Agnotology and Epistemological Fragmentation – Data & Society: PointsEpistemology is the term that describes how we know what we know. Most people who think about knowledge think about the processes of obtaining it. Ignorance is often assumed to be not-yet-knowledgeable. But what if ignorance is strategically manufactured? What if the tools of knowledge production are perverted to enable ignorance? In 1995, Robert Proctor and Iain Boal coined the term “agnotology” to describe the strategic and purposeful production of ignorance. In an edited volume called Agnotology, Proctor and Londa Schiebinger collect essays detailing how agnotology is achieved. Whether we’re talking about the erasure of history or the undoing of scientific knowledge, agnotology is a tool of oppression by the powerful.
Fragmented discourse, in commercial speech too.While his team at Giles-Parscale designed the ads, Parscale invited a variety of companies to set up shop in San Antonio to help determine which social media ads were most effective. Those companies test ad variations against one another—the campaign has ultimately generated 100,000 distinct pieces of creative content—and then roll out the strongest performers to broader audiences. At the same time, Parscale made the vendors, tech companies with names such as Sprinklr and Kenshoo, compete Apprentice-style; those whose algorithms fared worst in drumming up donors lost their contracts. Each time Parscale returned to San Antonio from Trump Tower, he would find that some vendors had been booted from their offices.
Unfortunately, since “good design” is defined by the user it’s intended for, it’s not just about creating more, and there is no algorithmic “law” for how to get it. It suffers from the phrase that all technologists and investors hate to hear, which is “… it depends.” Whether we want “more” or “less” doesn’t have a single right answer. An example I like to use is about doing the laundry versus eating a cookie. You always want less laundry, but more cookies. One person’s laundry is another’s cookie. And so on.