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5 Two Operational Tools

As outlined above, milieus are socio-spatial devices endowed with the power of generating “social facts”. That power stems from the conjunction of specific structural properties—heterogeneity, relational density and a suitable physicalsymbolic substratum—and works by acting on the mental-emotional attitudes of the people involved. From this point of view, L3 and, more generally, the entire hermeneutical chain are typical “social facts”, in that they cannot occur within relationships that subjects individually establish with the external material world, but only within certain socio-spatial conditions which stand outside their capacities of direct handling. Within this general notion of milieu, it possible to recognise the “Knowledge-creating milieus—KCMs”, we depict as socio-spatial devices which, thanks to certain structural conditions (heterogeneity of mental habits, relational density, a specific atmosphere), foster attitudes and capabilities towards a hermeneutic approach to knowledge, which in turn is conducive to creativity.

Like milieus in general, KCMs are not empirically recognisable entities however, because besides observable elements, such as volume, density and the physical arrangement of space, they also rest on an element which is indiscernible to external observers, i.e. the symbolic meaning which the entire set of physical items and their reciprocal arrangement are vested with. This constraint can be partially bypassed in empirical investigation, by resorting to some indicators in official statistic sources:

(a) census data coming from the “International Standard Classification of Occupations—ISCO”. ISCO aggregates jobs in ten major classes, and details them up to four digits, according to “'skill level' and 'skill specialization' required to competently perform the tasks and duties of the occupations” (ILO, 2007, p. 1), that is the workers' competence level. Taking Italy as the benchmark case, on the occasion of the 2001 Census, [1]the Italian National Institute of Statistics (Istat) re-classified occupations according to this criterion, but the data feature serious limitations which make them barely utilisable for our purposes: classification was made only at one digit level, so that inside Major Groups 1 and 2 (respectively, “Managers” and “Professionals”, the two main classes which probably deal with superior forms of Learning) it is impossible to distinguish between the public and private sectors; as regards Major Group 3 “Technicians and associate professionals”, the problem also arises of making a finer distinction between worker categories mainly devoted to shaping or applying interpretative attitudes (that is, in our approach, to L2– L3 or L1 practices). In addition, the data refer to the municipality where workers dwell, while it is essential to know the place where they work, because it is there that they perform their creative attitudes in a relational working context;

(b) Industry and Services Census. In this case, the data lend themselves better to analysis of Learning activities because they refer to employees' working places; on the other hand, since they refer to 'local productive units', they include employees who are not directly involved in knowledge-creating activities within the productive unit considered, and leave out employees who work in this kind of activity but who belong to productive units which are not classified as knowledge-based activities. Knowledge-intensive manufacturing activities in particular cannot be practically identified within the current statistical classification of economic activities (NACE) because of their product-oriented rather than process-oriented approach.[2] This difficulty is much less constraining however when services are taken into

consideration, because of a closer correspondence between their outcomes (on the basis of which they are statistically registered) and the processes they adopt to yield them. Within this option, which excludes manufacturing from being taken into consideration (though it seems plausible to suppose that many of them perform L2 and L3 activities[3]), we have decided to formulate the notion of “Knowledge-creating Services—KCS”, as those service activities which are reputed to work systematically in L2 or also L3, and we consider the connected local systems as indicative of the presence of KCMs. To render in detail the composite structure of KCS, we propose to distinguish between:

– Core KCS: services whose core activity consists in or presupposes recourse to L3 practices;

– Core-related KCS: services whose core activity consists in knowledge application (L1), but which are indirectly part of L2-L3 practices through systematic interaction with Core KCS;

– Collateral Activities to KCS: Service or manufacturing activities working at the L1 level, which support the above categories.

A subordinate distinction is also made inside the first two categories, between the public and private sectors, depending on whether the activities normally work in the market or not. With reference to the “European Nomenclature of Economic Activities—NACE Rev. 2” as adopted by the Italian National Institute of Statistics in “ATECO 2007” (ISTAT, 2009), KCS are finally classified as shown in Table 3.

Some notes, finally, on how the KCS approach relates to other contiguous approaches within the wider class of “Knowledge Intensive Services”. Four main alternative approaches are briefly recalled below:

Table 3 KCS classification

Private core KCS

Private core-related KCS






Book publishing


Data processing, hosting and related activities


Publishing of newspapers


Computer facilities management activities


Publishing of journals and periodicals


Other information service activities n.e.c.


