Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Knowledge and Citing Blogs

Watching the particularly touching Starter for 10, something James McKavoy’s character Brian Jackson said struck a chord. “I want to know everything” he states. How is that possible, I wonder.
University Challenge is a beautifully archaic institution, representing the historical academic principle of knowledge as “truth”. This goes against the theory that resonates most for me, the theory that knowledge is socially constructed.

In writing a dissertation about an emerging technology (well, emerged is more the case), it seems that the nature of knowledge enabled by Web 2.0 technologies beautifully encapsulates the constructivist theory.

What impact does this have on academic research? As Allison Cavanagh says in the introduction to her book Sociology in the Age of the Internet (2007)
“The development of the internet, as a technology, medium and social space, has well and truly outpaced academic responses to it.”

I have a feeling my bibliography will contain a considerably greater percentage of references to blogs than books or peer reviewed articles. I wonder how the examining body will view this. I’m referencing published works, peer reviewed by the blogosphere. Does this have the same weight and kudos as a peer reviewed journal? If not, why not?

Slightly concerned but I’m hoping the case for citing blogs is greater than that against….


bill_d3 said...

Just getting into web 2 and blogging at Melbourne Uni and was searching for material on Social Constructivism for education course in IT. Your post came up on google. Interested in your comments on social constructivism. Thanks. By the way, is the film Starter for 10 good?

Helen Nicol said...

Hi Bill

Starter for 10 is quite a twee, teenage angst film, and not particuarly taxing - good for watching a lazy sunday afternoon.

As for social constructivism, I believe it is a valid theory of the construction of knowledge. Vygotsky said that discussing ones own version of the truth reveals a higher order of truth which has been socially tested. I think we really do learn in this way - and the reality of this process can be seen in many situations - in peer review journals, in academia in general in fact, in conversations down the pub even. For me though, this idea of knowledge only being valid if it is shared and validated by others doesnt account for ideas and thinking that isn't developed and validated by social context ie Da Vinci, Einstein etc. The theory that resonates with me more than constructivism at the moment is connectivism, whereby learning is related to connections in a network.
Connectivism is associated with Stephen Downes and George Siemens. Siemens points out that Constructivism works if the volume of information we have to deal with is a trickle, and notes that we don't always construct but we do constantly connect.

Check out Stephen Downes website http://www.downes.ca/ or George Siemens book available online http://www.elearnspace.org/KnowingKnowledge_LowRes.pdf
As for Social constructivism, try this paper which looks at online forums in terms of a constructivist interaction analysis and has a useful description of vygotskys thinking in terms of online communities.

Helen Nicol said...

Whoops, forgot the link to the paper

Hope it helps Bill