Tuesday, June 17, 2008

MacArthur Series

Reading in the MacArthur Series starting with the section on Civic Engagement and immediately came across many interesting articles that illuminated, for me, some issues that we have been discussing in these forums.

Talk about the matrix of coincidence. Serendipity used to amaze me but I find myself counting on it now.

I liked the article by Howard Rheingold, he seems to be popping up every where I look the last while.

I also was interested in the Marina Umaschi Bers piece.
I was reading her bio and discovered she did her Phd under Turkle and Papert at the MIT Media Lab. Turkle and Papert have reworked the Claude Levi Strauss notion of Bricolage.

"Levi-Strauss used the idea of bricolage to contrast the analytic methodology of Western science with what he called a "science of the concrete" in primitive societies.11 The bricoleur scientist does not move abstractly and hierarchically from axiom to theorem to corollary. Bricoleurs construct theories by arranging and rearranging, by negotiating and renegotiating with a set of well-known materials." (Turkle and Papert, 1992)

As I mentioned in my introductory comments, I consider myself a bricoleur, putting things together out of bits and pieces using unconventional means. This certainly fits as part of the pedagogy of propinquity and also reflects a useful mindset for making sense out of the vast amount of resources on the Internet.

I went on to look at the issues raised by S. Shyam Sundar and his discussion of how technological affordances have affected the credibility of online information. An excellent illustration of this issue is found in the ongoing discussion about the validity, credibility and reliability of Wikipedia. This dialog continues on the Internet and within Wikipedia itself. When anybody can create a Journal and claim authority it is evermore necessary to develop and use critical thinking skills.

These skills must be honed even further because some of our traditional shortcuts for attributing authority and credibility have been undermined by questionable practices and outright fraud. I'm thinking of the process of peer-review in academic journals and how this whole process has been undermined and subverted by practices of tobacco and pharmaceutical corporations.

When such bastions of empirical evidence as the New England Journal of Medicine change their editorial policies to accommodate pharmaceutical corporations, that whole system of intellectual authority and credibility-granting is thrown into question.

No longer can we look to certain institutions to be bastions of truth. The Catholic Church had a doctrine of Imprimatur that said that a literary or similar work had been declared "free of error" in matters of Roman Catholic doctrine. It was an intellectual control mechanism to reduce the chances of the laity being exposed to heresy. This doctrine also made things very difficult for the Liberation Theologists especially those who were considered as adopting the views and attitudes of socialism or communism.

We can no longer grant any institution or individual theorist the unquestioned of authority, the right of Imprimatur. And it is evermore important that scholar practitioners become aware of some of the ways that academic fraud is perpetuated and expose it when ever it occurs.

That puts me back to another of the themes that is emerging for me, the punk philosophy of questioning authority. Edupunk is a very liberating impulse.

I look forward to hearing what others have to say about these articles and others in the MacAurthur series.

Turkle, S., & Papert, S. (1992). Epistemological Pluralism and the Revaluation of the Concrete. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 11(1), 3-33.

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