Oslo Mind, Language and Epistemology Network Seminar: Joey Pollock, Epistemic bubbles and contextual discordance

Talk by Joey Pollock, Epistemic bubbles and contextual discordance

Image may contain: nature, water, green, grass, reflection.
Photo: Pixabay


Recent work in social epistemology has drawn attention to various problematic social epistemic phenomena that are common within online networks. Nguyen (2020) argues that it is important to distinguish epistemic bubbles from echo chambers. An epistemic bubble is an information structure that merely lacks information or sources that would be relevant or important to the user. An echo chamber is a structure in which dissenting opinions are, not necessarily absent, but actively undermined, for example by instilling attitudes of distrust towards their adherents. Because of this, echo chambers are thought to be especially difficult to escape. In contrast, according to Nguyen, it is supposed to be relatively easy to shatter an epistemic bubble: one simply introduces the missing information. In this paper, I argue that it is more difficult to shatter an epistemic bubble than has been recognised in the literature. The reason for this is the relationship between epistemic bubbles and interpretative resources. Despite their epistemic drawbacks, it is relatively easy to gain knowledge from sources inside one’s epistemic bubble; this is because agents within a bubble typically share many contextual assumptions. In contrast, it can be very difficult to gain knowledge from sources outside of one’s bubble because interlocutors on the outside are less likely to have the shared background beliefs and interpretative dispositions needed to facilitate communicative success. I argue that strategies for escaping epistemic bubbles that do not address this semantic challenge will be ineffective, and I end with some thoughts regarding how this should inform our understanding of the phenomenon of knowledge resistance.

How to attend

This is a read-ahead seminar. The meetings have a hybrid format. We meet in person in GM 367 and digitally on Zoom (Zoom login required).

The meeting link, along with a copy of the paper to be discussed, will be made available in advance via the mailing list.

Published Sep. 12, 2022 11:59 AM - Last modified Sep. 26, 2022 12:40 AM