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  • How to network knowledge?

    Posted on September 7th, 2014 hungyin No comments

    It is Internet age, and I do agree that one individual cannot know everything at this time since there is so much information. People co-working with each other and making knowledge become a networked thing is an effective way now, and it may be the most practical way to build professional knowledge, as Weinberger describes. However, while it is easy to find a solution from laypersons, it is also easy to get incorrect information.

    It is more important to know how to answer a question than only getting some facts. However, as Cronon states, “we are not permitted to argue or narrate beyond the limits of our evidences.”( p.10), how do we keep telling a good story while networked knowledge may be incorrect?

    Also like Weinberger says “we have so many facts at such disposal that they lose their liability to nail conclusions down, because there are always other facts supporting other interpretations.”(page.28), it is hard to distinguish facts and lies. I think Weinberger will say the more networked, the more it will be testified. The issue of authenticity is also mentioned by Tosh. In that case, it requires paleography to testify the medieval materials. That means, usually, to find out what material is fake, the researcher relies on supportive knowledge – knowledge is not directly relevant with that subject but can contribute to it. If one wants to justify networked knowledge, does he/she need to have more networked knowledge?

    If some historians are working on the Middle Age and they got some materials, they can examine these materials with each other, invite archeologists and paleographers to testify, and even apply people outside of academic community to help. But the question remains: if there are different descriptions about these materials, how do these historians pick one? If they need to have more evidence to make their judgment, how much evidence do they need to make this judgment?

    For me, it looks like networking never ends. Knowledge is now networked. And to know whether knowledge is authentic, it needs to be more networked. It is not only get everyone interested in one topic together in one virtual room and networked knowledge emerges. There must be more rooms connected with this room to make knowledge emerged. To what extent can we know something is true? To what extent can we trust others’ information and judgments?


    10 responses to “How to network knowledge?” RSS icon

    • I, too, found myself asking, “how do we trust anything on the Internet?” It is too easy to post any and all information online without any sources to back up the information at hand. And sites can be created that appear to be legitimate but are in fact, completely false and misleading. So how do we navigate through this minefield of correct and incorrect data? Is it even possible to? I honestly am not sure how to answer those questions. In truth, it sometimes is much too overwhelming to even consider or fathom the minefield that is the Internet. And yet, doesn’t the Internet have its advantages as well? Certainly, it is useful to have information at our fingertips anytime, day or night. It is also highly beneficial that we now live in such a globalized world where we can connect instantly with others who may live on the opposite side of the globe. Thus I struggle, as you can tell, with weighing the merits and disadvantages of the Internet. Indeed, you could say that the Internet and I have a love-hate relationship. And as a historian, with the subject I love facing an uncertain future due to the digital age and the Internet itself, I will have to say that my love-hate relationship may become much more lopsided, unfortunately, in the very near future.

    • Your point about using other disciplines to vet primary sources is well taken–it reinforces the interdisciplinary nature of history! As Tosh says on page 89, “Historical sources encompass every kind of evidence that human beings have left of their past activities.” I suppose it’s only natural for this collection of evidence to expand as time grinds on, and to become more diversified as media changes. In this digital, networked age, though it is so easy to feel that the expanse of knowledge to draw on is suffocating. Personally, I agree with Tosh–we need to critically analyze our sources, and then come to a reasonable, supportable conclusion. It’s easy to say, but I’m not sure how easy it is in practice…

      • Right! As Tosh points out, our critical, informed, analytical faculties must engage to assess our sources — in whatever medium. Whoever thought we’d look at a vast paper repository and find that less overwhelming than the seemingly endless quantities of materials that appear on our laptop screens? As historians, our expertise and competence has always been about the combination of analytical rigor and identifying good sources. That hasn’t changed with the internet. In fact it’s become more important than ever.

    • Kevin "Tiny" Dawson

      I am in agreement with everyone thus far on this blog and comments section, as on one hand, the internet can be a wealth of information, but on the other hand, how can we trust the source information? I find myself using the internet for a quick search for any given topic, but then I will look at the sources that the writer uses, IF any are available. If there is no list of sources, I automatically find myself doubting the credibility of the article/page/information, etc. If this is a subject that I am researching on my own, I will always use the sources that the writer lists and investigate them myself to see if I can glean any new information from them, or to see if I have a different interpretation on them. One has to very wary of the pitfalls that may be there from people pushing an agenda or trying to lead people towards a “fake FACT.” Again this leads back to our discussion last week on just what a fact is… I wonder when it comes to internet “facts.”

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