Peters, Nia

May 26, 2021

“29. Who owns knowledge?”

Object 1: Example of a mathematical axiom from maths class

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The prompt I’ve selected is “Who owns knowledge” I interpret this question to mean, “Who has control of knowledge and it’s dissemination” and “Who comes up with knowledge”. In this exhibition I will be investigating this prompt and attempting to answer these questions by exploring the ways in which figures of authority are able to determine what people know, how knowledge is derived and what constitutes ‘knowing’.

Axioms are statements or propositions which are regarded as being self- evidently true. Much of maths relies on axioms which are accepted so that mathematical discovery can be furthered. This axiom was taken from an in- class maths question about Integration. The question states that for a given function f(x), when x=0 and x=6 the answer will always be 5.

One way in which this object enriches this exhibition is by illustrating that knowledge is not always derived from understanding as shown by my peers and I who were able to solve the maths question despite not entirely understanding what the axiom required to solve it meant. Whilst my peers and I were able to solve this problem and attain knowledge on how to solve it, we

do not own the knowledge provided by the question as this stems from more than just the methodical knowledge required to solve it. The knowledge of the question also includes the knowledge of how the question was derived which is why the only people who own the knowledge of these questions are mathematicians like Euclid who formulate the questions themselves.

Another way this object adds to my exhibition is by illustrating that there are different types of knowledge, none of which are necessarily better or more valid than the others. Since there are different types of knowledge it means that there can also be different owners of knowledge. Mathematicians may own the theoretical knowledge of the question while students who solve the question can own the methodical knowledge. There doesn’t have to be a single owner of knowledge because each type of knowledge is unique.

Object 2: My French-English Dictionary

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This object is a dictionary which I use to help me translate between English and French.

Dictionaries, like this one, supply definitions and certification of what is correct vocabulary.

This object is interesting to this exhibition because it demonstrates our reliance as humans on external sources for knowledge. Although language is becoming increasingly malleable, dictionaries are still regarded as the absolute source of ‘proper’ language. Much of what we regard as being ‘proper’ language is often outdated and unrepresentative of the language spoken by most people. Despite the language of dictionaries not matching the language of the public, we still force this language upon ourselves. When I use my French dictionary and I want to say the word ‘e-mail’ it translates it as ‘courriel’ which my French teacher tells me I am supposed to say despite the word most people use being ‘e-mail’ or ‘mail’. The editors at the Oxford University Press who get to decide whether the word for email in French should be ‘courriel’ or ‘e-mail’ are the ones who own the knowledge of the French language because they get to choose what that knowledge is.

A second reason this object enhances this exhibition is by indicating that there isn’t an owner of knowledge. No one truly owns the knowledge of language because language is a cultural construct which is ever evolving. My Oxford French dictionary may tell me to say the word ‘eat’ as ‘manger’, another dictionary may say the word for ‘eat’ is ‘faire minette’ and my friends and I may decide that we prefer to say ‘bouffer’ and none of these definitions would be incorrect. Language is owned by everyone and thus by no one, we pick and choose what we like and what we don’t and in doing so we end up making up something which has no real rules and no real owner.

Object 3: Photo of age restriction message from YouTube

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This is screenshot of an age restriction error message which popped up on my 12-year-old cousin’s phone after she tried to watch a video about someone’s morning routine. The video was deemed to be inappropriate for viewers her age because there was a clip in it which had inappropriate language.

This object is interesting to the exhibition because age restrictions are a form of censorship and controlling the knowledge that people have. The people and companies who place age restrictions on videos like this one are the owners of the knowledge of these videos as they have control over the knowledge and its dissemination. Only a select few people have the knowledge of this video and the select few are chosen by YouTube. Through their ability to choose which age groups get to see certain videos YouTube can manipulate the knowledge that these groups have. For example, in the video my cousin tried to watch the Youtuber spoke about mindfulness. The people able to watch this video who are 18 and above would then have a greater understanding of these topics than someone like my 12-year-old cousin.

Another way the object enriches this exhibition is by showing that knowledge can be restricted but not completely unattainable. If my cousin’s mother changed the settings on her YouTube account, she would be able to watch the video therefore bypassing the restriction on knowledge imposed by Youtube.This shows that no one owns this knowledge because it is available to everyone.

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