A profound shift has taken place in the so-called “knowledge economy”, with the focus moving away from the physical (e.g. books or journals) to digital, all against a backdrop of increasing awareness of social and environmental challenges. The nature of information in the Internet age is more flexible, cyclical and collaborative.
The lack of geographical boundaries in the new knowledge economy is a significant shift considering that the knowledge economy of the past tended to centre on actual places, whether the premises of universities, think tanks, NGOs or institutes. Today, these organizations can present their findings online and invite participation. The Internet has shown that information is fluid and not authoritatively set in stone.
The proprietary aspect of knowledge, a central aspect of the old knowledge economy, has now been toppled by the new. In the past, information was equal to capital, giving an individual, a political party or a corporation a strategic leg up over their competitors. Now, a wealth of data is freely available online. This represents a key shift towards the collective pooling together of knowledge in order to benefit everyone, not just interested parties.
The new knowledge economy provides a proactive medium for sharing and creating information that effectively melds the old with the new, providing new troubleshooting solutions and ideas for an increasingly high-tech future. The ubiquity of the Internet and technological progress puts pressure on society to value truth, data and analytics. The individual of old has not been replaced by a networked collective consciousness, but is empowered in a different and more technologically savvy way.
The concept of authorship is also being reshaped. Nowadays, with the ability to peer review and revise online information 24/7, the concept of authority over a text – or data for that matter – has come under fire. The movement towards collective authorship and the constant revision and updating of information puts more emphasis on the truth of information than the status of the person who wrote it. This is a positive step.
Author: Rina Kupferschmid-Rojas is Chief Executive Officer of ESG Analytics and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. She is participating in the Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian, China.
Image: Used books sit on a shelf in British Columbia REUTERS/Andy Clark.