All knowledge is called science


Daniela Pscheida

To person

Dr. phil., born 1980; Research Associate at the Media Center of the TU Dresden; Coordinator of the ESF project "eScience - Research Network Saxony" and head of the E-Learning cluster; Technical University of Dresden, Media Center / Location Strehlener Stra├če (BSS), Department of Media Strategies, 01062 Dresden. [email protected]

What did you do the last time you did not know or did not know exactly something? In purely theoretical terms, a wide range of different sources and approaches could be named here: from talking to a friend or colleague to calling an expert or an information hotline to looking at the reference work that is quickly pulled off the shelf. Most people would probably say that they first entered the term they are looking for in the search box of the search engine of their choice - at least if they basically have an Internet connection. Seen in this way, the World Wide Web has a privileged position when it comes to obtaining information. It is, if you will, a "good informant" preferred by many. [1] This is now commonplace. Nevertheless, in this simple observation of changes in social behavioral habits, there is an indication of more comprehensive processes of change, because more happens here than the substitution of one medium by another.

Anyone who researches the Internet using a search engine is usually interested in getting a quick orientation to what they are looking for. The searcher assumes that the Internet can actually be helpful here. The motivation to search the net therefore arises on the one hand from a simple and uncomplicated access option, but on the other hand from the experience that the information available there is generally sufficient for the current information requirement. In fact, within just a few years the World Wide Web has developed into an information reservoir of historic proportions and almost dominant media; a place where the knowledge of the world is bundled and accessible like nowhere else and never before. At the same time, the World Wide Web is also a place where new rules for dealing with knowledge apply.

Knowledge and Society - Knowledge in Society

It cannot simply be said that the information found in the context of a search query on the Internet is also knowledge, because knowledge can neither be stored nor transmitted. Rather, the path from information to knowledge represents an individual processing or acquisition process. [2] Knowledge is therefore always a product of a person's cognitive performance.

Nevertheless, people generally do not live, act and think in absolute isolation, but are more or less firmly integrated into the structures of a society. In this way, individual knowledge also receives a social component, because the way in which we (can) take in and process information is socially and thus also culturally shaped. [3] This cultural pre-formation is expressed, for example, in the discourse order of a society, which regulates who, when and under what conditions may or may not say something on which topic. [4] But it also becomes manifest through the organizations and institutions of a society that reproduce and support these power structures of discursive practice.

Science is a central institution in the discourse on knowledge in our society. The science system has developed a close-knit network of norms, rules, structures, role models and procedures (methods) that not only ensure its own preservation, but also a whole produced a certain culture of dealing with knowledge. [5] This culture of knowledge is not only valid for science itself, it has rather spread far into (everyday) society. Its core characteristics include the claim to objectivity and strict rationality of knowledge recognized as valid as well as the orientation towards professional expertise. [6]

However, social reality is also and perhaps even more decisively shaped by the media, which store and process information, enable and make social communication accessible and thus, in a sense, give rise to society in the first place. The structuring potential lies in the medium itself, which has a decisive influence on the perception of information. The emergence of a new medium can fundamentally change the structure and thinking of societies. [7] For example, media history research has dealt very intensively with the importance of the introduction of book printing for social change from the early modern period to the modern age, with the emergence of modern academic science also playing an important role here. [8]

Internet as the leading medium of the digital knowledge society

The Internet has undoubtedly shaped the knowledge culture of our contemporary western societies. Within just a few years it has become a central medium of self-assurance about the world. The great strength of the Internet is that it is accessible around the clock and theoretically anywhere. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs intensify this property. The Internet also serves all areas of interest indiscriminately; everything can be quickly and easily found and accessed digitally. That this is the case is of course no coincidence, because our society collectively has a great interest in it. And: At the same time, it adjusts more and more to it.

If you will, we now live in a digital knowledge society - understood as the consistent continuation of the knowledge society with digital means. The concept of the knowledge society [9] has marked Western societies since the second half of the 20th century as "knowledge-centered societies" in which knowledge and knowledge-related activities are becoming an increasingly central element of economic value creation. [10] The increasing economic importance of knowledge as a production factor also brings with it further changes, such as the accelerated emergence of new knowledge. This, in turn, not only means that existing knowledge also declines more quickly and the so-called half-life of knowledge decreases; The accelerated newly emerging knowledge stocks are also characterized by the fact that, due to an increasingly decentralized knowledge production, competing and so far mutually exclusive knowledge stocks exist at the same time and provide plural interpretations (multiplication and duplication). As a single individual, it is today neither possible to keep an overview of the social stock of knowledge, nor to hold on to knowledge that has already been acquired. The digital knowledge society confronts us with the challenge of a social reality that requires a fundamental awareness of the diversity and changeability of knowledge as well as the permanent readiness of each individual to take this fact into account flexibly and at the same time effectively. [11]

The Internet as an information medium now responds in a unique way to these requirements by ensuring both the accessibility and availability of the constantly expanding and changing knowledge base, but as a participation medium it already structurally contains the ability to shape knowledge. In this sense, the Internet functions as the leading medium of the digital knowledge society, because it not only takes up a social need, but at the same time also helps it to gain new status and strengthens it like a catalyst. As a result of this interplay, new framework conditions for the societal knowledge culture arise. [12]