Towards an operational definition of the knowledge economy

Nel, Timothy John (2011-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Information Science))--University of Stellenbosch, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis seeks to contribute towards a much-­‐needed operational definition of the knowledge economy – a term which is as widely used as it is misunderstood. Despite two decades of academic contemplation and debate, much uncertainty still surrounds the concept of a knowledge economy, making it exceedingly difficult for researches, academics and policymakers to find a shared perspective. The problem extends beyond just semantics – often contained within a certain definition are underlying assumptions that have the potential to inform decision-­‐making and guide action. Chapter One introduces the aims of this thesis, and outlines the intended approach. In particular, it highlights the challenges of conducting a literature review based on an extensive and highly varied set of contributions towards the concept of the knowledge economy. Chapter Two seeks to clarify the concept of the knowledge economy and how it distinguishes itself from the broader, more inclusive concept of the knowledge society. After drawing distinctions between the two concepts, Chapter Two develops upon the knowledge society concept’s more inclusive nature, and suggests that the extensive scope of the term detracts from its usefulness as a guide for policymakers – in particular, in relation to the somewhat more precise concept of the knowledge economy. Chapter Three begins the focus on the In order to provide some conceptual clarity in this regard, a number of the most prevalent and/or enduring contributions are grouped under the four overarching categorisations that emerged as a result of the discussion in this chapter: namely, Propositional Knowledge, Prescriptive Knowledge, Cultural Knowledge and Understanding. Chapter Four focuses on the next component of the term knowledge economy, and places attention on the economic aspects of knowledge which have emerged over the past two decades as a result of the technological and academic shifts that have taken place in this period. Chapter Five uses the foundation of understanding built up to this point to answer the question: what is new about the knowledge economy? Here, the impact of ICTs comes to the fore in illustrating the way in which these technologies have altered modern societies on a deep and profound level. Secondly, Chapter Five develops upon the way in which knowledge as an economy commodity has caused widespread upheaval in Industrial Era economic theory. Here, the idea that the tenets that governed the physical paradigm economy of industry and manufacturing are no longer relevant or valuable in the face of a core commodity which does not obey the principal rules of physical paradigm goods. Chapter Six concludes the discussions that have unfolded in this thesis, and highlights how the preceding chapters all contribute towards achieving the initial aims of the thesis. On top of this, it highlights the challenges uncovered during the course of the thesis that will continue to provide limitations to the achievement of a precise definition of the concept of the knowledge economy. It is concluded that the discussions developed in this thesis would achieve their goal in providing a valuable and comprehensive ‘working definition’ of the knowledge economy for academics and policymakers seeking to find conceptual clarity and a platform of ‘common ground’ from which to base their conversations and debates.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die oogmerk van hierdie tesis is om by te dra tot die gangbare definisie van die kennis ekonomie – ’n term wat net so wyd gebruik word as wat dit misverstaan word. Ten spyte van twee dekades van akademiese nadenke en debatvoering, is daar steeds onduidelikheid rondom die kennis ekonomie as konsep, wat dit vir navorsers, akademici en beleidmakers moeilik maak om ’n algemeen-­‐aanvaarde perspektief te bereik. Die probleem is nie bloot semanties van aard nie – sommige definisies behels onderliggende aannames wat die potensiaal het om besluitneming and handeling te beïnvloed. Hoofstuk Een dien as inleiding tot die doelstellings van hierdie tesis en omskryf die benadering van die tesis. Dit beklemtoon spesifiek die uitdagings rondom die skryf van ’n literatuuroorsig wat gebaseer is op ‘n uitgebreide en hoogs-­‐gevarieerde stel bydrae tot die konsep van die kennis ekonomie. Hoofstuk Twee se doel is om lig te werp op die konsep van die kennis ekonomie en hoe dit onderskei kan word van die breër, meer omvattende term van die kennis samelewing. Nadat onderskeid getref is tussen die twee konsepte, ontwikkel Hoofstuk Twee die kennis samelewing se meer insluitende aard, en stel voor dat die uitgebreide omvang van die term afbreuk doen aan die nut wat die term as ’n riglyn vir beleidmakers het – spesifiek in verhouding tot die meer presiese konsep van die kennis ekonomie. Hoofstuk Drie begin die fokus op die ekonomiese komponent van die term ‘kennis ekonomie’. Ten einde konseptuele duidelikheid te skep, word die mees algemene en/of blywende bydrae gegroepeer onder vier kategorieë, wat blyk uit die bespreking in hierdie hoofstuk, naamlik: Proposisionele Kennis, Voorskriftelike Kennis, Kulturele Kennis en Begrip. Hoofstuk Vier fokus op die volgende komponent van die term kennis ekonomie en rig die aandag op die ekonomiese aspekte van kennis, wat oor die laaste twee dekades na vore gekom het as gevolg van tegnologiese en akademiese klemverskuiwings wat gedurende hierdie tydperk plaasgevind het. Hoofstuk Vyf gebruik die grondslag van begrip wat tot dusver geskep is, om die vraag te beantwoord: wat is nuut omtrent die kennis ekonomie? Hier word die impak van ICTs duidelik deurdat dit illustreer hoe hierdie tegnologieë moderne samelewings op ‘n fundamentele en diepgaande vlak verander het. Tweedens, ontwikkel Hoofstuk Vyf verder die manier waarop kennis as ekonomiese kommoditeit wydverspreide omwenteling in Industriële Era ekonomiese teorie. Hieruit word dit duidelik dat die beginsels wat die fisiese paradigma ekonomie onderskryf nie meer geldig is met ’n kern kommoditeit wat nie die beginsels van fisiese paradigma goedere gehoorsaam nie. Hoofstuk Ses sluit die besprekings wat in die loop van die tesis ontwikkel het af, en beklemtoon hoe die voorafgaande hoofstukke almal bydra tot die doelstellings wat aanvanklik in die tesis voorgestel is. Verder, beklemtoon dit die uitdagings wat uitgelig is in die tesis wat steeds beperkings stel ten opsigte van die bepaling van ’n presiese definisie van die kennis ekonomie. Die gevolgtrekking wat gemaak word is dat die besprekings wat ontwikkel is tydens die tesis hul doel van ’n waardevolle en omvattende operasionele definisie bereik. Dit is van nut vir akedemici en beleidmakers in terme van konseptuele duidelikheid en ’n basis of gemeenskaplike grond vanwaar besprekings en debat kan geskied.

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