Working Group (2018-2022)

Ownership of Knowledge: Beyond Intellectual Property

Organizing knowledge always involves the question of who has the right to say what kind of information is (or should remain) scientific, universal, local or imperial, traditional, ordinary or every day. Explorations proposed in the 2016 workshop, "Ownership of Knowledge: Appropriation in Art and Technology" on how the historical reverberations of power and politics have shaped the methodological apparatus in the history of science led to this working group that further engages with the relationship between science, ownership and laws. Legislation is an important historical technology regulating scientific change. Inequalities characterize our modern society/global world partly because modern legislation such as patent, copyright and branding only cover a very minor aspect of how one owns "knowledge."

Scholars have come to pluralize "knowledges" pinpointing the co-evolution of knowing and owning or its co-construction. A culturally comparative history of science reveals how such approaches perpetuate an arbitrary separation of knowing and owning whereas knowledge and ownership rely on mutual conditioning: as soon as one defines how to know, owning is conditioned as well. We have coined a term for this mutual conditioning: "kn/own/able," to call attention to how scholarly analysis affects how knowledge can be owned long before and after laws come into play.

This joint research developed into an ongoing exploration: 

and the working group volume

Ownership of Knowledge: Beyond Intellectual Property (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2023)

book cover: Schäfer/ Mamidipudi/ Buning: Ownership of Knowledge: Beyond Intellectual Property (2023)

News & Press

In Pictures: The MPIWG at Berlin Science Week 2023


Dagmar Schäfer in broadcast on the ownership of knowledge


Communications Project

Media & Features

Past Events

Ownership of Knowledge: Appropriation in Art & Technology


Ownership of Knowledge


Responsible Documentation and Conscious Outcomes: Explorations in the Ownership of Knowledge