vendredi 11 avril 2014

Codified & Tacit.

Professor Bourbaki, IMG_2269, 2014.

Notes on Asheim et al.

Asheim et al. propose a typology of knowledge. It is a way of going beyond the binary argument of whether knowledge is codified or tacit (restrictively narrow understanding of knowledge, learning and innovation). Indeed, Asheim et al. (2011) offer an alternative conceptualization. The distinction between analytic, synthetic and symbolic knowledge was originally introduced by Laestadius (1998, 2007) as an alternative to the OECDs classification of industries according to R&D intensity. This classification tends to exclude engineering-based industries from high-tech industry statistics. Asheim & Gertler (2005) and Asheim & Coenen (2005) further developed the classification in order to “explain the geographies of innovation for different firms and industries using knowledge bases to show the broader organizational and geographical implications of different types of knowledge”. Symbolic knowledge was added in Asheim et al. (2007) to analyze the growing importance of cultural production. 

This is typological thinking at its best, in the form of “ideal types” (empirical input constituting the ideal type exists in reality, but the ideal type itself does not exist). I should look up the Weberian link to this notion, because it rings a bell and could build a connection with German sociology. Pre-Darwinian typological thinking is based on the idea that morphological functions perfectly match the environmental structure a given entity lives in. This perfect fit forms a timeless kind (remember that in pre-Darwinian science this was often used as an indication of the existence of a benevolent Designer as shown in Lane et al. [2005]). 

Analytic: Economic activities where scientific knowledge based on formal models and codification is highly important (i.e. biotechnology, nanotechnology). University-industry links and networks are important and more important than in other knowledge bases. Codification is more frequent because knowledge is based on reviews of existing studies; knowledge generation is based on the application of scientific principles and methods; knowledge processes are more organized (R&D departments); outcomes tend to be documented in reports, electronic files or patent descriptions. Activities require specific qualifications/capabilities of the people involved such as analytical skills, abstraction, theory building and testing. The workforce needs research experience or university training. Knowledge creation in the form of scientific discoveries or technological inventions is important and may lead to patenting and licensing. Knowledge application is in the form of new products and processes and is often carried out by new firms and spin-off companies formed on the basis of radically new knowledge and inventions. 

Synthetic: Economic activities are based on novel combinations of existing knowledge. Occurs in response to need to solve specific problems coming up in the interaction with customers and suppliers (i.e. plant engineering, specialized advanced industrial machinery and shipbuilding). Products are “one off” or produced in small series. R&D is less important and takes the form of applied research. University-industry links are relevant, but more in the field of applied R&D than in basic research. Knowledge is created less in a deductive process or through abstraction, but more often in an inductive process of testing, experimentation, computer-based simulation or through practical work. Knowledge is partially codified and tacit knowledge is more important due to the fact that it often results from experience gained at the workplace (learning by doing, using and interacting). More concrete know-how, craft and practical skill required in knowledge production and circulation. Provided by professional and polytechnic schools or on-the-job training. Overall, this is rather incremental innovation, dominated by the modification of existing products/processes. Since this is less disruptive, innovation takes place in existing firms and spin-offs are relatively less frequent. 

Symbolic: Economic activities based on the creation of meaning and desire as well as aesthetic attributes of products, producing designs, images and symbols, and the economic use of such forms of cultural artefacts. The increasing importance of this knowledge can be seen in the development of media production (film-making, publishing, music), advertising, design, brands and fashion. This is innovation intensive (creation of new ideas and images rather than actual production processes). Competition isn’t based on the use-value but on the sign-value of brands. Input is aesthetic rather than cognitive and this demands specialized abilities in symbol interpretation and creativity than mere information processing. This knowledge is incorporated and transmitted in aesthetic symbols, images, de(signs), artefacts, sounds and narratives with strong cultural content. Tied to a deep understanding of the “everyday culture” of specific social groupings. This is essentially tacit knowledge and context specific. The acquisition of essential creative, imaginative and interpretative skills is less tied to formal qualifications and university degrees than the practice in various stages of the creative process. The process of socialization (rather than formal education) in the trade is important not only because of know-how but also know-who (potential collaborators with complementary specialization through informal interaction in the professional community).

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