Thursday, 23 August 2012

When I decided that the commodisation of knowledge was a good topic to write about it was immediately assumed that I meant commoditisation as illuminated by Long et al. Apparently these sociologists had a well known debate in the commodisation area but the focus was mainly on labour in agriculture, rather than knowledge per se. While I was in the process of searching minds rather than the apparently unknowing machines for references on the knowledge-commoditisation topic, the experience of being referred from one male professor to the other and then of being told by the last that the first was the one who knew, (which is why I went to him first), made me decide to focus on the genderisation and commoditisation of knowledge. For the last decade there has been an explosion of business and management science literature most of which claims quite boldly that knowledge/information is the latest resource, it is a commodity, it needs to be managed. When did knowledge become something that needed to be managed ? In addition the users of knowledge need to be defined so that 'market niches' and 'target groups' can be identified. In this way the 'knowledge generators and disseminators' can 'position' themselves correctly and profitably. The gap between instant information and profit has become very small, in fact many training institutes earn their living in this gap. Knowledge has become less of an action and more of a thing in itself - a commodity. The most prevalent action associated with knowledge in these times is the constant running to keep up with the latest research, the newest knowledge, so that the knowledge commodity does not become obsolete and unmarketable. Often this implies that the previous knowledge/theories are discarded as 'old news'. Usually it is the groups with the most power who can control which knowledge is 'new' and 'relevant' and thus disseminated. As a Trinidadian would put it "knowledge as a commodity...but that is stale news". Apparently science has not become a commodity; it always was. Commoditization has developed alongside the growth of the scientific community. It has been part and parcel of science as a professional -and thus autonomous -enterprise. Academics such as doctors and lawyers are shown below trading knowledge and professional expertise for resources, recognition and professional autonomy. What is 'real news' now is the scale of the intervention by government and industrial interests into research/learning institutes. Shiva (199 ) is concerned not only with the scale of the above mentioned intervention but also by the domination and subjugation of nature and women by patriarchal, reductionist, mechanical science and its arbitrary division of 'knowledge' and 'ignorance'. Fujimura (quoted in Leigh Star 1991) says she is interested in understanding why and how some human perspectives win over others in the construction of technologies and truths, why and how some human actors will go along with the will of other actors, and why and how some human actors resist being enrolled, in this essay I share that interest.