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Create Knowledge

Posted by Barney on July 08, 2003

In Reply to: Create Knowledge posted by R. Berg on July 07, 2003

: : : : : : : : Recently, I and an associate, attended a conference for technical communicators in Milan. My associate is a full-time employee of a large corporation and manages a technical communication department. I am a sole proprietor and contractor who works in a wide range of companies, industries and fulfils a wide range of duties that include technical writing, business analysis, training, support, multimedia development, etc. etc. So our backgrounds are similar yet different.

: : : : : : : : Nonetheless we agreed that this conference was appalling. Thank goodness Milan is a joy to visit in itself and we made the most of the long trip from Australia and also spent an additional 3 weeks holidaying in Europe. Had we gone specifically for the conference it would have been a terrible waste of time and money. It was amateuristic, unprofessional and behind the times.

: : : : : : : : Having said all that, one of the topics was 'Expanding Career Opportunities for Technical Communicators', frankly the pick of the sessions we attended.

: : : : : : : : I was firstly disturbed at the cringing, insecure way in which technical communicators think of themselves. No wonder employers and clients don't take them seriously. Ironic, considering their career is communication.

: : : : : : : : In an effort to discuss how to raise the profile of technical communicators (on the basis that employers and clients don't tend to take this role seriously), the facilitator claimed that we 'create knowledge'.

: : : : : : : : This statement astounded me. I'm all for taking a strong, positive approach. But it still has to be realistic.

: : : : : : : : To begin with I thought it was arrogant. In my opinion, while we may incorporate our own knowledge, our role is generally to obtain and communicate the knowledge of others in a variety of ways.

: : : : : : : : But most of all, I thought the statement was also impossible. Surely it is not actually possible to 'create knowledge'? Knowledge is acquired, learned, handed down, passed on, communicated, etc. etc.

: : : : : : : : Can knowledge actually be 'created'? Can these two words 'create' and 'knowledge' be used together this way? Sounds more like more meaningless buzzwords to me.

: : : : : : : What an interesting question!! It's late on Sunday night and I don't know if I'm up to answering it. But I'll get the ball rolling by saying:

: : : : : : : No, knowledge is not created. Knowledge exists, independent of human discovery. Knowledge IS.

: : : : : : : It is like matter.

: : : : : : I quite disagree. Knowledge requires a knower. If I discover something never before seen or known, or connect two ideas into a new concept, I have created knowledge.
: : : : : : That having been said, there are few people who actually create knowledge. Most of the rest of us communicate it, repackage it, manipulate it... but not actually originate it. The speaker at the conference may have been a bit puffed up.

: : : : :
: : : : : Yes I suspect puffed up is quite right. However, now you've got me thinking. If I read your sentence quite literally, ie. "If I discover something never before seen or known, or connect two ideas into a new concept, I have created knowledge.", I'm still not sure in this example that knowledge was 'created', rather that the benefit of knowledge has enabled a concept or idea to be formed. Getting pedantic I know, but that's what happens in this forum. Certainly has me thinking though.

: : : : Research does indeed create knowledge. Knowledge of the molecular basis of inheritance didn't exist until Crick and Watson discovered the double-helical structure of DNA. But that's probably not the kind of knowledge your facilitator was talking about.

: : : Knowledge may be acquired but it can certainly not be created since knowledge is, by definition, the acquisition of facts and information of all kinds. It is clearly unwise to travel a long distance, at great expense, in the hope of enlightenment in Milan.

: : : If thinking of me as a pedant makes you feel better by please feel free so to do.

: : Sorry. "... the acquisition of facts and information of all kinds" is *not* a definition of knowledge, but it's a good working definition of research.

: . . . or of learning (one kind: learning "that," not learning "how"). The working def'n of knowledge that I'm using is the POSSESSION of facts and information of all kinds. Does that clarify what I said?

: Defining knowledge as the acquisition of something doesn't fit with saying knowledge can be acquired.

: The American Heritage Dictionary has these definitions, among others:

: 1. The state or fact of knowing.
: 2. Familiarity, awareness.
: 3. That which is known; the sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered, or inferred.
: 4. Learning; erudition: "men of knowledge."

: I believe that those definitions point to an understanding of knowledge as something that requires a knower or knowers.

The Oxford definition: facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject: a thirst for knowledge.

Seems to me that the current UK government has engaged in the 'creation' of knowledge about the WMDs in Iraq and the speedy way (45 minutes) in which they might be launched. This 'creation' process appears to have little to do with the acquisition of knowledge from facts or information and would, in other circumstances, be classified as lying. Perhaps there is a clue here as to the purpose of the conference in Milan.

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