It is difficult to let go the accustomed notion that the knowledge of a community is accumulated in its encyclopedias. “a society’s knowledge […] is contained not only in its law courts and libraries,”, says Stephen Downes. Instead, the community learns through its communication and experiences. It seems like a big leap to make the conceptual transition from the artefacts to the community’s connections.
For this transition, I found it most useful to first think of the community of experts familiar with a given special field.
“To learn, therefore, even a simple fact (such as ‘Paris is the capital of France’) or as much as an entire discipline (Chemistry, Physics, economics) is to become like a person who already knows that fact or practices that discipline.” (Ibid., emphasis mine)
Next, the gaps between the community’s artefacts, its communication, and its learning (or its members’ learning) can be bridged by a continuum of varying Boettger distance: From
- notes for me now/ soon,
- for me, later,
- for people I know well/ who know the topic well,
- to large public.
where the artefacts become increasingly explicit with increasing distance (right end) from one’s own brain (left end).
This continuum helped me to visualize the difference, and gradual comparison, between artefacts (right end) and human-like learning (left end) of an entire community.