So I am taking part in this course called ONL, which is on digital literac[ies]. Right now we are discussing sharing and openness and a question which keeps coming back to me – and which has not emerged in the synchronous group meetings – is that of epistemology and ontology, or epistemontology. In short, epistemology refers to how knowledge is produced and ontology refers to how beings are conceived. Because knowledge does not exist apart from a society, but is produced by members of a world for other individuals and colectivities in said world, thus warranting the collapse of the two terms into one: epistemontology.

So what are two competing epistemontologies currently circulating when it comes down to learning? In this short reflection, I consider two: an idealistic epistemontology which aims to be inclusive and a realistic epistemontology which ends up being exlusive.

For a long time education was considered a basic right and it still is, at least in discourse. This is a statement which could be interpreted as an alignment to the classic distinction between logic and rhetoric, which is not the point here. Ever since the speech act theory of John Austin and its reworkings by Jacques Derrida and Judith Butler, it has been known that language does things. In other words, it is performative, thus to state something is not to describe, but to enact that very proposition. It then follows that a project which sees education as a universal right must understand that everyone should have the same opportunities in spite of their differences. This reflection is different from the neoliberal propaganda which insists that everyone is the same and has the same opportunities, thus reducing social disparities to personal effort. Two of the competing epistemontologies that must be made explicit, then, simply differ in terms of their modalization: the inclusive epistemontology is deontic – it makes a recommendation – while the exclusive epistemontolgy is epistemic – it makes an assertion about an allegedly universal truth already valid.

Going open, in my view, means to share knowledge equally among all parts of the world. This, of course, requires not only sharing software (i.e. computer programs, books, videos, audios etc.), but also making hardware (i.e. computers, tablets, phones, mics, speakers etc.) available. This would happen in an actually globalized and open world where borders are left unchecked or do not exist, and the nation state is an old memory. In this world, money would be the ultimate tool to bridge social inequalities.

Needless to say, that does not mean distributing money equally to everyone, for it is true that not everyone is willing to work as hard as everyone else. Regardless, everyone should be able to meet the minimum requirements of a dignified life: a place to live, a means of obtaining food and a means of having fun. In the end, difference is not a synonym for inequality. It is also true that not everyone wants to have access to education and it begs the question of what to make of these subjectivities which are dissident. At this point it is vital to remember that any political system – capitalism, socialism, communism and other known set of ideas that structure or that have organized the world or parts of it in the past – needs to seduce their prospective members. For that, it needs to keep in good shape, keep its discourse aligned with its actions and keep reflecting on itself so that it does not lose its way.

Epistemologies of Openness