Skip to main content

Second International Legitimation Code Theory Conference: Paper

The Second International Legitimation Code Theory Conference is happening at the University of Sydney, July 2017.  I have a paper in the conference: 
Title: Hyper-Knowledge Codes: Contesting Knowledge-Building on the Climate Sceptic Blogosphere.
Knowledge codes are not guarantees of knowledge-building; in fact, some may hinder it. This paper explores a ‘hyper-knowledge codes’ through a cosmological analysis of climate sceptic blogs. Studies of the field of production that employ Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) have principally focused on disciplines where the basis of legitimation is a knower code. Maton (2014: 38) identifies the potential of social knower codes to fragment disciplines and undermine knowledge-building. While studies of knowledge code disciplines, e.g. physics, chemistry and biology, have focused on impediments students face to educational attainment and the realization of legitimate knowledge and not the field of production.  Yet, outside knower code disciplines, LCT suggests that the relative emphasis on relations between knowledge practices and the known (ontic relations) or relations between knowledge practices and other knowledges (discursive relations) can produce divergent trajectories in knowledge code fields and impose costs on knowledge-building (Maton 2014: 175, 182).  As Maton (2014: 182) notes “knowledge codes are neither homogeneous nor royal roads to cumulative knowledge-building: stronger epistemic relations  do not by themselves guarantee intellectual progress.” Here a form of knowledge code is proposed that destabilizes knowledge-building by establishing idealized standards of legitimate knowledge and legitimate knowers which are difficult for actors to approximate.

The substantive case study for this theorization is the construal and contestation of legitimate knowledge and knowers on the climate sceptic blogosphere.  Bloggers question the core-set of experts, the assessment reports and statements of leading scientific institutions. Normative literature on the blogosphere either positions it as a positive intervention into the climate change debate as an “extended peer community” (Ravetz 2011: 149) or, more typically, a component of the “denial machine” (Dunlap and McCright 2011: 147) that echoes doubt and misinformation about climate science.  This raises the question of how to describe the knowledge practices of the climate sceptic blogosphere and how bloggers construct, construe and contest knowledge around climate change.  While the importance of the blogosphere for the circulation of climate scepticism is widely acknowledged, and the discourses of the blogosphere have affected the public debate on climate change, there has been comparatively little empirical examination of this sphere (Dunlap 2013).  LCT provides a language of description to unpack the knowledge practices of these actors and assess their engagement in processes of legitimation.  

To address this, a cosmological analysis and analysis of the Specialization codes was conducted. Cosmological analysis provides a means to see how, form a standpoint, the different practices or stances of a field can be arranged, condensed with meaning, and positively charged or negatively charged (Maton 2014: 149-150) and thus allows for an analysis of what knowledge and knowers climate sceptic construe as legitimate.  Blogposts from high-value climate sceptic blogs identified through their centrality in the hyperlink network of the blogosphere are used as the primary data in this paper.  Thematic analysis was first conducted to identify the reoccurring patterns of the climate sceptic discourse after which a constellation analysis and an analysis of the Specialization codes was applied to the themes generated from the data.  The analysis reveals a constellation of stances, from the positively charged climate sceptics, to lukewarmers, and negatively charged alarmists.  Evaluation of these relative positions in the field is based on an idealized conception of science and scientists as disinterested, sceptical and falsificationist.  Technical competence is emphasised as the basis of achievement (ER +) and indications of the gaze of scientists or potential axiology is negative evaluated (SR-).  Open puzzles, interpretative latitude, semantic density or tight social networks of scientists can become the basis of contestation.  From this idealized conception of science, bloggers critique mainstream climatologists, scientific institutions, and boundary organisations that deviate from their ideal of a hyper-knowledge code.  The trouble of maintaining this ideal, provides a basis to contest knowledge without providing alternative explanatory power, and thus aims to impedes knowledge-building. 

Dunlap, R. (2013). "Climate Change Skepticism and Denial:  An Introduction." American Behavioral Scientist 20(10): 1-8.
Dunlap, R. E. and A. M. McCright (2011). “Organized Climate Change Denial.”, The Oxford Handbooks of Climate Change. J. S. Dryzek, R. B. Norgaard and D. Schlosberg. London, Oxford University Press: 144-160.
Maton, K. (2014). Knowledge and Knowers: Towards a Realist Sociology of Education. London, Routledge.
Ravetz, J. (2011). "‘Climategate’ and the maturing of post-normal science." Futures 43(2): 149-157.
Giving the talk at #LCTC2, 7th of July, 2017


Popular posts from this blog

Zaibatsu Dissolution, Reparations and Administrative Guidance.

During a lecture before the Eugenics Society in 1937, British economist John Maynard Keynes stated that “a greater cumulative increment than 1 per cent per annum in the standard of life has seldom proved practicable”. Moreover, Keynes continued, “generally speaking the rate of improvement seems to have been somewhat less then 1 per cent per annum cumulative”. Of course, Keynes was speaking during the great depression, and therefore his remarks may be tainted with a particular pessimism. But they draw into sharp relief the experience of economic growth in post-war Japan: between 1950 and 1973, GDP growth averaged 10%, a rate of sustained growth never before seen .By 1962, the English publication Economist, with poetic flair, dubbed Japan’s recovery an “economic miracle” . This designation caught on and became a general catch phrase for spectacular economic growth. In the case of Japan, a multitude of explanations have arisen for why Japan underwent an ‘economic miracle’. Crucial to el…

Ideology and Symbolic power: Between Althusser and Bourdieu.

Western Marxism has often laid considerable stress upon the ideology of modern capitalist societies. This focus upon ideology stems from the failure of proletarian revolution to have either occurred, or establish socialism within Western Europe. The exact nature and function of ideology became paramount in Marxian explanations of the continued stability of Western capitalism after the Great War and Great Depression. Marxian conceptualizations of symbolic domination (under the notion of ideology) remain in the realm of consciousness and intellectual frameworks. Pierre Bourdieu developed a paradigm for understanding symbolic power and domination through his theory of dispositional practices that breaks with the concept of ideology and it basis in the tradition of ‘Kantian intellectualism’. This theoretical model both deepens and broadens the sociological understanding of symbolic power and domination, through the acknowledgment of non-intellectual and bodily elements in the dynamics of…

Liberalism and Colonialism.

The first major wave of European colonization was initiated after the discovery of the Americas by Columbus in the late 15th century. The Colonization of these new lands was at first justified by the catholic nations as their duty to proselytize Christianity. Therefore their domination of the indigenous population was alleged to be of a great service to them, saving their souls from eternal damnation. This ‘Civilizing’ project was also used in an adapted form by British liberal political philosophers to justify their nation’s own colonization and empire building. Liberalism is a political philosophy that developed during the age of Enlightenment, noted for its ideals of individual freedom and rights. Two of Liberalism’s most prominent advocates; John Locke and John Stuart Mill supported the practice of colonialism. The rationalization of colonialism by Locke has been argued to represent the bankruptcy of western liberalism and its purported universal respect for human rights. To asce…