The View from Everywhere: Towards an Epistemology for Urbanites
Foth, Marcus, Odendaal, Nancy, & Hearn, Gregory N. (2007) The View from Everywhere: Towards an Epistemology for Urbanites. In 4th International Conference on Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management and Organisational Learning (ICICKM), Oct 15-16, Cape Town, South Africa.
Information and knowledge management in line with a traditional epistemology equates knowledge with science. This approach assumes that knowing is trans-historical and universal, and strives to arrive at unassailable justifications for truth claims by defining the necessary and sufficient conditions for which a proposition is known to be true. Imagining an idealised knower, without emotions or history, the goal is absolute abstraction and universal solutions. Traditional epistemologists operate under the assumption that certainty is only achieved by stripping away all but the bare reasoning required to make inferences; thus rendering the social, historical and economic context of the knower irrelevant. The perspective of this idealised knower is a ‘view from nowhere’ (Nagel, 1986). In this paper we analyse and critique this view in the light of its applicability to the situation and needs of urban dwellers. The findings of our analysis allow us to call for a broadening of knowledge discourse beyond science and technology. We argue for the development of an epistemological model which takes into account and values transitory, informal, soft, implicit, contextual and tacit forms of knowledge, and its sources and utility outside the hard sciences. This model requires policy changes towards a democratisation of knowledge production and exchange and an acknowledgement of the significance of supporting education and urban community networking as mechanisms which enable knowledge sharing and participation in knowledge societies. Our proposed epistemological model supports a ‘view from everywhere’. We hope it can uncover policy as well as technical opportunities and help inform ways and approaches to enable the social and community appropriation of information and communication technology for local knowledge production and exchange.
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