Monday, June 6, 2016

Philosophy of knowledge and the Internet

AKA something Tom Hickey might be interested in :)

In all seriousness, I found this article to be interesting and useful to thinking about the ways in which the internet has revolutionized society's "knowledge" and access to it. Pretty long read but here's a taste:

Rethinking Knowledge in the Internet Age By David Weinberger

"The Medium is the Knowledge
Perhaps our chief epistemic avoidance mechanism was turning knowing into the production of a type of content — knowledge — that we convinced ourselves had to be independent of the knower in two senses.
First, we devised methodologies that try to keep the vagaries of the individual out of the process of creating knowledge. The scientific method works. Journalistic objectivity continues to be reevaluated. (I should note that on the question of objectivity Professor Lynch contrasts his views explicitly with mine, as he does when he considers networked knowledge. He does so without animus, and I certainly respect and appreciate his criticism.)
Second, we physically separated knowledge from individuals by externalizing it (e.g., books). What started in Greece as a particular class of belief became a body of printed statements that could be called knowledge even if there was no one left to believe them. Obviously, this has been wildly successful for our species, but it also meant that the medium of externalization — paper — has shaped knowledge to fit its peculiarities. Knowledge is settled belief because ink settles into paper. Knowledge divides into topics because books can only be so big. Our most revered form of knowledge consists of long chains of reasoning because books are sequential and not suitable for optional digressions. Knowledge is something most of us read passively because books are inert — just as Socrates had opined in the Phaedrus. Knowledge is a type of content independent of believers because books are physical objects that outlast their authors and readers.
There is nothing natural about knowledge, so it is not surprising that it shaped itself to its medium of storage and communication. But now we have a new medium, and knowledge is taking on its properties. That is why looking for traditional knowledge on the net leads us to miss the phenomenon of knowledge there. It’s also why the idea of knowledge is not much discussed on the net. It’s possible that, in the next generation, the noun “knowledge” will become old-fashioned and, in the generation after that, archaic.
That wouldn’t mean that we have given up on the project of knowing our world. Instead, it would mean that that project has changed shape — from content to networks that mix ideas and sociality. That’s already happening. Knowledge is becoming what happens when links connect differences and people.
This is new but it should also sound quite familiar, for it is very close to how scholarship works in the traditional world: people who care about a topic argue about it among themselves. Networked knowledge opens up the discussion and the participants remain linked and engaged, not always expecting final resolution. Knowledge exists in the linkages of difference and disagreement.
The net is demonstrating the weakness of knowledge as finished, settled, and static content. It’s doing so by plunging us deeper into knowing."


Tom Hickey said...

Thanks, Auburn, I'll read it.

My initial thought is of Marshall McLuhan — "The medium is the message."

Matt Franko said...

"It’s doing so by plunging us deeper into knowing."

No Auburn this guy has it all backwards... we dont need to be more SPECIFIC we need to be more GENERAL...

DSGE: The "G" stands for GENERAL...

Gold Standard system or numismatic system or "money!" system or "capitalism!" system or "neo-liberal conspiracy! system it makes no difference to what should be a GENERAL theory of economics we seek as knowledge...

(even though nobody else who is successful works this way...)

Ignacio said...

Hypertext and online discussion web applications will be probably recognized as a great advance just like books were back in the day decades/centuries (if we manage to survive that long lol) from now, it truly changes the way you acquire knowledge.

jrbarch said...

The most interesting thing about knowledge is what it hides as well as what it reveals.
There is the knower, knowledge, the instruments of knowledge, and the field of knowledge.
The written word is a mask for meaning, as meaning is a mask for significance.
The basis of correct knowledge is correct perception, correct deduction, and correct witness (accurate evidence).

Intellect takes these as input, forms concepts and weaves them into a pattern (body of knowledge or raincloud of knowable things). The knower looks at the presented pattern and arrives at some kind of understanding. People may differ as to which concepts they will accept or reject and integrate into the pattern. People looking at exactly the same pattern may reach a different understanding; or at different patterns reach the same understanding, and v.v. The significance they derive from their understanding may vary likewise. Am thinking of quantum theory here especially.

Democritus walked on a beach and felt the grains of sand and wondered how small matter can get. This has been a meditation for science ever since, and they have arrived at the point where sub-atomic particles disappear and reappear, or pass in and out of an energy to a material state, or seem to be in two places at once - perhaps connected through wormholes in the fabric of space-time: - concepts, understandings, and significance are wafting around with equal perturbation.

The purpose of intellect is to discriminate between (conceptualise for you) what is real and what is not.

Whatever we hold in the mind - that is how we see the world. Hypnotise a man and tell him everything in the world is blue, and that is what he will see. Whatever is in your mind - that is the lens through which you view your world. We allow mind then, to dictate to us what our reality is. The knower becomes associated with the mind and the world, and mind produces an understanding.

We get attached to things in the world and attached to the patterns in our mind. If someone says to us: - ‘you will never ever perceive what is real until the mind is still, void of memory, the patterns held in abeyance, and the ‘knower’ looks out upon the world through a clear mirror’ - we haven’t got a clue as to why that is being said. How can you see yourself in a mirror that is transparent, which is also a window into the world? Why is what I am seeing with my senses and conceptualising with my mind not ‘real’? Even though the physicists quietly nod among themselves the world is a ‘hologram’; tell your bank manager that.

We think we find truth in our knowledge, the instruments of knowledge, and the field of knowledge. If someone says to us: - ‘you will find truth only when the knower (who is pure gnosis) awakens’ – once again we have no clue as to why that is being said. The world is full of people, interested in everything but the knower.

The internet and books are vast repositories of concepts (information). Information is just information. People can read as many informational recipes as they like, talk about recipes like experts; it will not make them cooks. Mind along with the senses create waves in the mindstuff. The most illusory wave is the ‘I’. The whole is driven by desire. Through their interaction mind learns how to concentrate and contemplate, in preparation for its use as a clear mirror. This allows the persona to know the Knower and the Knower to be manifest in the world. Well, that’s my understanding ..... the architecture is in the architect, the engineering is in the engineer and the building is in the builder: - but gnosis is in the Knower, and we should be pretty clear about the difference. Knowledge of the world is over-romanticised, and is not gnosis.

Same for ‘Love’ and everyone’s likes and dislikes.