Knowledge communism

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Knowledge communism is a term coined in connection with a theory by the sociologist Robert K. Merton (1942), which indicates that research results must be published in order to be able to review, replicate, criticize and update them in a peer review process. According to their nature, scientific research results belong to common property .

Scientific history development

Since the Athenians it has been part of the university that the knowledge generated and passed on by it, unlike that which is common in closed and even secret research centers in states or industries , must be able to circulate without the protection of patents and copyrights . The European universities that arose in the High Middle Ages formed a media network from processing the spoken word into handwritten books, storing it in libraries and transmitting texts in a separate university mail system. In the early modern period, thanks to Johannes Gutenberg's invention, publishers took over the production of books, and emerging territorial and later nation-states claimed the postal monopoly. According to Friedrich Kittler , information processing was transferred to hardware that emerged in the closed circles of military communications technology. The software, however, was a creation of the university. The concept and software of the universal Turing machine came from an academic dissertation:

“Correspondingly, the von Neumann architecture that still prevails comes from someone who eventually made it from Göttingen private lecturer in mathematics to chief advisor of the Pentagon. On this path to power, the knowledge that is sunk in computers and their algorithms has once again experienced the closure that once threatened when the territorial states took over the universities. "

Despite such real appropriations, the learned republic of the 19th century drafted an academic constitution for science based on the freedom of teaching and research. Four major disconnections are constitutive for this classical Humboldtian order of knowledge and updated in the scientific community of the last century by authors such as Max Weber , Karl Popper , Robert K. Merton , Helmut F. Spinner and others:

  • The separation of knowledge and property: Research results have to be published in order to be able to review, replicate, criticize and update them in a peer review process. This is what Robert Merton meant by the knowledge communism of the sciences;
  • the separation of ideas and interests,
  • the separation of theory and practice,
  • the separation of science and state: teaching and research do not follow any external instructions. That doesn't mean that they can't be publicly funded, on the contrary. In fact, the basic research for the new order of digital media, i.e. computers and data networks, was carried out with public funds.

Robert Merton considered four fundamental norms characteristic of science, in addition to "communism" also universalism, altruism ("disinterestedness") and institutionalized skepticism.

Significance for free software

The essential point for free software and open content is the "decoupling of the ideas economy from the normal goods economy". With its publication, knowledge becomes the common property of the research community. It can be freely reproduced, checked and further developed by colleagues and freely used in teaching to reproduce the knowledge carriers in the next generation. Through these fertile conditions in the “special milieu” of the sciences, the parallel, collective efforts can produce results that no individual and no single team could produce.

In knowledge communism, the individual scientist does not receive monetary payments in recognition of the knowledge she has acquired - the state pays her to be exempt from this necessity - but a symbolic remuneration in the form of professional reputation, as it is e.g. B. can be read from the number of entries in the Citation Index . Instead of a monopoly exploitation right, as granted by the patent system for inventions of industrial value, the focus here is on the right to be named.

The knowledge order of this special milieu radiates beyond its actual scope of application to its environment in the modern, democratic society with which it was created:

“The transfer of knowledge into the social environment could, under favorable conditions (rule of law, democracy, liberal public) allow essential components of this knowledge system to flow into the“ knowledge constitution ”of society. Free scientific research, teaching and publication are thus complemented by the “free opinion” of the citizen and related freedom of knowledge, as anchored in our Basic Law. Thus, the arc of the regulatory guiding principles, with cutbacks also of the positive regulations and practical realizations, from the knowledge communism of the research community to the basic information supply in the information society and the required worldwide free flow of information "

The Oekonux project also examines the relationship between free software, knowledge communism and society .

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Friedrich Kittler, in: WOS1 , 7/1999
  2. ^ Robert K. Merton, "The normative structure of science. Essays on the Sociology of Science «(1942/1949). In: Ders., Development and Change of Research Interests. Essays on the sociology of science. With an introduction by Nico Stehr. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, ​​1985, pp. 86-99.
  3. Spinner (1994), pp. 90ff.
  4. Francesco Coniglione: Through the Mirrors of Science: New Challenges for Knowledge-based Societies ontos verlag, 2011, p. 104.
  5. Elsewhere, Spinner adds the public service media landscape, cf. Spinner, 1998, p. 66.
  6. Spinner, 1998, p. 48 f.