Exploring our Options

The Sonoma Valley has a wealth of resources that can provide both quantitative data and qualitative stories and anecdotes to inform and enrichen our understanding of its role in the natural and cultural history of California…  An initial goal of this site is to encourage and stimulate fresh and innovative approaches  to the local and regional history of Sonoma… And to encourage re-examination of the place of the Sonoma Valley in regional, State and national history…

We will also seek to explore and test innovative technological approaches to the presentation and representation of Sonoma’s knowledge resources in the collaborative Web environment…

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As a preface to these discussions, we should consider “frames of reference” for thinking about how we might approach our work…

First, some general, “philosophical” comments about “knowledge” and how we develop knowledge…

           World Intellectual Property Organization “Knowledge Pyramid”

Biodiversity Knowledge Pyramid

[Repatriation of biodiversity information through Clearing House Mechanism of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Global Biodiversity Information Facility; Views and experiences of Peruvian and Bolivian non-governmental organizations.  Ulla Helimo Master’s Thesis University of Turku Department of Biology  6.10. 2004

“First Person”

Most of us form both values and understanding based on our first-hand experience of the world — we get this understanding first from the family environment in which we grow up and then from our experiences at school, in our places or worship, at work and in the communities in which we live.  Each person has a unique perception of the world based on these experiences.  This unique, subjective frame of reference is what the UC Berkeley philosopher, John Searle, has called  –  “first person ontology“.   Most people, when presented with a variety of perceptual options (sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensible objects) will perceive things through the filter – consciously or unconsciously —  of his/her own first person world view…

(The witness provided by first person experiences can be powerfully informative about events at a given place and time — and may — as a sample — be representative of more general patterns.  Personal accounts taken together —  whether as compiled stories or tabulated as statistics — can provide powerful explanatory evidence.)

“Third Person”

In contrast, the sciences, the social science and other research disciplines typically present “third person ontology” — claiming of objectivity and invariance” for the knowledge they produce.  Typically these expressions are causal explanation or hypotheses – often presented, over and against alternatives reasonable explanations – and are supported by logical argument  (usually concerning causality) and are also supported by selected data presented as evidence.

Evidence being facts or collections of facts that have convincing force as proof of a given explanation… Well focused data has the property of being “dispositive” of a given hypothesis — that is, of  being substantially decisive in determining the validity of an hypothesis…  (In common colloquial usage, “a smoking gun” is considered to be decisive evidence…)

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