The openness buzz in the knowledge economy: Towards taxonomy

Lundgren, A. & Westlund, H.

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Lundgren, A., & Westlund, H. (2017). The openness buzz in the knowledge economy: Towards taxonomy. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 35(6), 975-989.

Governance , Institutional Theory , Knowledge-based Economy , Openness , Policy

In the networked information and knowledge-based economy and society, the notions of ‘open’ and ‘openness’ are used in a variety of contexts; open source, open access, open economy, open government, open innovation – just to name a few. This paper aims at discussing openness and developing a taxonomy that may be used to analyse the concept of openness. Are there different qualities of openness? How are these qualities interrelated? What analytical tools may be used to understand openness? In this paper four qualities of openness recurrent in literature and debate are explored: accessibility, transparency, participation and sharing. To further analyse openness new institutional theory as interpreted by Williamson (2000) is used, encompassing four different institutional levels; cultural embeddedness, institutional environment, governance structure and resource allocations. At what institutional levels is openness supported and/or constrained? Accessibility as a quality of openness seems to have a particularly strong relation to the other qualities of openness, whereas the notions of sharing and collaborative economics seem to be the most complex and contested quality of openness in the knowledge-based economy. This research contributes to academia, policy and governance, as handling of challenges with regard to openness vs. closure in different contexts, territorial, institutional and/or organizational, demand not only a better understanding of the concept, but also tools for analysis.

Main finding
The authors develop a tentative taxonomy to understand the openness concept, qualified as: accessibility, transparency, participation, and sharing - within our networked information and knowledge-based society. The four qualities of openness are generally described as: 1) whether something is open or accessible or not, 2) transparency as open information, communications, and accountability, 3) participation as personal motivations, economic, political, and socio-cultural forms, and 4) sharing as a radical new form of sharing human and physical resources including creation, trade, production, distribution and consumption, knowledge, information, or culture. They identify these qualities at four institutional levels: cultural embeddedness, institutional environment, governance structure, and resource allocations to understand how the openness qualities are supported or constrained at each level. This taxonomy may be used to analyze openness in different geographical or social contexts to understand openness in varying settings.

Description of method used in the article
The authors conducted a review of the recurring concept of 'openness' in the literature finding four qualities: (a) accessibility, (b) transparency, (c) participation, and (d) sharing. An analytical assessment of concepts of openness was done at different institutional levels: (a) cultural embeddedness, (b) institutional environment, (c) governance structure, and (d) resource allocations. The authors asked three sets of research questions in this literary review: (a) are there different qualities of openness?, are these qualities related?, and if so, how?; (b) what analytical tools can be used to understand openness?; and (c) how can the concept of openness be classified into a taxonomy? The authors used Williamson's (2000) institutional theory as a framework to understand how the qualities of openness are supported or constrained at different institutional levels.

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