A Seismic Shift in Epistemology

Chris Dede, EDUCAUSE Connect, May 22, 2008
Commentary by Stephen Downes

There may be a "seismic shift in epistemology" (epistemology is the philosophical study of knowledge and belief) but I don't think Chris Dede has his finger on it. He writes, "the Web 2.0 definition of 'knowledge' is collective agreement about a description that may combine facts with other dimensions of human experience, such as opinions, values, and spiritual beliefs." There are, in my view, numerous problems with that statement:
- web 2.0 is connective, not collective
- web 2.0 forms of knowledge are emergent, and not based on agreement of any sort
- I don't even know what 'agreement about a description' could mean
- web 2.0 is post-modern: there are no 'facts' per se, but rather, individual perspectives
- and insofar as there are 'facts' (since some web 2.0 people are realists (in the philosophical sense), they are not 'combined', but rather, emerge as the result of combining various perspectives
- 'opinions, values, and spiritual beliefs' are not 'dimensions of human experience' though they may be the result of experiences
- people do not contribute (or combine) 'opinions, values, and spiritual beliefs' - they may have them, but what they contribute are texts, photos, and other artifacts
I know that's a lot to hang on one paragraph (sorry) but I wanted to draw this out as much as possible in order to be clear. The new connective epistemology is a new type of epistemology, not some sort of warmed-over collectivism. Link via George Siemens, who cites one of my articles on connective knowledge, which I suppose Dede hasn't read.
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