Epistemological Metaphors: Orders of Knowledge and Control in the Encyclopedist Myths of Cyberspace

Ron Iphofen


The apparent freeing of information access and knowledge accumulation that was the promise of modern communications technology – the Internet, World Wide Web and mobile digitized telecommunications – heralded the opportunity to attain some of the ideals that have been expounded for liberal education, open and lifelong learning, informed democratic decision-making and overall an increasingly informed populace and participative, well-educated electorate. The prospects for a democratization of knowledge acquisition had broad appeal – de-institutionalizing formal education, enhancing learner choice and ‘de-experting’ authoritative knowledge sources. Failings of intellectual imagination, political will and insight together with the inappropriate organization of resources have limited such aspirations. Escaping the constraints of formal, institutionalized education and established forms of knowledge ‘transfer’ may be more difficult to accomplish than has been anticipated. Achieving the promised flexibility and adaptability in human learning may be hampered by the problem of balancing an epistemological dilemma between the efficient management of information and intellectual freedom. This paper addresses the connected issues of the costs and benefits of online encyclopedism, the production and management of intellectual capital within information systems, and the influence of the more latent metaphors for knowledge management which have subtle consequences for social order and social control.



epistemological metaphor; cyberspace; knowledge; control; encylopedism; Internet; fake news

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