A revolution in the sharing of knowledge…

Transforming e-Knowledge
TABLE OF CONTENTS     Technologies, Standards, and Marketplaces for e-Knowledge   © SCUP 2003
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Internet Culture Drives the e-Knowledge Industry



Chapter 4

Technologies, Standards, and Marketplaces for e-Knowledge

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Individuals and organizations must discover new ways of conducting the business of e-knowledge if they are to achieve order-of-magnitude leaps in the capacity to share knowledge. The essence of these new approaches is embodied in the sub-cultures, capabilities, and dynamics of the Internet. Broadly speaking, most of us can identify two key cultural elements that contribute to the development of the Internet:

  • A transactional, financially-driven culture of business and commerce; and
  • A freewheeling, informal, individual- and community-driven culture.

In the world of software development and distribution, this culture expresses itself in polarities such as proprietary versus ‘open source’ systems. This tension will not find an easy resolution and will likely continue. In addition to the need to satisfy cultures, there is a bottom-line technical requirement for the e-Knowledge Industry to flourish: the user must be able to share data and applications must work across technology platforms. In a word, what is needed is interoperability.

From a more scholarly analysis, Manuel Castells identifies four key Internet sub-cultures: “the techno-meritocratic culture, the hacker culture, the virtual communitarian culture, and the entrepreneurial culture.

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Together they contribute to an ideology of freedom that is widespread in the Internet world.” (Castells, 2001). This analysis is important because it also places emphasis on culture as a driver of change. Furthermore, Castells makes the point that the cultural roots of the Internet are deep and will shape commercial use.

The Internet was born at the unlikely intersection of big science, military research, and libertarian culture . . . all the key technological developments that led to the Internet were built around government institutions, major universities, and research centers. The Internet did not originate in the business world. It was too daring a technology, too expensive a project, and too risky an initiative to be assumed by profit-oriented organizations . . . the culture of the Internet is rooted in the scholarly tradition of the shared pursuit of science, of reputation by academic excellence, of peer review, and of openness in all research findings, with due credit to the authors of each discovery. Historically, the Internet was produced in academic circles, and in their ancillary research units, both in the heights of professional ranks and in the trenches of graduate student work, from where the values, the habits, and the knowledge diffused into the hacker culture.

Manuel Castells


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  The Internet is an invention on the scale of Gutenberg’s; it blows up the existing trade-off between richness and reach with the same bundle of economic resources.

Philip Evans and
Thomas Wurster