ground up knowledge sharing

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how knowledge is created and shared, in fact my current thesis is about how this happens within archaeology, and I hope to take it further. I am currently investigating a ‘disunified’ approach to knowledge production and meaning, an approach which is heavily influenced by the ‘disunity of science thesis’ and it is from this work that I will draw an example.

The ‘Monte Carlod Method’ stemmed from the research into the creation of the Thermonuclear bomb in America, specifically the use of computer simulation in the research. What quickly became apparent during the research was that not everybody was using the simulators in the same way or for the same thing. The researchers did all however, use the computer simulators. The way the researchers used the computers it really was a version of virtual reality, the aim being to reconstruct real world conditions that weren’t possible or safe to at the time. Which leads into how the Monte Carlo research is an example of ‘disunified’ science.

The striking feature of inter-disciplinary research is the hybridisation of skill sets and knowledge which lead to a synthesis of new knowledge and new skill sets that straddle two or more disciplinary fields. Trading zones do not require such hybridisation. It is the phenomena and how to study it that locates a new trading zone, or research group. Therefore researchers may only focus on one facet of work within one methodology. This ability can lead to multi-vocality – an integral constituent of a trading zone. It was not necessary for everybody involved in the Monte Carlo experiments to have the same skills. This meant that some researchers could focus on the game-theory aspect, or convergence problems, while others focused on particular problems or methods, and other researchers yet exploited basic results (Galison 1996: 153).

This then means that not everybody has to share the same thoughts, and feelings about a specific study, discipline or discourse. People may disagree on a word to describe a set of phenomena, but they don’t disagree about the phenomena itself, or its importance, although it is entirely possible that they’ll disagree about the actual, specific importance. What usually happens is that a ‘pidgin’ language will grow up around the researchers, which is intrinsically linked to their group, and often meaningless to anyone outside it.

Book Mentioned: Galison, Peter. Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics

Credit(s)/Acknowledgment(s): I’ve posted this after talking to Matt Webb about some of these ideas which got me thinking, and made me spray my thoughts out here.