Formalisation and Commodification


An interesting issue was raised in a recent draft article, which addresses an important, current issue - the increasing commodification of knowledge, curricula, and courses in HEI (Higher Education Institutions).

The article raises a widespread, if difficult issue, which is the need for coordination and communication between authors of courses and tutors of those courses, as well as the issue of the problems of communicating and sharing tacit components of course design and management in HEI.

But there is also an additional issue, which is the issue of the distinction between codification and commodification, or in other words the distinction between knowledge which can be captured in a formal format and discourse, as opposed to knowledge which can ALSO be further formalised into 'knowledge commodities'. The distinction could be seen as the distinction between knowledge which can be formalised by abstracting it from all contexts (i.e. 100% commodifiable), as opposed to knowledge which although it can be formalised, still needs to be embedded in particular contexts and perspectives (i.e. formalisable, but still embedded in some specific material and institutional contexts).

This is about more than just the role of the tacit. Its about the extent to which some kinds of knowledge can be commoditised to such an extent that they can be transferred without regard to context, and provide predictable outcomes at a very high degree of certainty, while other kinds of knowledge can be transferred only if they take into account the context in both domains, which makes the knowledge much more contingent than commoditised knowledge. The contexts that have ot be taken into account are the contexts of both the author/course designer and that of the tutor.

Context in this sense includes the tacit, but is not limited to it - important material, historical, perceptual and institutional factors, for example, are also relevant.