Artefacts and knowledge interests in learning

Lately in several presentations I have (again) made the point, that we should see and think learning as a “knowledge creation”. I have also defined that:

Learning is a socio-cultural process with an intention to produce artefacts.

One selection of slides with audio is online in LeMill (see slide: 9).

People have asked me what do I mean with the “artefact”. The word artefact naturally comes from the Latin words: ars and factum. Ars means skill or method, and factum means deed or achievement.

Wikitionary give the following definition (third meaning) for the word artefact:

Something viewed as a product of human conception or agency rather than an inherent element.

When we learn we produce new artefacts. They are new artefacts for us. They are products of human conception, which we did not have before starting to learn.

When rethinking the idea of knowledge creation and intention to produce artefacts I have thought how does it fit to Jurgen Habermas’ theory of knowledge interests? He has present three forms of knowledge interests. These are:

1) Technological interest is related to work in modern societies. In the technological interest the aim is to produce technical knowledge to manipulate nature. The technological interest is closely related to the philosophical approach of positivism.

2) Practical interest is related to the language. The interest is to transfer the earlier generations’ knowledge for the new generation. The aim is to understand tradition. The practical interest is closely related to the philosophical approach of hermeneutics.

3) Emancipatory or liberating interest is related to power. The interest is to liberate people from social oppression and forms of domination caused by tradition and social structures. The emancipatory interest is related to the critical social theory.

The third interest is able to operate only through the first and the second interests which are producing objects (tools, documents, books, etc), but the emancipatory interest is guiding us when we choose what kind of technological knowledge and practical knowledge we will produce. (Reference)

Back to the issue of learning: Let’s agree that learning is a socio-cultural process of producing artefacts. Let’s also agree that artefacts are conceptualizations and representations of knowledge.

Now we may ask:

  • What kind of artefacts people should produce while learning?
  • Should learning focus only to (1) manipulation of nature and (2) transfer of tradition from one generation to another?

What do you think?

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One Response to “Artefacts and knowledge interests in learning”

  1. Petri Suni says:

    Hi Teemu,

    First of all, learning as a process of "knowledge creation" does make sense to me. But how is the product of learning defined, is another question. And very interesting one, I'd like to add.

    Basicly I think people doesn't tend to think they are creating artefacts (or whatever) when they are learning. If they even notice they are learningin in the first place (I wouldn't take that for granted)… but I guess you are just talking about intentional production of artefacts.

    I'm not specialized in the term of artefact. It is mainly familiar to me due to reading some Roger Säljö's thoughts. Based on that, I see artefacts as tools, theories, formulas… and so on. In other words, I think artefact is something that is created by someone and which is later on usefull to others or to the creator him/herself. I believe artefacts could be seen as products of knowledge creation, but I wouldn't right away buy the thought that products of knowledge creation would be artefacts automaticly.

    How do you see, can artefacts be created unintentionally?

    I'm not sure whether I can say much for your questions, but let's try anyway.

    Based on how I understand the concept of artefact, I would say those should be in form that is understandable to others. So that they can create discussion or be part of one. That would mean that the creator of artefact is already aware of other artefacts on the same field. Could we say that in a way artefacts are steps to develope things further…?

    If your second question can also be asked, whether Habermas' third form could be left out when speaking of learning, I would once again follow Säljö and say that learning is everywhere. It's more like up to what we want. If someone consider liberating intresses important and wants to do it better, then he/she is probably learning to do so.

    -petri.

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