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Citation: “Theses on the Epistemology of the Digital: Advice For the Cambridge Centre for Digital Knowledge.” Alan Liu, 14 August 2014. http://liu.english.ucsb.edu/theses-on-the-epistemology-of-the-digital-page/
The following was written as a solicited follow-up to my participation in the second planning consultation session of the new Cambridge University Centre for Digital Knowledge. The session, held on 7 May 2014 at the Cambridge Centre for Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), focused on “digital epistemology,” one of the two intended thematic strands of the Centre for Digital Knowledge. A previous planning consultation at CRASSH that I did not attend focused on the other intended strand of “digital society.”
My theses below are meant more as provocation than as prescription; and they do not take account of plans that may have been put in place for the Center for Digital Knowledge since the planning consultations.
Thesis 1: Enlightening the Digital
Establishing a Centre for Digital Knowledge oriented around the “epistemology of digital knowledge” will require a laser-sharp focus on making “knowledge” a productive framework for understanding the digital age. This framework must be robust enough to compete with such more common gestalts as “society,” “politics,” “culture,” and “economy” (represented in such phrases as “information society,” ‘”surveillance society,” “social media,” “online culture,” “information economy,” etc.). The proposed Centre for Digital Knowledge can generate its agenda by deliberately harnessing the tension between knowledge (including ideals of academic knowledge shaped by the German research university model and the Enlightenment) and social, cultural, and economic understandings of the digital age….