In a new working paper, ‘Open and Collaborative Developments’, researchers in STEPS America Latina, the STEPS Centre and SPRU reflect on what these emerging practices might mean for helping to cultivate more equitable and sustainable patterns of global development. For many commentators and activists such initiatives promise to radically alter the ways in which we produce knowledge and material artefacts in ways that are far more efficient, creative, distributed, decentralized, and democratic. But can open and collaborative approaches fulfil this promise?
Challenges for open and collaborative practices
The key to answering this question is a set of challenges about the knowledge politics and political economy of the new practices. What depths and forms of participation are being enabled through these new practices, for instance? In what senses does openness translate to the ability to use knowledge? Will open and collaborative forms of production create new relations with, or even transform, markets, states, and civil society, or will they be captured by sectional interests?
Sharing and sticky knowledge
To take one example, a key assumption underpinning many open and collaborative initiatives is that knowledge and information can be shared, then used, modified or further developed, among actors who are far apart from each other (either geographically or institutionally). In effect, this is a promise to radically redistribute access, power and agency over the way that knowledge and materials are produced.