Relevance of Bureaucracy in an Organization

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Managing Indigenous Knowledge And Traditional Cultural Expressions: Is Technology The Solution?

Amber Burtis


This paper discusses current issues surrounding the management of indigenous knowledge (IK) and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) in libraries, archives and other cultural institutions. It addresses the need for: (1) ethical policies for the management of these knowledge systems, (2) critical approaches to the dominant library paradigm of information management, (3) recent efforts by the World Intellectual Property Organization and the American Library Association to craft policy on this topic, and (4) the need for and examples of collaboration with indigenous communities. Implications for social change with the
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IK and TCEs are represented in library and archival collections, but often LIS professionals make no attempt to put them into a cultural context. In support of intellectual freedom, we skillfully catalog, digitize and display information so that the public can access it. A noble goal, but as Wendland (2008) notes: “…indigenous claims for greater protection of indigenous knowledge systems and cultural materials lie, albeit perhaps only superficially, at right-angles to some of the core objectives of libraries and other information services, such as: freedom of speech, intellectual freedom, diffusion of knowledge, research and learning, access to information, and preservation of cultural heritage” (p. 2). For indigenous communities, IK and TCEs are not “things” that exist separately from their culture. The discord with LIS systems lies in the orientation of the field toward a scientific logic of ‘information retrieval’ and ‘information access.’ In this discourse, knowledge becomes information, divorced from the context in which it was created (Pyati, 2006). This process allows indigenous cultural capital to be commodified in the name of intellectual freedom.

THE RESPONSE TO IK AND TCEs MANAGEMENT CONCERNS The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is one of the leading authorities on IK and TCEs. The organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations and acts as forum for policy debate regarding
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