Just Scattered Thoughts

Nothing coherent to say today, but there are some interesting things floating around in cyberworld that have got my mind churning:

This morning on NPR, there was a piece on "no email Fridays," which has sent the tone for today's thoughts about our "connectedness" and what this might mean for epistemological inquiry.

Following this same line of thought is a piece in a new-ish blog called The Scholarly Kitchen linked to by Inside Higher Ed. Philip Davis ponders whether or not Google is making him more stupid and concludes that it has, to the contrary, made him smarter by giving him more connections to "more documents, artifacts, and people" that, in turn, have an influence on his thinking and writing.

The post is in response to another very interesting article in Atlantic Monthly titled "Is Google Making Us Stupid?". Nicholas Carr, the author of this article, reaches a different conclusion from Davis, claiming that "the Net" has led us away from deep thinking and brought about a sort of attention deficit disorder in us all. My favorite line: "My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski."

Finally, Piss Poor Prof at Burnt Out Adjunct connects to this theme with thoughts on an Inside Higher Ed story about "Googling" and undergrad research: "Google is not research."

I can't pretend to tie all this together in a coherent way, but, for my benefit more than yours (whoever you are) here are some questions I see lurking that I might pursue further down the line:

Does the old definition of knowledge (some variation on "justified true belief") still work in the internet paradigm? Knowledge in this way assumes an individual knower, but there seems to be a vast resource of social knowledge that is literally at our fingertips. When I'm asked "Do you know X?," I no longer need to answer "No, I don't know," now I can answer "I'll Google (or Wikipedia) it." Is this different than being able to recall from one's memory? When information is accessed instantaneously on a laptop or BlackBerry, it seems much closer to memory than to a book found in the library stacks. What kind of work are social epistemologists doing here?

What's the difference between knowledge and information? Is it the structure, the undergirding? Is it that knowledge is believed or justified that sets it apart? We can believe information or disbelieve it. Information can be true or false. But it does seem to have justification (or warrant, or something of this sort).

What's the difference between knowing and understanding? I know the equation for energy (energy=mass x the square of the speed of light), but I don't really understand how/why that equation works. Do know things that I access online as soon as I access them if I'm warranted in believing them? Even if I don't understand them?

How are all of these questions touched by the vast amounts of information we can access at a moment's notice on the internet?

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