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“The social representations of technologies”

The distinction between the two kinds of knowledge basically corresponds to the Aristotelian distinction between episteme (scientific knowledge) and techne (skill, art or craft). Current philosophical debate (Fantl 2012) concerns whether the two kinds are independent—a position called anti-intellectualism— or whether ’knowing how’ can be reduced to ’knowing that’—a position called intellectualism (see e.g. Stanley 2011). Heyes (2012a) takes this debate further and suggests that neither independence nor reduction is sufficient to understand how these concepts link to processes of social learning. Instead, she emphasizes that it is not visual or motor representation of actions that is important for learning, but the connections between them. These connections do not emerge by themselves—social learning is needed. It is important to notice that the more advanced the learning gets, these connections require different forms of teaching to be achieved.

Here, we also want to distinguish a third kind of knowledge—’knowing what’. ’Knowing what’ concerns the ability to categorize objects, for example to know what kind of tool an object is and what kind of work it is associated with, or what kind of disease somebody is suffering from. ‘Knowing what’ is central in planning a technological activity such as stone knapping: you must know what your goal product is before you start the production process. This kind of knowledge is framed, not just by technology and skills, but by culture. ‘Knowing what’ is socialized and materialized, something discussed by Lemonnier as ‘the social representations of technologies’.

— Högberg, A., Gärdenfors, P., Larsson, L. (2015) Knowing, Learning and Teaching: How Homo Became Docens. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 25(4): 847-858.