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1 Knowledge and its Artifacts David R. Olson Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (UofT)

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1 1 Knowledge and its Artifacts David R. Olson Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (UofT)

2 2 What the paper is about Do artifacts affect knowledge? –Historical examples argument for YES Is knowledge embodied in the text or the reader? –Argument for READER Pragmatically useful (esp. in CL) to understand bounds of each view

3 3 Motivation Grosz & Sidner (1986): Attention, Intentions & the Structure of Text –Attentional Structure –reader focus –Intentional Structure –writer’s intentions –Linguistic Structure – what is “in the text” 2000: Corpus Analysis –Assumption that knowledge is “in the text” –Statistics, probability, ML, RST

4 4 Representation of Knowledge Knowledge represented by artifacts –Deal with world as depicted/represented Representations – symbols “which are taken as standing for some object or idea” Texts – think about knowledge in new way Autonomy; rules for interpretation Starts in 12 th century, dominant in 17 th century

5 5 New Way of Reading Mnemonics to representation Not “seeking epiphanies between lines” Strict reading of meaning “in the text” Church wanted to maintain authority Attempt for texts to embody meaning Other meanings? – imagination/mind Reading contributes to subjectivity (19 th )

6 6 New Way of Writing Writing as creation of representations New way of reading – new way of writing –Objective scientific writing –Meaning exactly what is stated Medieval – say one thing to mean another Now, manage voice, intention, linguistic meaning Knowledge objects allow new operations to produce new knowledge

7 7 Issues “even simple description of observed fact is not merely a true representation but an asssertion” “no representation without intention and interpretation” Critical achievement of autonomous text New genre of writing New text-based conception of meaning

8 8 Parallel Developments 17 th century Dutch art –Art of description (vs. medieval icons) –Accurate description not narrative depth –Criticise Michaelangelo for “emphasizing beauty over truth”

9 9 Parallel Developments Maps –Created explorers –Columbus – paper model of spherical world where each degree is 50 miles –Cook – “known” seen as that represented on paper –Maps represent vast surface ready to be explored

10 10 Parallel Developments Mathematical representation of nature – Galileo –See non-spatial properties of nature (motion) in terms of geometric representation –model allows inferences, then empirically confirmed –Nature seen in terms of mathematical model on paper

11 11 Representation as Embodiment of Knowledge Attempt to create documents that independently represent the world Then think of the world in terms of it Tempting to think knowledge is embodied “in the text” Descriptive (vs. interpretive); transparent to the reality they describe New mgmt. of illocutionary force But – can’t eliminate authorial stance

12 12 Objectivity and Subjectivity 17 th century “yielded new understanding of the world” –Invent conceptual means for theoretical model of knowledge What is “in the world” to be seen vs. what is “seen” as being in the world Provides ground for –Ascribing other aspects of knowledge to the mind –More objective accounts of the world Subjectivity – reality always filtered through the mind – 19 th century British Empiricists

13 13 Digression to The World on Paper and What Writing Is “early writing systems give little evidence of recording or representing properties of verbal utterance” (Harris, 1986) “inventing writing systems as much a matter of discovering properties of language as it was of representing them by visible marks” (Olson, 2001) Writing – words – ideas – ideas of ideas Consciousness of language (lexicon, grammar, rhetoric, logic) and mind

14 14 Knowledge and Its Artifacts What is relation between them? –Representation not embodiment Is it possible to create artifacts that embody knowedge? NO Tempting since texts central to form and growth of knowledge Textbooks treated as cultural embodiment of the known – hard to criticize

15 15 How do Artifacts Represent? Authors attempt to represent beliefs in common code so they become autonomous all readers get the same meaning Text as object for reading, criticism, interpretation, and extrapolation Text advances knowledge – important and venerated Resultant growth of knowledge in knower not text

16 16 Postmodernism/Deconstruction? Closer to medieval view? Readers construct meaning? “Humpty-dumpty” ism Lucy (Peanuts) – “why should I take back something I’ve said? When I say something I mean it! When I say something, I mean just what I say! What I say I mean! What I mean I say! What I …” (Charlie Brown – “Good Grief!”

17 17 Knowledge and its Artifacts “This, I now believe, is one of the fateful illusions of modernism, the idea that knowledge can be embodied in a text or a computer program or other artifact. Texts are more accurately seen as artifacts, notational devices for representation and thought. Knowledge remains the possession of the knower not of the artifact.” (page 19)

18 18 Further References Olson, David R. (1994). The World on Paper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Olson, David R. (2001). What Writing Is. Pragmatics & Cognition 9:2,


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