The openness buzz in the knowledge economy: Towards taxonomy

Authors : Anna Lundgren, Hans Westlund

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.


Fifty shades of open

Open source. Open access. Open society. Open knowledge. Open government. Even open food. The word “open” has been applied to a wide variety of words to create new terms, some of which make sense, and some not so much.

This essay disambiguates the many meanings of the word “open” as it is used in a wide range of contexts.


The New Ambiguity of ‘Open Government’

“Open government” used to carry a hard political edge: it referred to politically sensitive disclosures of government information. The phrase was first used in the 1950s, in the debates leading up to passage of the Freedom of Information Act. But over the last few years, that traditional meaning has blurred, and has shifted toward technology.

Open technologies involve sharing data over the Internet, and all kinds of governments can use them, for all kinds of reasons. Recent public policies have stretched the label “open government” to reach any public sector use of these technologies.

Thus, “open government data” might refer to data that makes the government as a whole more open (that is, more transparent), but might equally well refer to politically neutral public sector disclosures that are easy to reuse, but that may have nothing to do with public accountability.

Today a regime can call itself “open” if it builds the right kind of web site — even if it does not become more accountable or transparent. This shift in vocabulary makes it harder for policymakers and activists to articulate clear priorities and make cogent demands.

This essay proposes a more useful way for participants on all sides to frame the debate: We separate the politics of open government from the technologies of open data. Technology can make public information more adaptable, empowering third parties to contribute in exciting new ways across many aspects of civic life.

But technological enhancements will not resolve debates about the best priorities for civic life, and enhancements to government services are no substitute for public accountability. »


Evaluating the Impact of Open Data Websites …

Evaluating the Impact of Open Data Websites :

« Over the past few years, the steady increase in the number of government open data websites has led to a call for appropriate evaluation tools. While some (Noveck, 2009) have expressed optimism as to the potential of government open data, others (Coglianese, 2009; Hindman, 2009) have been more hesitant. This paper therefore aims to answer the following question: how does one evaluate the success of open data websites in reaching democratic objectives? In doing so, it explores past academic studies and examines the researcher’s experience with interpretive inquiry. Using as an example, it argues that survey-based research, a common tool in information systems analysis, may not be suited to open data websites. Instead, it suggests a content analysis methodology, which hopes to inform future research on the subject. »