Philosophy engines: Technology and reading/writing/thinking philosophy

Discourse 8 (3) (2009)
Abstract
Knowledge does not float free of the technologies available for its production and presentation. The intimate connection between ideas and praxis - embodied, technological, social - exemplified in any knowledge practice is, in the terms of Ihde & Selinger (2004), an 'epistemology engine'. This refers to the material-semiotic connections that obtain for any specific rendering of an idea. Often this material-semiotic connection is easier to recognise in the case of art than in that of knowledge, where it appears more-or-less obvious that the rendering of an idea in poetic rather than prose form, in musical rather than linguistic form, in plastic rather than digital form, makes a difference to the idea. However, it is also recognisable (if not always actually recognised) in science, where there is a keen awareness of visual media alongside or instead of discursive media. Ideas on the Internet shift and change as they pass through different networks of meaning production and communication, in different media and modalities. Different disciplines and modes of knowledge have either embraced these possibilities of transmogrification or remained aloof. Philosophy is one of the latter, and seems still steadily rooted to the discursive world. However, as a discipline, it overlaps in interesting ways both with science and with art. What are the epistemology-engines that apply to philosophy, and are there specific philosophy-engines? This is the background against which the applications to e-learning in philosophy will be considered. In previous work, I claimed that the nature of philosophical argument cannot simply be assumed to remain constant even in the use of relatively simple discursive technologies such as discussion boards (Carusi 2006). In the present paper I consider a range of other technologies that form the technological culture of philosophy, or which mediate it. The paper aims to open a line of enquiry into these underlying technologies and the kinds of philosophy-engine that emerge from them, individually or by way of a convergence of a set of technologies. In particular, I focus on text-mining techniques, visualisations, and modeling showing what potential they have for disturbing, derailing, re-shaping or transforming the mode, form or substance of philosophy.
Keywords General philosophy  Computational methods in philosophy  Philosophy of technology
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