Publishing of computer games


Activities of holding companies


System and network software publishing


Surveyor activities


Development tools and programming languages software publishing


Car technical testing


Application software publishing


Technical analyses, testing and inspections


Production of motion pictures for television and television programmes


Translation and interpretation activities


Production of institutional and promotional motion pictures


Activities of employment placement agencies


Production of motion pictures for cinema


Organisation of conventions and trade shows


Motion picture, video and television programme post-production activities


Activities of collection agencies and credit bureaus


Sound recording and music publishing activities


Cultural education


Radio broadcasting


Support activities to performing arts


Broadcast of general-interest television programmes


Operation of arts facilities


Broadcast of thematic television programmes


Computer programming activities


Hardware and software consultancy


Third party maintenance of computer sytems and applications


Web port als


News agency activities


Legal activities


Accounting, bookkeeping and auditing activities; tax consultancy


Activities of head offices


Public relations and communication activities


Business and other management consultancy activities

Private core KCS

Private core-related KCS






Architectural activities


Engineering, technical studies


Research and experimental development on biotechnology


Other research and experimental development on natural sciences and engineering


Research and experimental development on social sciences and humanities


Advertising agencies


Market research and public opinion polling


Specialised design activities


Photographic activities


Activities of quantity surveyors


Sundry professional, scientific and technical activities


Performing arts


Artistic creation related to fine arts


Other artistic creation


Activities of business and employers membership organisations


Activities of professional membership organisations


Activities of trade unions

Public core KCS

Public core-related KCS






Tertiary education


General public administration activities


Hospital activities


Regulation of the activities of providing health care, education, cultural services and other social services, excluding social security


Library and archives activities


Regulation of and contribution to more efficient operation of business


Museums activities


Foreign affairs


Activities of extraterritorial organisations and bodies




Justice and judicial activities

Collateral activities to KCS




Installation of industrial machinery and equipment


Agents involved in the sale of machinery, industrial equipment, ships and aircraft

Collateral activities to KCS

aATECO 2007

(a) “Knowledge-intensive Business Services—KIBS”. According to Miles et al. (1995), KIBS are “services that involve [.. .] economic activities which are intended to result in the creation, accumulation or dissemination of knowledge” (p. 18). At a first glance, this approach seems to be appropriate to render the specificity of knowledge-oriented activities. Being derived from an ICT approach, knowledge and learning are however interpreted in a very conventional, informational way, respectively as the acquisition and mastery of information, while no explicit attention is paid to how cognitive attitudes and interpretative habits form and evolve over time. Knowledge is therefore seen as more produced than generated, acquired rather than experienced, accumulated rather than articulated, recombined rather than hybridised, disseminated rather than connected, and finally applied rather than put to the test within a hermeneutic circle.[4] Also the often reaffirmed centrality of the conversion process of tacit knowledge into codified knowledge in enhancing innovation does not take into appropriate account the fact that this kind of experience provides extraordinary opportunities for dealing with idiosyncrasies in cognitive attitudes and having access to the hermeneutic dimension, which we judge to be thereal source of creativity governance. Consequently, KIBS include the generality of business activities devoted to “symbolic analysis”—in the sense Reich (1992) gave that expression, which stands for 'formal, symbolised analysis'—independently of whether they pertain to the generation or the application of cognitive codes, and when codes are (although implicitly) considered, the key concern is to refine rather than articulate them. Having this ITC ancestry, KIBS classification thus embraces executive activities such as “Press distribution agencies”, “Maintenance and repair of office, accounting and computing machinery” besides genuine knowledge-creating activities, such as “Research [in the various domains]” and “Business and management consultancy activities” (Fig. 1); and leaves out, on the other hand, public entities, like universities, which are clearly devoted to dealing with cognitive attitudes and aptitudes, and which frequently interact with industry and other institutions in knowledge-creation (Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 2000; Lundvall, 1992).

(b) For its part, the original “Creative Industries-CIs” approach (DCMS, 2001) focuses on “those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property” (p. 4). Its main peculiarity is that it takes into consideration the entire value chain, from the ideation of a potential innovation to the factories and the retail shops where 'creative goods' are respectively produced, proposed and sold to final consumers. The key question is however how this approach selects the so-called creative value chains from the entire set of existing and other possible chains, once it is admitted that creativity permeates the economic system at large. The response given by the CIs approach is not convincing, because the choice is made by assuming a pure formal criterion, which consists in the appropriability of the creative act, through patenting (Howkins, 2002). Many other activities that are creative without being susceptible to patenting (such as many kinds of daily research and consultancy outcomes) are therefore omitted, whereas others that are not intrinsically creative (such as, for example, “Retail sale of second-hand goods”) are included because they are supposed to belong to a value chain deriving from an original, though maybe distant, patentable activity.[5] The limits of this approach have not passed unnoticed. Potts et al. (2008) suggest that it is not so much ideation-and-production characteristics that define the symbolic content of a creative good, but the specific network kind of their final market: that symbolic content, its added value with respect to 'ordinary' goods, do not mainly depend on the way it is conceived and produced, but on the complex and evolving relationships which form between consumers and between them and producers, sellers and so on. These authors therefore propose to define CIs “in terms of the system of activities organized and coordinated about flows of value through the enterprise of novelty generation and consumption as a social process” and, according to Caves (2000), creative goods as “the subset of commodities and services over which consumers do not have well established decision rules for choice (and so must learn them) or where the 'use value' is novelty itself” (Potts et al., 2008, pp. 172–173).

