Content-type: text/html Downes.ca ~ Stephen's Web ~ Human History Is Additive NOT Subtractive!

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community
I disagree with the proposition asserted in the title. While a great deal of knowledge accumulates over time, it is very frequent that new knowledge replaces older, incommensurate, knowledge. The replacement of the Ptolemaic view of the universe with the Copernican, or the replacement of phlogiston production theory of fire with that of oxygen consumption, top name just two prominent examples. As Kuhn (who, I guess, nobody reads any more?) notes, not only does one theory replace another, whole vocabularies, practices and methods are supplanted. Older disciplines founded on older understandings of the world are relegated to history. Some media - most media - disappear. Which is why our libraries no longer store clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, Edison cylinders or betamax tapes. The preservation of old media is the exception, not the rule - which is why we should regard the current forms of radio, television and print to be, as they say, 'on the bubble'.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
stephen@downes.ca

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