Thursday, November 11, 2010

Archival Epistemology

From a Chronicle report on the latest Project Information Literacy Progress Report:
Ms. Head said the findings show that college students approach research as a hunt for the right answer instead of a process of evaluating different arguments and coming up with their own interpretation. “Not being aware of the diverse resources that exist or the different ways knowledge is created and shared is dangerous,” she said.
The emphasis above is mine. Next semester I’m teaching a seminar on primary sources that will include a focus on the epistemological question of how we know what we know. In The Pilgrim and the Bee: Reading Rituals and Book Culture in Early New England (University of Pennsylvania, 2007), Matthew Brown uses the helpful phrase “epistemology of the archive,” by which he means “a study of not only what we know from the evidential record … but also how we know what we know” (203).