Sunday, September 21, 2008

The politics of knowledge CCK08

I've been looking at knowledge and am beginning to think its just a (current and temporary) explanation. Its not fact or truth as commonly understood, all such are socially mediated.
And then i did some more thinking...what causes things to happen or change, what changes knowledge?
Its the aggregation of things that make something more or less supported, more or less real.
To think this causes that is a little too simple, or as expressed by Latour(1988)

The belief in causes and effect is always, in some sense, the admiration for a chain of command or the hatred of a mob looking for someone to stone.
Latour, 1988. From an essay on the politics of explanation.
Again, I find connectivism is no different from an ANT analysis on the construction of knowledge.
And with regard to explaining change, I am back to describing the detail of whats happening, whats aggregated, what shifts, what do the actors say of their own actions...
Providing an explanation is, in a nutshell, working at empire-building; the more powerful an explanation, the larger the empire and the stronger the material in which it is built. What we admire in powerful theories we should also admire in freeways, multinational corporations, satellite networks, weapon systems, international banking and data banks.

Its always an aggregation, nothing as simple as a change agent (implying an individual does it by themselves). There is power and acquiescence, give and take and a reshuffling or resettling of the elements involved whenever a 'new' construction occurs. And not all of this is intended.
Knowledge understood this way becomes a product of heterogenous, historical and contingent factors.
How might I strengthen the validity or truth of a claim? Not by changing its substance, but by increasing the number of its allies, the supports maintaining this, whether human or otherwise (eg reports written, artefacts held in concrete form such as texts, the ease with which links to such knowledge is accessed...).
How to steer a course between fact and fiction? To be able to recognise the supports in place and personally evaluate the strength of such support.
And how to present such ideas to others that they might truly consider the veracity of knowledge I might hold up as evidence of my own research? By making my own positioning clearer; being an articulate reflexive practitioner? To provide a way through being believed too little or too much...
reflexivity goes against this common belief in asking no privilege for the account at hand. When I portray scientific literature as in risk of not being believed and as bracing itself against such an outcome by mustering all possible allies at hand (Latour,1987), I do not require for this account any more than this very process: my own text is in your hands and lives or dies through what you will do to it. In my efforts to forestall certain outcomes and encourage others, I too muster all available allies, all linguistic possibilities (if only, God - or Mammon - willing, I could write in my own mother tongue!).


  1. Ailsa

    I enjoyed reading this post. I think CCK08 is working as a vehicle for reflexivity. Your post prompted me to think about the sociology of knowledge and the politics of knowledge. i wonder what similarities there are between aggregation and hegemony?

    Best wishes


  2. I would agree with saying CCK08 provides a platform for reflexivity- its great for bouncing ideas around, in my own 'sandpit' and with others. From what i have read with a cck08 tag and in the moodle forums, it is all about the sociology and politics of knowledge. As for hegemony, any ANT or Latourian analysis is going to say if it cant be seen, if its not visible in the connecting nodes, then its not there. Latour talks of having to 'pay the price' of each and every transaction in the links from one 'actor' to another. It may well be that I am influenced by factors i know little or nothing of, but for them to effect me, the must be occurring locally through contacts which can be fully traced. To assume some higher ground, to say ah hah i know whats going on and you dont...he describes as a fault in sociology. To stand on such a distant perspective is also described by others, to 'play the sly one' or to take a "God like view from no-where" (Donna Haraway).
    So I am not sure of similarities, except if it can be traced and its negative then a new word instead of hegemony would be needed. Maybe just ignorance that is then removed as the traces are made known.

  3. Ailsa,

    I left my reply on my blog re: my mind map and its lack of it tracing knowledge.