Prometheus: Vol 31, No 1 (2013)

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Stuart MacDonald (General Editor)
Pages: 1-2

There are four research papers in this issue. The first addresses an issue that was more common in the pages of Prometheus two or three decades ago, information policy. Then the focus was on the need for government policy to cater for such an important resource as information. Now the need for such policy is not in dispute. Nor is the complementary role of the information strategy of organisations. Jenny Stewart’s paper is concerned not with policy for information, but rather with information for policy. In what she presents as an exploratory study, Stewart makes explicit ideas about the role of information that are implicit in much public policy theory. She explores how information is used for what she calls ‘meaning-making’ in public policy, and how analysis and consequent better understanding of this process might make for better public policy.

Prometheus has published several papers from Africa in recent years and we would like to publish more. This issue contains a short paper by Ramazan Uctu and Hassan Essop examining the development of the South African biotechnology industry. For those accustomed to viewing high technology from a European or North American perspective, it may come as a surprise that there is a South African biotechnology industry. The established academic and policy tradition is to advocate high technology as a solution to the world’s development problems. Little attention has been paid to how most of the world manages to use high technology to solve these problems. Uctu and Essop look at the performance of the South African biotechnology industry and consider how appropriate has been the government policy on which the industry depends. The South African government is trying to base the industry on local research and development. Whether this ambition will ever be realized seems to depend on whether the South African biotechnology industry can be internationally competitive.

The paper by Hwanho Choi and Bernard Burnes is nothing if not topical. It examines the innovations that have overwhelmed the modern music industry. The internet has changed totally the way music is distributed, with knock-on effects throughout the music industry. The handful of large companies that dominated the international music industry for decades has not shown the flexibility required to deal with such rapid and radical change. The companies have suffered accordingly. It would be difficult to find more stark evidence that the corporate world pays absolutely no attention to academic theory. Choi and Burnes look at an important aspect of what these companies have ignored, the new relationship between producers and consumers, where value is created not simply by producers for customers, but by music companies, musicians and fans operating together. The explication has come too late for the dinosaurs among the music labels, but others have much to learn from the music entrepreneurs of the developing world, long suppressed by a combination of vested interests, intellectual property rights and a complacent conviction that the creative industries do not have to be creative at all.

Most papers in Prometheus consider innovation in terms of government policy or organisational strategy, usually from an information perspective. Our last paper in this issue, the paper by Richard Blundel and David Smith, is very different: the innovation is actually a restoration of what once existed. The subject is cheese and the analysis is of the resurrection of farmhouse cheese through the assertion of artisanal knowledge. After the second world war, the United Kingdom’s milk marketing board imposed a general and stultifying uniformity on the country’s dairy industry. Stalinesque production systems focussed on cheese quantity rather than cheese quality, and only the survival of traditional methods in a few small companies prevented a dreadful mediocrity suffocating the whole industry. It is the reassertion of artisanal knowledge that has allowed the current flourishing of variety and quality in the cheese industry. Anglo Saxon innovation policy and management methods have shown little interest in artisanal knowledge, except, perhaps, to castigate it as an obstacle to innovation. Innovation theory and practise have a deal to learn from cheese.

Public policy as information
Jenny Stewart
Pages: 3-19


Clearly, public policy-making is an activity that both generates and uses information. Both the role of public policy in relation to informational assets and the role of information technologies have been widely canvassed, But can the concept of information itself be used analytically to understand public policy-making? In pursuit of this objective, key theories of public policy are re-interpreted from an informational perspective using a process of reciprocal interrogation. From this analysis, three types of informational role are identified within the policy process: response, control and accountability; structured interaction; and meaning-making. In summary, it is argued that public policy enables collective responses to problems to be formulated and implemented through information transmission and signalling. Through institutional pattern-making, public policy structures and selects information flows. Finally, information forms the basis of meaning-making in public policy. As a result of this exploration, some suggestions are made as to how these concepts may be used to improve policy-making.

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The role of government in developing the biotechnology industry: a South African perspective
Ramazan Uctu & Hassan Essop
Pages: 21-33


Biotechnology has been identified as one of the key sectors for future economic growth in many countries, with South Africa being no exception. Consequently, the South African government introduced the National Biotechnology Strategy (NBS) in 2001 to modernise the government’s biotechnology institutions and to develop the biotechnology industry, given a changing political and technical environment. An important product of the NBS was the establishment of biotechnology regional innovation centres (BRICs) in 2002, which aimed to develop and commercialise the biotechnology industry. The BRICs, however, were effectively replaced by the creation of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) in 2008, which also formed part of the 10-year plan of the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The TIA’s aims are to develop South Africa’s ability to convert local research and development (R&D) into commercial products and services. This paper will explore recent changes in the role of the South African government in its attempts to support and develop the biotechnology industry.

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The internet and value co-creation: the case of the popular music industry
Hwanho Choi & Bernard Burnes
Pages: 35-53


The paper explores the importance of internet-facilitated value co-creation, especially in cultural industries. Through an extensive review of the literature, it shows that in many industries, a transformational shift is taking place from value creation to value co-creation, which is fundamentally changing the relationship between consumers and producers. In particular, the paper examines value creation and co-creation in the popular music industry. This reveals that though much of the research on music and the internet has revolved around the issue of music piracy, evidence is now emerging that the internet is enabling some record labels, musicians and fans to work together to co-create value for mutual benefit. The paper concludes by arguing that value co-creation is an important development that can transform the relationship between consumers and producers, and that in the popular music industry value co-creation can promote new, more positive, relationships among record labels, artists and fans.

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Reinventing artisanal knowledge and practice: a critical review of innovation in a craft-based industry
Richard K. Blundel & David J. Smith
Pages: 55-73


This paper presents a critical review of the ways in which the specialised knowledge and working practices of craft-based industries have been transformed in the context of broader processes of industrialisation and global competition. The opening section makes the case for artisanal knowledge as a ‘Cinderella’ subject that remains important yet largely uncharted territory for innovation researchers. It is followed by a critical review of existing empirical and theoretical studies that have examined the reproduction and reinvention of artisanal knowledge. The review concludes that valuable insights remain obscured because of the way in which this literature is distributed across discrete disciplines with little evidence of cross-fertilisation or integration. Several common themes emerge, which provide the basis for an outline theoretical framework. The central arguments are illustrated with reference to a case-based analysis of the technological and social innovations that have taken place in English farmhouse cheese-making over an extended period, from the pre-industrial era to the beginning of the present century. The concluding section considers how more nuanced understandings of artisanal knowledge and practice might enhance innovation theory and contribute to the continued flourishing of craft-based industries.

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Pages: 75-77

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Chris Atton
Pages: 77-79

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William Tibben
Pages: 79-84

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‘Ribbon of Fire’ How Europe adopted and developed US strip mill technology (1920-2000)
Ernest Braun
Pages: 84-86

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OK: The improbable story of America’s greatest word
Janis Nuckolls
Pages: 87-88