Organs of the human brain, created by the human hand? The social epistemology of information technology

Julian Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
440 Downloads (Pure)


– Information science has been conceptualized as a partly unreflexive response to developments in information and computer technology, and, most powerfully, as part of the gestalt of the computer. The computer was viewed as an historical accident in the original formulation of the gestalt. An alternative, and timely, approach to understanding, and then dissolving, the gestalt would be to address the motivating technology directly, fully recognizing it as a radical human construction. This paper aims to address the issues.

– The paper adopts a social epistemological perspective and is concerned with collective, rather than primarily individual, ways of knowing.

– Information technology tends to be received as objectively given, autonomously developing, and causing but not itself caused, by the language of discussions in information science. It has also been characterized as artificial, in the sense of unnatural, and sometimes as threatening. Attitudes to technology are implied, rather than explicit, and can appear weak when articulated, corresponding to collective repression.

Research limitations/implications
– Receiving technology as objectively given has an analogy with the Platonist view of mathematical propositions as discovered, in its exclusion of human activity, opening up the possibility of a comparable critique which insists on human agency.

– Apprehensions of information technology have been raised to consciousness, exposing their limitations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)738-759
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Documentation
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Library and Information Sciences


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