This renewed approach to CIs significantly overlaps with our KCS approach (Fig. 1), on both the epistemological plane (in that it explicitly assumes a relational and evolving notion of knowledge) and the

Fig. 1 Three classifications of knowledge intensive activities

methodological one (in that it focuses on the generative devices of the symbolic content of 'creative goods'). It does not wholly match with it however, because, although it looks at learning and creativity as stemming from a complex evolving network of agents, who do not solely respond to price but also to symbolic signals, it actually stays centred on marketable goods. Also within this domain, it exercises a further option, however, which marks a substantial difference from the KCS approach: whilst it reasonably rules out mature manufacturing industry because “social networks have relatively little role in explaining the dynamics of consumption or innovation in production” (ibid., p. 176), this CIs approach also excludes the primary sector, despite the fact that increasing cues of symbolisation are observable within it (think, for example, of marketing policies aiming to emphasise the immaterial value of products, like their 'controlled and certified origin' or their so-called 'biological' quality), or also excludes “skilled professions largely about learning and applying complex knowledge (law, dentistry, accounting, hairdressing, truckdriving, fire-fighting, teaching, etc.), except for the components of these industries that do involve social networks (e.g. the establishment of a new business, or expansion of a new service, e.g. cosmetic dentistry)” (ibid.)[6]; on the other hand, it significantly[7] includes “the design of physical social spaces, such as urban design and architecture” (ibid., p. 177), though also in this sector there is no certainty that such activities are really innovative, in the sense the authors give this expression, of enhancing social networks.

(c) Subtler arguments are needed to examine relationships between the KCS and the “Synthetic, Analytic, Symbolic Knoeledge-based activitiesSASKA” approaches. Asheim, Boschma, and Cookes (2011) distinguish between synthetic-, analyticand symbolic-based knowledge, according to the scientific, pragmatic or artistic source of knowledge itself. While our approach focuses on the cognitive process, the SASKA approach focuses on the possible different inputs to such process, so that an I/O table of knowledge can be devised by the crossing of the two approaches, as follow (Table 4):

Compagnucci in this book shows how fruitful such a crossing can be.

(d) Finally, our notion of KCS is very close to Alvesson's notion of KIFOWs (Knowledge Intensive Firms Organizations and Workers), or simpler KIFs, because both explicitly share a hermeneutic stance, as appears from the following period: “An aspect that differentiates KIFOWs from non-KIFOWs is [.. .] the degree of elaboration of the language code through which one describes oneself, one's organization, regulates clientorientations as well as identity” (Alvesson, 1993, p. 1007; emphasis added). He goes even further: making reference to Meyer and Rowan's (1977) radical view, he argues that “Knowledge-intensive organizations—with a few exceptions—can [.. .] be viewed as providers of [.. .] institutionalized myths” (Alvesson, 1993, pp. 1003–1004), that is 'creative routines' (an oxymoron, to remark on their ambiguous character) for resolving ambiguities and related conditions of complexity/undecidability. “Knowledge-intensive service organizations—he significantly adds—thus become vital symbols for client organizations' elaboration of rules and requirements for rationality. [... They] are thus 'ambiguity-intensive' [.. .] are 'systems of persuasion'” (ibid., pp. 1004, 1007 and 1011). While substantially agreeing with this view, our focus in this book is on the constructive side of a hermeneutic approach to ambiguity, rather than the de-constructive one Alvesson emphasises. Hermeneutics has the (inexhaustible) mission of “removing masks [the Human being] wears or have been imposed to her/him” (Vattimo, 1981, p. 29; my translation)—but this task has both a regressive and a progressive face (Ricoeur, 2004): the

Table 4 Input–Output knowledge table





Creativity governance

Synthetic knowledge




Analytical knowledge


Symbolic knowledge

expressions “Knowledge-creating milieus” and “Knowledge-creating Services” we adopt here are intentionally meant to underline this onwards approach to hermeneutics, with specific references to economy, and society at large.

  • [1] The 2011 census results on this topic are not yet available when we are writing these notes (February 2014)
  • [2] This problem was first pointed out by Machlup (1962), with specific reference to the notion of “knowledge industry”, which he conceived
  • [3] This limitation can be partially overcome by resorting to the classification into High-, Mediumand Low-Tech industry, as Compagnucci does in this volume
  • [4] We repeatedly write “rather than” because the two learning modalities are not alternative in practice: individuals actually make use of both, though not always being aware of this connection
  • [5] For a detailed discussion, see Dubina, Carayannis, and Campbell (2012)
  • [6] Though it is not clear what “dentistry, accounting, hairdressing, truckdriving, fire-fighting” have to do with “skilled professions largely about learning and applying complex knowledge” or why “teaching” has nothing to do with creativity
  • [7] To this book's aims.
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