Things Can Be Otherwise 1

Introduction to Things Can Be Otherwise

My first study group for constellation was Things Can Be Otherwise which is a look into philosophy. I’d never really studied philosophy before so I was intrigued by the sorts of things that would be discussed.

The first session was more of an overview and introduction to the kinds of things that we would cover. There were four main aspects that this study group covered:

  • knowledge – questioning what knowledge is, how we know if it is ‘right’, theories on knowledge and developing an openness to other views.
  • Technology – what is meant by technology? How does it change what the ‘self’ is and is it something that enacts the will of the user or does it create the possibilities and realities in the world.
  • Writing – looking into writing as being difficult, as sculpture, as empathy and why people like and dislike writing. What makes it easy and hard for people?
  • The self – what is meant by the self, does the core/quintessential self even exist?

We also went through what constellation is meant to help us with on a wider basis.

  • The history and theory of art and design.
  • Why art and design matters.
  • Knowledge is not the consumption of truth.
  • Reflecting on own learning across all parts of the course including studio space.

After all the introductory things were finished we were posed a question:

Is Wikipedia a good source of knowledge?

Wikipedia is a website with information on lots of different things, the main issue that people have with it is that it can be edited by anyone and is not peer reviewed. For example I could write an article detailing the molecular structure of quartz when I don’t, in reality, have that kind of knowledge about quartz and would therefore produce something that was complete rubbish but Wikipedia would still be more than happy to accept this and maybe a reader who didn’t know any better would too.

Despite this I still use Wikipedia when looking into certain things and it has served me pretty well for them i.e. it hasn’t been wrong or inaccurate, however these were not for academic purposes, these were for checking the plot of a film before watching it to see if I’ll like it or not. Because of this I have developed more of a ‘innocent until proven guilty’ attitude to  Wikipedia so in that sense, I don’t really see anything wrong with it. Having said that I still wouldn’t cite it in an academic text because usually I will have found a website that can go into more depth on the specific thing I’m looking for or another site will have more detail.

There is also an argument to be made that every other website on the internet has just as much capacity to be inaccurate as Wikipedia does because as long as the data on the website is inputed by a human, there will always be margin for error.

Overall I think Wikipedia is a good starting point and is fine for non academic things but I wouldn’t cite it as a part of my university course.

We were also asked:

What counts as knowledge in the internet age?

I found this question tricky because I was no longer entirely sure what I thought knowledge was anymore. I had always thought that it was the facts that you retained in your mind, things that were indisputable like the planets orbit the sun, chlorophyll makes plants green, etc. But I suppose there isn’t a whole lot in the world that really truly is indisputable, partly due to limitations of our minds and partly due to science evolving and saying things are not as we thought they were.

So what does count as knowledge in the internet age? I would say that maybe not a lot is, or at least not a lot of it is true to whatever truth the greater universe understands. But there is a lot of knowledge that is true to the human experience found on the internet. So perhaps it is all the things like videos on Youtube, blogs and ‘factual’ websites that are knowledge.

I’m not certain that I interpreted that question quite right but that was the response I came up with.

After having that discussion we went through a very brief history of philosophy in the modern world.

In philosophy, ‘modern’ is considered  to be from 1637 – 1760. This was when people started moving away form religion as a strict lifestyle guideline.

Modernity – 1760 – 1830 was the time of the industrial revolution.

Modernism – 1870 – 1950 was the artistic reaction to mechanisation.

Postmodernism – 1960 onwards was the reaction to excess of modernism and modernity.

That was pretty much it for the first session of Things Can Be Otherwise. 

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