Dockets, Deals, and Sagas: Commensuration and the Rationalization of Experience in University Licensing

University Technology Licensing Offices (TLOs) are strategic sites for examining efforts to concretize, frame, and market early stage technologies. This paper draws on 18 months of fieldwork in a private university TLO to analyze collective decision-making efforts during licensing meetings. I describe three processes – docket description, deal framing, and problem resolution – that highlight the central roles that locally sensible strategies and languages play in describing and comparing disparate technologies. Such approaches reflect the collective experience of licensing associates and, when rationalized through organizational learning, represent the processual underpinnings of ongoing transformations in the institutional arrangements of US universities. Close examination of meeting discussions reveals multiple ‘conceptual spaces’ that support TLO decision-making and more closely connects theoretical work in science and technology studies with theories of organizational learning and with economic sociology’s growing emphasis on commensuration.