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Knowledge Domains & Communities of Practice Science & Technology Social Sciences science objectively establishes truth, but does not control the context in which the scientific discovery will assist in the creation of knowledge the nature of knowledge realist social

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knowledge domains communities of practice

Knowledge Domains & Communities of Practice

Science & TechnologySocial Sciences


science objectively establishes truth, but does not control the context in which the scientific discovery will assist in the creation of knowledge

science technology social sciences
Science & TechnologySocial Sciences
  • Realist nature of knowledge: world is completely objective (pure realism)
  • Social nature of knowledge: there is no foundation to knowledge apart from the perception of humans (purely socially determined)
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Science & TechnologySocial Sciences

critique of purerealist perspective

  • If scientific truth is objective and universal, it ignores the social context in which knowledge is circulated (power dynamics, multiple perspectives)
  • How individuals’ beliefs are formed is based on information supplied by others (second-hand knowledge, cognitive authority, contentious nature of “truth”)
  • Practical implications: scientific data may be used / misused to justify social stratification and prejudice; presenting certain groups as inferior (e.g. behavioral research, studies of heredity and human behavior, genetics, race and IQ, psychobiology, or sociobiology)
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critique of puresocial perspective

  • If everything is perspectival, then there is no immanent truth, knowledge (as justified true belief) is not possible
  • Truth-claims are only procedures and discourse
  • Knowledge lost in overall relativism
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veritistic epistemology

  • veritistic epistemology introduced by Alvin Goldman, Knowledge in a Social World (1999)
  • Knowledge is related to negotiation processes that are social in nature; through argumentation within institutional fields (education, democracy) higher and lower truth-value (veritistic claims) can be assigned to distinct arguments
  • Therefore, truth cannot be a thing in itself - it is always rooted in social negotiation and tied to value (e.g. distriminating and legitimating what is most efficient)
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  • S/R:Standards of evidence are not hopelessly culture-bound, though judgments of justification are always perspectival (e.g. knowledge is truth-indicative but not absolute)
  • Knowledge is built through the perspectives of disciplines (processes of cultural selection, institutional arrangements that shape knowledge)
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  • Important to understand how disciplines structure knowledge
  • Disciplinary domains are formed by communities of practice
    • how do they circulate information?
    • what are the rules of engagement? culture of disciplines
    • recognition of social structure of research
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  • Knowledge entails cognitive effort within scholarly communities to arrive at consensus
  • Consensus of communities achieved through:
      • attribution of authority
      • division of opinion
  • Public mechanism for forming consensus (scholarly journals)
      • establish a knowledge base of the field
      • select what is to be communicated in the field
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  • Knowledge claims form an important part of journals’ content based on:
      • Epistemology: logical argument, testimony, empirical evidence
      • Rhetoric:persuasion
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Journal content: reliability & attribution

  • Reliability:
      • Source of the claim (speaker)
      • Bodies of evidence supporting claims
      • Perspectival processes shaped by social forces (gender, national origin, social structures of scholarship and research - does it embrace multiple perspectives on which knowledge claims are based)
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Science & TechnologySocial Sciences

Journal content: reliability & attribution

  • Attribution (realized through citation of published work):
      • epistemic (new idea is incorporated)
      • procedural (author’s work is cited as proof that researcher has that knowledge -- association)
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  • LIS literature (Budd); Information policy literature (Rowland); Leyersdorff (IS)
  • ISI citation indexes to define document test collection
  • Assumption: authors interact with existing knowledge through referencing behavior (use of the accumulating body of recorded literature)
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  • Accumulation of a body of recorded literature varies according to subject area (how older materials are incorporated in more recent publication through citation)
      • Science and technology: select nucleus of specific journals; brief span of time covering a few current years
      • Social sciences & humanities: greater dispersion of publications in different forms, on different subjects & over a comparatively long span of time
      • Ephemeral vs. classical literature
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  • Comte (1798-1857) taxonomy of sciences
      • science (physics, biochemistry)
      • soft science (social science)
      • non-science (humanities)
  • Price (1970) - Price’s index
      • how references are distributed over an archive of material
      • hard sciences cite works in the last 6 years
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  • Cole (1983)
      • fundamental differences between disciplines lie not in citation habits but in the structure of their knowledge systems (cognitive)
      • how empirical knowledge is codified into succinct and interdependent theoretical statements
  • Cozzens (1985)
      • periods of intellectual focus
      • reception - obsolescence of literature
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  • Bradford (1934)
      • core ‘zones’
      • core - scatter determine the structure of knowledge in a discipline (older, institutionalized have core)
  • Nadel (1980)
      • catholicity of interests is a function of the maturity of a specialty (institutionalization level) :: the more mature the more diversity and multiple views can be recognized in the structure of the discipline
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  • Other observations
      • less / highly structured or specialized disciplines: people read widely outside their own current areas of concern (arts and humanities - information from a wide variety of sources)
      • co-authoring: sciences (apparatus for experimentation); social sciences (division of labor as strategy); humanities (coauthoring not practiced)
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  • Other observations
      • Institutionalization processes define dynamics of fields
      • Indicators of the degree of institutionalization: professional associations, specialist journals
      • Institutional arrangements define support & encourage research
      • Establishment of new forms of institutional knowledge and established academic fields debated