The Extended Knowledge Project

Can I retire and just let Edinburgh get on with it? I’ve never been to Scotland….I wonder if I could visit.

I wrote my MA thesis at the IoE on the implications of the extended mind thesis for how we understand knowledge and its assessment. The MPhil (and PhD essentially) was also interested in exploring this issue of social mediation of knowledge and its conceptualisation in an applied context of search engine use [publications in preparation].  So leaving aside some envy and wishing I was involved, I’m really delighted to see the new project on Extended Knowledge will explore some educational and informatics implications including the implications of external artefacts and groupwork for ‘knowledge’ claims and how knowledge-oriented tools such as search engines relate to that.

Excerpts from the project description relevant to my work:

Extended Knowledge and Education

“insofar as the extended cognition/distributed cognition research programme has important ramifications for epistemology (and we believe that it does), then it surely has important ramifications for the epistemology of education too. Think, for example, of how students in western societies increasingly depend on technological devices to aid their learning. Are these devices mere instruments, or is the student instead a component part of a broader cognitive whole that includes the devices themselves? Or, to take another example, think of the (relatively contemporary) focus in educational theory on group learning. From an epistemic point of view, is the group more than the epistemic sum of its constituent parts (i.e., the individual learners who make up the group)?”

Extended Knowledge and Informatics

The results of the Extended Knowledge Project can undoubtedly have a strong technological impact, especially within informatics, where human-computer interactions and information-processing are the primary topics of study.

Specifically, studying the ways in which knowledge can be extended can lead to the engineering of an entirely new series of programmes that have traditionally aimed at knowledge. Think about:

Internet SearchEngines
Music Databases
Video Databases
Online Encyclopaedias

The design of such knowledge oriented programmes that aim at pooling information from the social domain and then redistributing it to the individual can undergo a radical reconceptualisation. Instead of merely updating themselves by passively tracking the activity of their users, programmes could provide their users with the means to actively contribute to the database. The overall effect would be that individual users would be able to upload their part of social knowledge to the programme, wherefrom they could, in turn, individually download it in its entirety.

One of the main aims and original contributions of the Extended Knowledge Project is to specify the details of designing such reliable and user-friendly human-machine programmes whose output will amount to knowledge.

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