Accepted Paper:

Privileged Epistemic Actors, Epistemic Authority, and the Trust & Testimony Approach for Generating Knowledge from Technologies  


Ori Freiman (Bar-Ilan University)

Paper short abstract:

I present a theoretical framework of analysis for STS scholars who engage with knowledge-related processes. I show how mechanisms for generating knowledge influence privileged and authoritative epistemic actors and argue for an ethical commitment to force transparency regarding sources.

Paper long abstract:

The role of technological artifacts is still an open theoretical question in STS. I present a theoretical framework of techno-epistemic analysis for STS scholars who engage with knowledge generation and dissemination. After presenting traditional philosophical approaches to obtaining knowledge from technologies as scattered puzzle pieces, I discuss their limitations. However, building upon these pieces and embedding them in a socio-technological context, I offer a unified analytic framework that uses social epistemic concepts of trust and testimony for analyzing knowledge from technologies. An advantage of this framework, from an STS perspective, is that these concepts are themselves boundary objects between STS and epistemology, allowing scholars to draw from the rich philosophical literature about trust and testimony while preserving central theoretical assumptions of STS.

I show that some mechanisms for generating knowledge can result with unequal social-powers that privileged epistemic actors possess. I stress the unique theoretical place of epistemic authority that actors have in the processes of knowledge dissemination and of belief formation. I then discuss how epistemic actors entitle others justifications for forming new believes not only through their social and authoritative epistemic powers, but also through the epistemic influence of technologies on cognitive abilities and possibilities. I argue that knowledge about the sources of knowledge can reveal privileged and authoritative epistemic actors, and as such it is our ethical commitment, as individuals, social institutions, and technology designers, to do our best in forcing any epistemic regime to be more transparent regarding its sources of knowledge.

Panel T073
Epistemic Regimes - Reconfiguring epistemic quality and the reconstitution of epistemic authority