Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Thought Collectives & London Bombing

The Fleck book was interesting to me as I had never read anything of this sort before that was written so well in that it could communicate the medical aspects of an illness and at the same time communicate the process of how scientific fact developed over time through collective thought. At times I admit, I was lost in some of the medical jargon and German translations, but I thought Fleck was able to get his ideas across and balance between laymen and medical concepts.

There were a few aspects in the Fleck book that really resonated with me and have changed my perspective on what constitutes a thought, idea, and contribution into a fact. On page 40 Fleck states that there are three factors involved in cognition – the individual, the collective and the objective reality. However, Fleck effectively argues in this book how much the collective plays a bigger role in the cognition process. I liked the playful analogy of soccer he used to help get this point across on page 46 where the individual is the soccer player, the thought collective is the soccer team and the progress of the game is cognition. I started to think about his analogy and how he was able to demonstrate that scientific fact is not a contribution of one’s thoughts but by several individual’s thoughts over a period of time in a particular context.

I have been thinking about Fleck’s thought collective and how this could tie into technology and for me as it relates to journalism, how much the thought collective of story ideas and breaking news nowadays is heavily contributed by technology. Nowadays, journalists have access to information through discussion groups, chats, instant messenger, cell phones and email to communicate with larger groups of people when it comes to telling a story – from sources to the public witnessing the news. I begin to think about the early reports of the London bombing this summer and how the information and facts were formulated by a thought collective of individuals in the subway and surrounding areas that had access through their cell phones to text message or send recordings or visual images of what was happening. Through the combination of these messages from the public and the reporters on the scene, the facts began to form of what occurred in the subway stations and surrounding areas in London. I think this could tie into what Fleck was mentioning in Chapter 4 about how much facts are so interrelated and connected on page 102, “Facts are never completely independent of each other...As a result, every fact reacts upon many others. Every change and every discovery has an effect on a terrain is virtually limitless...A universally interconnected system of facts is thus formed, maintaining its balance through continuous interaction.”

I think its’ the constant interaction that we have to others (friends and strangers) through today’s technologies such as instant messenger, cell phones, email, synchronous chats and such that really push Fleck’s concept of thought collectives that take bits of information to another level among groups of individuals to make a concept or idea become a fact over time at a faster rate.


Blogger IB said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts about the connections between modern day technology and thought collectives! Until then I thought of Fleck's assertions as only relating to scientific discoveries connected to longterm research. You brought to my mind that the effects of thought collectives as described by Fleck can also be applied to the everyday creation of facts through the news.
Another question arose for me when reading your comment. When Fleck wrote his book in 1935, he did not know about the emergence of new fields of knowledge (e.g. molecular genetics)and the rapid development of technology that would follow his time. Access to information via books and especially the internet, has become easy for every layperson. Would Fleck today describe the relation of popular science and expert science differently? Are the effects of the "exoteric circle" on the "esoteric circle" larger today owing to modern technology?

9:27 AM  
Blogger gfp said...

Yes, the connection to technology is rivetting!

I don't know that the dimensions of the "exoteric" and "esoteric" circles have changed through the expansion of thought collectives due to the use of technology. It's more like they've stayed the same and there are now just more people participating. Scientific knowledge has become so specialized that there are few experts still in each discrete area of research. And though there is so much knowledge available, how is one really able to get through it all to the core?

1:35 PM  

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