1) 'Group Knowledge Satellite Workshop of the 1st International Conference on "Extended Knowledge"' (April 24, 2015)

  • Paul Smart (Computer Science, University of Southampton): 'Social Machines'
Abstract: A key trend in the recent technological evolution of the Web has been the development of applications and services that support greater levels of user participation in the generation and management of online content. This has given rise to what has been referred to as the ‘Social Web’: a suite of applications, services, technologies, formats, protocols and other resources, all united in their attempt to both foster and support social interaction and information exchange. At the heart of this Social Web are systems, such as YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter. These are among some of the most popular systems on the Web today. The rise of the Social Web has led to renewed interest in large-scale socio-technical systems, and a panoply of new terms have appeared to refer to parts of the emerging conceptual landscape. We thus have terms such as crowdsourcing, human computation, collective intelligence, social computing, the social operating system, the global brain, and social machines. The current talk will focus on the notion of social machines, although the relationship between social machines and other kinds of technology-mediated social participation system will be covered. Social machines can be seen as integrated systems that combine the representational and computational resources of both humans and machines, often at large scale. They provide a means for computing technologies to play an ever greater role in the moulding and (perhaps) the mechanistic realization of a variety of social processes, with significant implications for the shape of human society and the social agents that live within them. In addition, social machines act as a mutually-permeable cognitive frontier: they sit ready to re-define our collective cognitive and epistemic capabilities; however, they also enable machine-based processes to draw on human capabilities in new and interesting ways. The result is a potential transformation of our usual notions of machine intelligence, with human society serving to extend the cognitive reach of a variety of machine-based processes.  

  • English (Education, University of Edinburgh): 'Discovering our Blind Spots: Dialogic Teaching and Group Learning'

Abstract: When we imagine the traditional classroom with the teacher as a transmitter of knowledge, and each student sitting silently at a desk as a passive recipient, it may not be immediately clear that there is a connection between teaching and group knowledge. This model of the “teacher-as-transmitter” and “learner-as-recipient” is part of a deeply ingrained commonsense understanding that is reinforced by trends in international educational policy on high-stakes testing and accountability. Such policies imply that knowledge is deposited as “input” into the individual learner’s mind and can be readily tested as “output”. However, these ideas of the teacher and learner are countered by research on dialogic forms of education, which are rooted in an understanding of the human being as one who learns in interaction with others and with the environment. From a dialogic perspective, the teacher’s task is viewed as facilitating such interaction.

In this paper, I argue that dialogic teaching is indispensable to education, because it initiates and draws out learners’ engagement with educative forms of uncertainty and unsettledness, moments that I have elsewhere termed “discontinuities” in learning (English, 2013). Discontinuity points to a moment of confrontation with the limits of knowledge and ability that occurs when we encounter something unexpected — when we discover a “blind spot” — and in turn become uncertain. In the first section, I draw upon pragmatism and phenomenology to clarify the concept of learning, with a focus on the role of discontinuity. In the second section, I examine the concept of dialogic teaching and its role in facilitating group learning. Using a classroom example, I illustrate dialogic interaction between a teacher and learners with the aim of pointing out certain conditions that make learning in groups possible, including the subsequent cognitive gains in knowledge by group members. A key point I seek to draw out is the interconnection between cognitive and moral development in group learning. In closing, I underscore significant challenges for the practice of dialogic teaching and consider how future interdisciplinary research on dialogue, group knowledge, and distributed cognition might serve to address these challenges. 

  • Orestis Palermos (Philosophy/Cognitive Science, University of Edinburgh): 'Group Knowledge and Social Machines' 

How do groups store, share, and generate knowledge? Moreover, can groups be intelligent agents in themselves, under which conditions, and what effects may this have on the previous set of questions? These are some of the questions I will address in this talk both from a philosophical and cognitive science perspective while also considering concrete examples from the study of transactive memory systems (Wegner, Giuliano, & Hertel, 1985) and scientific research teams. In effect this will provide us with a clear grasp of the concepts of Group Knowledge and Epistemic Group Agents that we will then examine how to apply in the case of what Berners-Lee (Dertouzos, Berners-Lee, & Fischetti, 1999) termed ‘social machines’. Specifically, I will review the interesting case of Wikipedia and the worrisome steady decline of its active contributors (Halfaker, Geiger, Morgan, & Riedl, 2012) in order to see whether the previous discussion can be put in practice to a positive effect.

  • Jeroen de Ridder (Philosophy, VU University Amsterdam): 'Two (or More) Senses of Group Knowledge'

Talk about group knowledge is ubiquitous. We ascribe knowledge to various kinds of collectives: committees, boards, organizations, research teams, scientists, countries, and even humankind. Various philosophers have argued that at least some of these group knowledge ascriptions must be construed realistically — as referring to genuinely collective epistemic states — and have proposed an analysis of group knowledge that can account for such group knowledge ascriptions. Such accounts, however, have been plagued by systematic objections and counterexamples.

