Indigenous Knowledges and Knowledge Codification in the Knowledge Economy

Indigenous Knowledges and Knowledge Codification in the Knowledge Economy

Edward Shizha
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0833-5.ch012
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The production, dissemination and archivization of knowledge are important processes in contemporary knowledge economy. Questions on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) arise when Indigenous Knowledges (IKs) are examined and evaluated on how they benefit the knowledge economy and development. These questions seem to be addressed in terms of dominant epistemological ideologies based on Eurocentric knowledge production philosophies embedded in positivism and how knowledge is codified and patented. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the process and effect of codification and on IKs. The chapter argues that while knowledge codification is necessary for IKs to be preserved and archived, it is important not to lose sight of the communal ownership of the knowledges and to protect them from exploitation and appropriation. The chapter concludes that while codification of IKs and intellectual property rights are controversial, for IKs to play their full role in socioeconomic development they cannot be left out of codification that is pervasive in today's knowledge economy and society.
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Understanding The Concept Of Knowledge

The way “knowledge” is defined is very problematic and subjective. Knowledge is perceived from the perspective of the “knower(s)”, those individuals who construct bodies of ideas that they make use of in their everyday lives. Often, knowledge is defined from a scientific approach which sees knowledge as explicit and objective. However, this author perceives knowledge as the creation of our experiences, therefore, subjective and as a social and cultural construct. It embodies ideas that we deem relevant and important to the society to which we are members of. Miller (2002) argues that knowledge results from the uniquely human capacity of attributing meanings to the messages we receive and that we create our individual versions of knowledge. The ideas and meanings generated by individuals from their specific socio-cultural, socio-political and natural environments develop into epistemologies and ontologies that help society to engage in practical ways to enhance its socio-economic livelihoods. For these ideas to be of social and practical nature, they have to be circulated and shared in social development and in advancing the knowledge economy in order to transform society. As Ancori, Bureth and Cohendet (2000) point out:

To be treated as an economic good, knowledge must be put in a form that allows it to circulate and be exchanged. The main transformation investigated by economists is the transformation of knowledge into information, i.e. the codification of knowledge. The process of codification allows them to treat knowledge-reduced-to-information according to the standard tools of economics. (pp. 255-256)

While economists Ancori et al (2000) believe that knowledge should be codified and treated to the standard tools of economics (for example, turning knowledge into an economic and marketable commodity that is based on consumerism), not all knowledge should be judged by that principle. Applying the standard tools raises the question of power. Who sets the standards and defines what is appropriate knowledge and knowledge for what purpose? In today’s knowledge economy, knowledge appears to be no longer in hierarchies as users determine what knowledge best applies to their needs. This idea resonates with Siemens (2006) who points out that knowledge has changed from categorization and hierarchies, to networks and ecologies. Instead of knowledge being defined in a linear direction, it now appears in different forms and IKS are one form that is a component of the knowledge networks.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Knowledge Economy: A system of consumption and production that is based on technology and the knowledge acquired by the workers or intellectual capital.

Patents: A legal exclusive right to make and sell an invention and excludes others from doing the same for the duration of the patent.

Intellectual Property Rights: The rights given to persons over the creations of their minds.

Tacit Knowledge: Knowledge we have, and know we have, but nonetheless cannot put into words or writing.

Indigenous Knowledge: The local knowledge or traditional wisdom that is unique to a culture or society, which is passed from generation to generation, usually by word of mouth and cultural rituals.

Bio-Prospecting: The process of systematic search for new sources of biological material from the ecosystem.

Positivism: The idea that valid knowledge is derived from sensory experience such as through observation and measurement, which form the basis of scientific facts.

Bio-Piracy: The appropriation of indigenous knowledge and genetic materials from indigenous ommunities by Western scientists or institutions that seek exclusive monopoly over these resources and knowledge.

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