Resource for examining knowledge in times of crisis

This framework consists of questions designed to support the critical examination of knowledge and how it is produced and shaped. The questions have been grouped around four elements: scope, perspectives, methods and tools, and ethics. These four elements provide a structure to help explore and analyze the different aspects of how knowledge is affected by crisis.

What kinds of questions are these? 

They are about knowledge: they explore how knowledge is produced, acquired, shared and used; what it is and what it is not; who has it and who does not; and who decides the answers to these questions. They focus on how knowledge is constructed and evaluated. 

They are contestable: there are several plausible answers to them. it is conceivable that answers to a question may differ—what matters is that the analysis is thorough, accurate and effectively supported by examples and evidence.  

They draw on concepts such as evidence, certainty, values, and interpretation that span disciplines. 

 

What themes were considered when phrasing these questions? 

The following themes, in relation to knowledge, were used as inspiration when elaborating the questions below: 

  • our personal and individual relationship with it 
  • the impact of technology  
  • the role that language plays 
  • the effect of politics and issues of power 
  • the influence of religion 
  • how belonging in a group, culture or society affects it. 

The four elements 

Scope

This element explores what crisis is all about, the nature of the crisis, and how it relates to knowledge. 

Knowledge questions:

  • How can you distinguish between knowledge, belief and opinion in the context of crises? 
  • How do we distinguish claims that are contestable from claims that are not? 
  • How has increased access to images and other multimedia sources had an impact on what we know about crises or during crises? 
  • Are there differences in how knowledge is conceived of, or presented, in different languages? 
  • In what ways is factual evidence sometimes used, abused, dismissed and ignored in politics in times of crisis? 
  • Is it possible to have knowledge of a culture in which we have not been raised? What does this mean for how we can understand crisis impacting other communities?

Perspectives

This element explores what shapes our perspectives, the importance of context in giving rise to them and how they affect knowledge.

Knowledge questions:

  • What are our views about a crisis the result of? What are they influenced by? 
  • To what extent do the internet, social media and technology in general terms allow access to a variety of perspectives about the crisis? 
  • Can language, and the representation that it creates, help to establish a dominant perspective of the crisis? 
  • How can religious knowledge help or hinder understanding of conflict? Does religion try to resolve problems that other areas can’t resolve? 
  • Is our view of a crisis determined by our culture? Is it possible to have knowledge of a culture in which we have not been raised? What does this mean for the handling of conflict with other cultures and communities? 
  • To what extent do the classification systems we use in the pursuit of knowledge affect the conclusions that we reach (for example: conflict—war—revolution)? 

Methods & tools

This element explores the methods, tools and practices that we use to produce knowledge.  

Knowledge questions:

  • In the context of a crisis, how can one best acquire knowledge and understanding of it and its causes, development and consequences? 
  • How does technology extend or transform different modes of human understanding and communication? How does this manifest in times of crisis? 
  • How are metaphors and other figurative language used in the construction of knowledge? How do they help or hinder our understanding of crisis? 
  • How might emotive language and faulty reasoning be used in politics to try to persuade and manipulate, especially in times of crisis? 
  • How do faith and reason interplay in the production of knowledge of crisis? 
  • What is the role of oral tradition in enabling knowledge to be handed down through generations? How can it support collective memory and the preservation of knowledge about (how to deal with) crises?

Ethics

Explore ethics and the ethical considerations that have an impact on inquiry, values that are built into the quest for knowledge, questions relating to knowledge and inequality and injustice. 

Knowledge questions:

  • As knowers, do we have a moral duty to examine our own assumptions and biases, especially in times of crisis or when faced with controversial issues? 
  • In times of crisis, are there responsibilities that necessarily come with knowing something or knowing how to do something? 
  • On what criteria could we decide whether activities such as “hacktivism” are morally justifiable? 
  • Who decides whether media (for example: internet, TV) should be censored to restrict access to certain sources of information in the context of crisis/conflict, and using what criteria?
  • To what extent is language used for indoctrination in the context of crises? How can we know if language is intended to deceive or manipulate us? 
  • When the moral codes of individual nations conflict, can political organizations, such as the United Nations (UN), provide universal criteria that transcend them?