Ways of Knowing: 4S 2007

Montreal City Hall
"By [ways of knowing] we mean several things: implicitly, that there are many ways of knowing any particular object, process, or event; that some of these ways of knowing have historically been more valued than others; and that processes of adjudicating ways of knowing have usually been neither nice nor neutral." (4S Program Description)

At the 2007 annual meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) in Montreal, Canada, held October 10—13, SLIS faculty members actively participated in sessions covering a range of topics related to the meeting theme, "Ways of Knowing."

Session: Learning in Online Communities of Practice

Organizers: Noriko Hara and Pnina Shachaf
Paper — "Power distance in Wikipedia community"

Participant: Howard Rosenbaum
Paper — "Why doesn't my system work? E-learning as a computerization movement"

Session Abstract: A shift in the concept of learning has been observed over the past two decades as traditional learning led by instructors in the classroom is no longer the only type of learning. Other types of learning, such as e-learning (learning in electronic environments) and learning in situ (learning while doing (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1988), are now part of educational practice. Similarities in the literature and practice of e-learning and learning in situ exists.

E-learning has become popular because it allows professionals to improve their skills and knowledge while permitting administrators to increase profits without physical constraints. Research is not lagging behind, yet appropriate pedagogies for e-learning still need to be identified. The popular press tends to report a utopian view of e-learning; researchers tend to promote a positive perception; and empirical implementation studies are rare.

Learning in situ often takes place in a "community of practice" (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Enger, 1998). The concept is widely used, but underdeveloped. Some studies examine motivators to share knowledge in electronic environments (e.e., Wasko & Faraj, 2005), yet empirical research that identifies effective implementation is scarce. A better understanding of the interactions and relationships among community members is needed (Contu & Wilmott, 2003).

The panelists will describe studies that address these gaps in e-learning and communities of practice.

Session: Styles of Science and Technology

Participant: Hamid Ekbia
Paper — "The Informational Style of Thinking"

Paper Abstract: Is there such as thing as "styles" of thinking? I want to suggest that there is, in the same sense that there are styles of art, music, and reasoning (Davidson 1999). Drawing on Foucault's notion of "regimes of truth," I'd like to argue that each socio- historical period allows specific styles of thinking, and discourages others, through its cultural and material practices. The most recent example of this is what could be called the informational style, which has prevailed within diverse social groups in the developed world in the last few decades, in particular in the disciplined practices of scientists, scholars, managers, and so on. This trend is discernible not only in the emergence of new areas of research - computational economics, agent-based modeling in social science, etc.- it is increasingly the style of choice in most scholarly and professional work (albeit unconsciously in some cases). The informational style is distinct from other styles (e.g., magical, religious, rational, etc.) through its relational, dialectic, recursive, and distributed character. Based on the preliminary outcome of an empirical study, I will illustrate these features by drawing on examples from various disciplines and practices.

Session: Technologies of Forgetting and Exclusion: Case Studies in the Social Benefits of Forgetting

Participant: Ron Day
Paper — The Grammar of Forgetting in Modernity

Paper Abstract: Today, the problem of forgetting in the "information age" is the problem of reasserting new cultural forms and new agency in the midst of a selection and preservation of knowledge which follows formally homogenous ("cleansed") data, on the one hand, and traditional narrative forms for the explanation of such data, on the other. The problem is acute, given not only the trope of the "information age" as a technological and social imperative for the organization of social and personal life today, but given the extreme degree to which our lives are immersed in information technologies and in the power of the social metaphors of these devices and the cultural and social dominance of their information and communication products. This problem has been a classically modernist problem, and so this paper will examine the role that "forgetting" plays in classic, modern oeuvres and it will develop these themes in regard to new information and communication technologies today.

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Posted October 18, 2007