In this paper, I propose a different strategy and argue for pluralism about group knowledge: group knowledge is not one unique thing, but there are a number of collective epistemic states that all deserve the label of group knowledge. Extant accounts home in on some of these states, mistakenly to the exclusion of others. Group knowledge, then, has a number of senses.

While this may seem like a theoretical cop-out, I will also argue that there are in fact good systematic reasons to expect that there is more than one sense of group knowledge. The epistemologist’s paradigm case of knowledge is individual knowledge. Because, trivially, groups aren’t individuals, group knowledge is going to differ in some respects from individual knowledge and since there are different respects in which group knowledge can differ from individual knowledge, we should expect there to be different senses of group knowledge. 

2) 'Intellectual Virtues, Group Knowledge and Education' (Joint workshop with the Epistemology of Education pilot project, held on May 15 2014)

Mainstream epistemology has recently turned its focus on the concept of intellectual virtues. In this one-day workshop we will explore, both from a philosophical and a cognitive science perspective, how intellectual virtues are related to individual knowers, how they can facilitate group dynamics in epistemic contexts, and how thinking about knowledge in terms of intellectual virtues, both at the individual and group level, can shape the future of education.

Speakers and abstracts:

  • Orestis Palermos (Edinburgh): The ‘Group Knowledge Project’

  • Adam Carter (Edinburgh): ‘The Epistemology of Education Project’

  • Ben Kotzee (Birmingham): ’Disciplinary Knowledge and 21st Century Skills (or: Why You Can’t Just Google It)’

In contemporary educational thought, disciplinary knowledge is (just) emerging from a long losing streak. Progressive educational thinkers (inspired by, for instance Rousseau and Dewey) have long attacked the organisation and transmission of knowledge in the form of the traditional subject discipline, preferring, instead, an organisation dependent on the student’s needs or interests. Furthermore, political criticism of the discipline since the 1960′s has focussed on how the traditional subject disciplines entrench the perspectives of the privileged and should be replaced, instead, by themes, projects, experienced-based learning or other student – and/or ability-centred approaches. More recently, anti-disciplinary approaches to the curriculum have been organised under the slogan that schools should not teach facts, but ’21st Century Skills’ (such as problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity). Advocates of 21st Century Skills hold that, since they are now armed with Google, children need not learn facts. In this paper, I sketch the importance of the skills versus knowledge debate in education to epistemology. I trace work in the philosophy of education on this issue to debates regarding Ryle’s distinction between knowing that and knowing how. Specifically, I discuss Ryle’s thoughts about learning to make an academic argument as a form of doing (the so-called Lewis Carroll-problem (Stanley, 2011)). I consider intellectualist and anti-intellectualist analyses of what it is to know how to ‘do’ a discipline and outline the consequences for the skills/knowledge debate as it touches the disciplines. I outline an account of the value of disciplinary knowledge that takes knowledge to be an indispensable part of proficiency in a discipline but that resists seeing knowledge of how to do disciplinary study as itself no more than extensive knowledge that. In closing I outline what a virtue epistemological account of academic knowledge has to offer over an account focussed on critical thinking skill and sketch out the prospects for further philosophical work.

  • Lani Watson (Edinburgh): ‘Why Should Philosophers Study Questioning’

The practice of questioning is a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives. It plays a central role in our interactions with the world around us and our communication with the people in it. As such it provides a rich topic for philosophical investigation. Despite its widespread and familiar applications however, the practice of questioning has not been the subject of extensive analysis in the Western philosophical tradition. In this paper I argue that philosophers should pay greater attention to both analysing and evaluating the practice of questioning. This is particularly pertinent within an applied philosophical context given the valuable role that questioning plays in a wide variety of practical and everyday settings. I focus in particular on the epistemological significance of questioning arguing that it plays a central role in the acquisition of epistemic goods such as knowledge and understanding. With this in mind, a significant area of applied philosophical interest in which an examination and evaluation of questioning has beneficial applications is education. Furthermore, when examined as a practice questioning can be viewed as an indispensable form of social cohesion As such the practice of questioning emerges as a topic of wide-ranging philosophical import and one worthy of rigorous analysis and evaluation within an applied philosophical context.

  • Paul Anderson (Edinburgh): ’Orchestrating the Student Experience with Social Media Tools’

I will describe some work that we did as part of a Principal’s Teaching Award to look at the different ways in which social media and other tools are used across the University to support specific types of pedagogical interaction. I will summarise the findings from our interviews, speculate on whether it is useful to think about the applications in terms of their interaction models, and mention some of the significant emerging themes.

  • Richard Menary (Macquarie): ‘Mathematical Cognition: A Case of Enculturation’

Most thinking about cognition proceeds on the assumption that we are born with most of our cognitive faculties intact and they simply need to mature, or be fine-tuned by learning mechanisms. Alternatively a growing number of thinkers are aligning themselves to the view that our basic biological faculties are transformed by a process of enculturation. What evidence is there for this process of enculturation? A long period of development, learning driven plasticity and a cultural environment suffused with practices, symbols and complex social interactions all speak in its favour. In this paper I will sketch in outline the commitments of the enculturated approach and then look at the case of mathematical cognition as a central example of enculturation. I will then defend the account against several objections.