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Re: <nettime> Creating Monopolies of Knowledge
E. Miller on Fri, 12 Nov 2004 08:40:05 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Creating Monopolies of Knowledge

good article.

the article could be viewed as a legal and business perspective on 
intellectual property ownership.  But monopolization is also happening on 
a technical level too.  I recently attended a conference on corporate 
knowledge management and a couple things struck me.

-- Semantic Web, automated taxonomy creation, RDF; they're technologies 
all largely about encoding high-value knowledge into structures of 
meaning.  You take what the staff knows and put it on the corporation's 
network under the banner of knowledge management (KM).  What that 
implicitly means is that control shifts from the knowledge worker to the 
corporation.  Combine that with the complete lack of corporate loyalty to 
employees nowadays, and the KM community finds that many KM projects fail 
because the core knowledge workers don't want to use the system.  Why 
should they, when the system effectively marginalizes their value to the 
organization? The problem was widely noted, but the solution I heard 
offered was 'convince everyone of the value of KM', not 'allow individuals 
to have a level of ownership so that they feel safe sharing'.  not once 
did I hear anyone suggest that maybe, just maybe, we shouldn't be 
designing KM systems that quite literally dehumanize knowledge.

-- Google Desktop, OS X Tiger, Longhorn/WinFS: great ways to structure 
data in individual user filesystems to make high-value metadata more 
accessible and useful in a KM vein.  But, uh, who owns this metadata, now 
that all software licensing is essentially a service rental?  We don't 
really own our OSes in any meaningful sense any more, we just rent a 
limited set of usage privileges.  Does that mean that the big software 
companies have rights to patterns of KM-oriented metadata generated by new 
software technologies? Or, perhaps, the right to give that metadata to 
your employer for analysis and possible IP/patenting, with or without your 

-- one speaker wrote a book about a multi-year knowledge management 
project she headed.  not only was the project aimed at shifting control of 
knowledge from the individual to the organization, but the book she wrote 
was considered the intellectual property of the company and she receives 
no royalties.  I'm hoping this isn't the norm.  Is it?  I asked her about 
it; she used the exact term 'feudalism' as well to describe her situation.

Corporations aren't all bad; it's not all good either, but they do play a 
critical role in society.  My business is incorporated, it's a good thing 
in a lot of ways.  But if this keeps up, I hope we see something defending 
against corporate encroachment on the individual's ownership of knowledge.


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