Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Understanding the nature of knowledge

One of the domains within the wider scholarship of learning and teaching agenda is that of knowledge management. I therefore try to ensure that I keep up to date with that discipline as well as my core one of learning and teaching.

I therefore read regularly Denham Grey's Blog Knowledge at Work. His article on Building blocks of knowledge sits well within the constructivist school of learning and knowledge creation however it takes a very different perspective from someone like me who comes to constructivism from a Heideggarian world-view.

As an existentialist the determinist perspective offered by the Principia Cybernetica philosophy, from which the article takes its language, seems limiting. Its reliance on external Darwinian processes linked to a very structured view of cybernetics and systems seems to discount the individual as a participant as well as part of the social fabric. This is where, for me, Heideggar's Dasein as "being-among-one-another" seems to me a much better fit. This view holds with my experience that the one and the many in interaction develop knowledge, it may have external constraints, but it is not predetermined by "evolutionary cybernetics". I would therefore summarise my view that systems do exist and are of influence, but that the participants are as important as the system to the way the system develops. Therefore Asimov's Psychohistory always will be fiction because people matter as well as the system.

That being said Denham's own advice on ethnography, separated from the language of the philosophy he uses, seems to make a lot of sense. i.e. When you next practice ethnography, looking to discover how knowledge flows, where it emerges, why it is hard to capture, who has it - think: the object of knowledge, the subjects knowing and how they know, the stories they tell and the relevance of knowing to the context. (adapting the conclusion to the post).

As you can see the post gave me plenty to think about, and the article it references on The Language of Shepherding is well worth a read for anyone involved in dissertation supervision, one to one student idea generation or work-based coaching and mentoring.

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