Diffuse Innovation

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Diffuse Innovation = Innovation is no longer exclusive to the individual entreprise, but to an endless network of enterprises, and no longer in fact exclusive to corporations, but diffused throughout the social body.


1. The socialization of innovation 'outside' of the enterprise

"Only a fraction of the aesthetic innovations made in society occurs within the wage labour relation. That is, in the space conceptualised by Tessa Morris-Suzuki as ‘before’ production, in laboratories and in ad agencies. Most aesthetic innovation takes place ‘after’ production. It happens 'after' the wage labour relation, in consumption, in communities, on the street, and on the school yard. It is here the social factory casts its long shadow. The social factory is a place with no walls, no gates, no boss, – and yet rift with antagonism." (Jan Soderbergh in http://info.interactivist.net/article.pl?sid=04/09/29/1411223)

The contribution by Tessa Morris-Suzuki mentioned above was written in: Jim Davis, Thomas A. Hirschl & Michael Stack, eds. Cutting edge: technology, information capitalism and social revolution, 1997

2. From innovation by the Few, to innovation by the Many, Time magazine

"Things, broadly speaking, used to be invented by a small, shadowy élite. This mysterious group might be called the People Who Happened to Be in the Room at the Time. These people might have been engineers, or sitcom writers, or chefs. They were probably very nice and might have even been very, very smart. But however smart they were, they're almost certainly no match for a less élite but much, much larger group: All the People Outside the Room.

Historically, that latter group hasn't had much to do with innovation. These people buy and consume whatever gets invented inside the room, but that's it. The arrow points just the one way. Until now it's been kind of awkward getting them involved in the innovation process at all, because they're not getting paid; plus it's a pain to set up the conference call.

But that's changing. The authorship of innovation is shifting from the Few to the Many." (http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,1172242,00.html)

3. Creation and innovation as collective process

David Bollier on the mistaken legal assumptions of IP rights, and the work of Julie Cohen

Comment by David Bollier of the On The Commons weblog: "Georgetown law professor Julie E. Cohen has a path-breaking law review article on copyright law’s failure to recognize the “centrality of borrowing, collaboration and environment to creative practice of all sorts. Cohen’s paper, “Copyright, Commodification and Culture: Locating the Public Domain," calls for "a sociology of creative practice" and analyzes why the “public domain," as traditionally understood in the law, fails to recognize the actual dynamics of creativity.

Cohen writes: "Although economic modeling can contribute to the understanding of markets for creative goods,…. by itself it cannot provide adequate theoretical foundation for understanding the dynamics that drive the development of artistic culture, and therefore it cannot provide adequate theoretical foundations for copyright policy….Creativity and creative practice are social phenomena that are both broader than and antecedent to the institutions with which both economics and more broadly political economy are concerned…. If copyright law is to recognize a right of creative access to the cultural landscape, it is precisely this right that must be limited, yet that is precisely what copyright law increasingly refuses to do. Instead, conventional wisdom holds that any curtailment of derivative rights would reduce “incentives" to invest in works of mass culture."

"Attention to the social parameters of creative practice suggests that the common in culture is not a separate place, but a distributed property of social space. The legally constituted common should both mirror and express this disaggregation. The paper offers a different organizing metaphor for the relationship between the public and the proprietary that matches the theory and practice of creativity more accurately: The common in culture is the cultural landscape within which creative practice takes place." (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=663652)


1. Example of innovation as a diffuse process, from a report by Business Week:

" To get an idea of how diffuse the innovation process has become, try dissecting your new PDA, digital cameraphone, notebook PC, or cable set-top box. You will probably find a virtual U.N. of intellectual-property suppliers. The central processor may have come from Texas Instruments (TXN ) or Intel, and the operating system from BlackBerry (RIMM ), Symbian, or Microsoft. The circuit board may have been designed by Chinese engineers. The dozens of specialty chips and blocks of embedded software responsible for the dazzling video or crystal-clear audio may have come from chip designers in Taiwan, Austria, Ireland, or India. The color display likely came from South Korea, the high-grade lens from Japan or Germany. The cellular links may be of Nordic or French origin. If the device has Bluetooth technology, which lets digital appliances talk to each other, it may have been licensed from IXI Mobile Inc., one of dozens of Israeli wireless-telecom companies spun off from the defense industry." (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/04_41/b3903409.htm?)

2. Lego Mindstorms

Read Patricia Seybold's summary at http://outsideinnovation.blogs.com/pseybold/2006/03/the_story_of_le.html

More Information

More articles by Julie Cohen at http://www.law.georgetown.edu/faculty/jec/publications.html

See also Distributed Creativity