful over-supply of some knowledge products is increasingly driven by publishers' profit focus and/or authors' reputation and job-security focus. To become more fit for the facility or livelihood in which many knowledge consumers dwell, on-demand configurable knowledge products must built upon much smaller units of externalized knowledge. Their provide is still being neglected. A novel institutional instruments to govern their consolidation and supply is being pursued by the Convention on Knowledge Commons.
- Poor definition of the scope of patents encourages opportunistic bundling/umbrella patents (abstract patents) that aim for the control of common combinatory actions applied to genuine innovations (see for instance US patent application publication no. 2009/0177569 (http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/us29177569a11.pdf).
- A more precise answer to the second question will emerge during the drafting of the Convention on Knowledge Commons. Candidates include externalized knowledge that is part of national curricula, all knowledge products for which the intellectual property monopoly has expired, and structuring principles for ensuring access to systematized knowledge.
- Combination becomes increasingly a mechanistic activity, that, with the support of ICT tools and repository services, can increasingly be provided also by smallholders such as teachers and the learners themselves, the owners, managers and workers at facilities, and persons in their livelihoods. These actors should be empowered to perform required externalizations and combinations themselves, especially where knowledge commons are involved.
- The Convention on Knowledge Commons can become an instrument in the disciplining of opportunistic and wasteful publishing and authoring attitudes, and in the prevention of opportunistic bundling/umbrella patents. Opportunistic publishing practices could be addressed by a publishers code of conduct.
A Knowledge Provide Failure?
Some more background on the knowledge market failure, its implication for smallholders, and what fit institutions could do about it is provided in Institutions for Pro-Growth Conduct in the Knowledge Economy (Jan Goossenaerts, 2007).
Work in Progress
Tutorial writing at A new development practice model (at www.atria.us).