|The paradigms of e-Education: An analysis of the communication structures in the research on information and communication technology integration in education in the years 2000–2001|
|Prev||Chapter 2. Paradigms of science as research objects||Next|
A common, current theme in the philosophy of science suggest that a research field can come to a crisis, and a paradigm can be changed, resulting sometimes even in a scientific revolution. Current education research does not talk about revolutions but rather refers to a paradigm shift. How can the paradigm be changed and who will change it? One could also ask “how does the scientific community reproduce the existing paradigm and how can the new paradigms emerge”. The paradigm shift can be seen as a revolution as Kuhn (1979) described it. It can also be seen as a very systematic and conscious process of the scientific community, constructing the theory of science, or as an uncontrollable autonomous process of a social system of science.
According to Kuhn (1970), it sometimes becomes obvious that research is not on the right track anymore and the search for alternatives will start. This search for a new paradigm can be called a paradigm shift. Kuhn states that paradigm shifts seldom occur as soon as a new paradigm is invented, but only when the old one is shown to be inadequate. A crisis in the research community leads to a total re-evaluation of the research field. After Kuhn’s introduction of paradigm shifts, the scientific community has re-evaluated current research from time to time. This kind of research is called “meta-analysis” or “Sociology of Science” depending on the emphasis of the research. Meta analysis is more interested in the results of the research: summarizing what we already know. This is very important, especially in multidisciplinary research areas, where there are many research views and perhaps paradigms side by side researching the same phenomena. The sociology of science has been more interested in the structure of the knowledge and the views of the scientific community. Kuhn himself emphasizes research on the community structure of science, and especially comparing corresponding communities in other fields (Kuhn 1970, 209).
One variation of Kuhn’s community crisis approach is to understand paradigm change as result of reflective discourse of the scientific community. According to this community approach, we can understand scientific traditions and schools as sub-communities of scientists, and a paradigm as a distinct set of meanings and operations of that community. From the community based approach one could claim that members of this scientific sub-community can basically change its meaning system and operations with reflective discourse, which can lead to the development of new collective practices of this research community. (Lash 1995.)
There are some problems with the approach emphasizing the reflective research community, although it sounds quite favorable from the researchers’ point of view. First, it considers an individual researcher as a subject of change and sees no role for community structures or social institutions in the change (see Beck 1995) because this could make the paradigm change uncontrollable and can lead to a crisis. However, the intent to change the paradigm does not usually lead to a favored change. Second, there is a groundless presumption that individual researchers really form a reflective community in a conscious way that has a shared goal. According to this view, researchers should feel they belong to this community and the community is not only a “liking community” reading the same magazines and research articles (Lash 1995). It is difficult to define who belongs to this community and who does not. It is much easier to recognize a distinguished research paradigm, structures or discourses from the research publications and discussions than it is to form research communities based on individual researchers’ thinking.
The change of science can also be seen from an ideological point of view. The paradigm can be seen as an ideology or as a discursive practice (Fairclough 1995, 12), an ordered set of discourses associated with a particular social domain or institution (economics, politics, science, a field of science) and with individual persons. This means that the research paradigms as discursive practices are always transmitting ideologies and therefore are politically laden. The boundaries of practices can be rigid or permeable, but the orders of discourses are constantly shifting and a change in the order of discourse is itself a part of socio-cultural change. The change in science as a discursive practice is a change in the use of language (Fairclough 1995, 219). Also Humble and Morgaine (2002) see the ideological connection of the concept of paradigm. They relate paradigms fundamentally to the research interests and interests of knowledge, and divide the paradigms of knowledge into three different categories: instrumental-technical, interpretive and critical-emancipatory. This relates the concept of paradigm closely to the ideas of Habermas (1987).
The research on discursive practices and discourse in science could be seen as the archaeology of knowledge (Foucault 1972), researching paradigms as “monuments” of language. Foucault suggests that research on discourse should define discourse as practices obeying certain rules, and they should be studied as they are not trying to see something else like hidden discourse behind the discourse. The archaeology of knowledge also should avoid researching the history of ideas, to rediscover the continuous transition of ideas that relates discourses to what they are now but rather aiming for a differential analysis of the modalities of discourse. According to Foucault (1972, 139) research cannot restore the “original” thought, aim or experience at the very moment at which they expressed it in the discourse. The only thing research can do is offer a systematic description of research paradigms as discourse-objects.
The critical social theory of knowledge inspired by Foucault (1972) would see the paradigms as discursive practices. These discursive formations have been understood to be rather independent categories from individuals associated with social domains and institutions (Fairclough 1995). The recent theory of social systems seems to have also discarded the idea that a research community as a group of people could co-ordinate the development of the research field and change consciously the paradigm that is steering the research. Especially Niklas Luhmann has questioned the whole idea of social systems as subsystems of people and material.
Luhmann (1995) defines the social systems as communicative functional systems where people and materials form the environment for social systems although they are non-separable from social systems. From this point of view, science can be seen as a communicative social system and all the research domains and branches can be seen as subsystems of science. By giving this independent role – or theoretical category – for science as a social system, the systems theory comes very close to the ideas of discursive practices as “monuments” of language (Foucault 1972) but considers the communication structures and selective rules more dynamic, ever changing functions and entities of communication rather than monuments.
From the etymological point of view, communication means sharing and making something common. - The word is derived from Latin words Communicatione, to make common and Communis, shared by all or many (Harper 2001). According to Blühdorn (2000), the main idea of Luhmann’s theory of social systems is that the system is a functional communicative system, not a group or a network of people. Sharing is essential in the idea of communicative systems but once something is shared, it cannot be returned back to its original meaning. A social system consists of sequences of communicative events, which are held together by certain rules of communication and structures of expectation (Blühdorn 2000). According to this concept of social system, a scientific community itself is not the thing that forms a social system but the shared distinguished set of assumptions of this community, which are actualized in the communication of the community and experienced as expectations.
Global processes of generating and sharing scientific hypotheses, of validating and falsifying theories, of informing about research findings, are communication processes that are very selective about which research activities and results in science come to light as scientific (Stichweh 2000, 12). So, from a functional point of view, the rules and structures of rules creating expectations can be seen to be functioning as a paradigm: a set of assumptions that is steering the research in different selection processes of the research. On a larger scale, the same function can also be seen as a core element constituting the scientific system.
A paradigm as a selection structure of scientific communication defines all the selections of this scientific system as scientific or un-scientific, true or false, etc. The communication within this social system reproduces the system, but can also reorganize and change this social system through this communication. Luhmann’s concept of social systems has sometimes been considered to be quite consistent because of its self-referring nature but according to Vanderstraeten (2000), a communication system is an emergent, three-part unity to which further communication can be connected. The communication system is structured by a synthesis of three different selections: information, utterance and understanding.
In this research a paradigm is defined as a selective structure of communication in a social communicative system of science, which has a specific function in forming the shared understanding for the science what should be researched, but also its apriori epistemic assumptions and interests of science.
The basic questions related to these assumptions are what is being researched, how is researched and why something is researched in the field of ICT integration in education. Nothing from the environment of this system (practical development for instance) can come as part of this scientific system or infer its functions unless it is translated to a form of scientific communication first (Blühdorn 2000, 344).
|Paradigms of science as research objects||Up||Paradigms as selective structures of scientific communication|