Intellectual Property

‘Symbols and Audiences: A Sociology-of-Knowledge Definition of Intellectual Property’


In this paper I describe a sociology-of-knowledge analytical definition in which to observe and make sense of intellectual property (IP). First, I give a brief US history of intellectual property since 1971, and suggest the rise of IP is as important to understanding the institutional features of ‘advanced capitalism’ as are alternative narratives such as globalization, post-industrialism, informationalism, and financialization. Second, I develop a socio-economic definition of intellectual property as audience-mediated, communicated symbols of knowledge: the key interaction is between symbols and audiences; the analytical model is symbol+marketing+audience=intellectual property. Third, I make the case that audiences are predominantly qualitative rather than quantitative concepts — i.e., the qualities of the audience determine how to interact with it. I conclude there is hidden value for organizations in qualitative socio-economic data on ‘audiences,’ which are often ignored by analysis for their inefficiency and inability to quantify. I end by identifying a few of the qualitative methods conducive to collecting audience data.

Copyright Mark Austen Whipple


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