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Second International Legitimation Code Theory Conference: Paper

The Second International Legitimation Code Theory Conference is happening at the University of Sydney, July 2017.  I have a paper in the conference: 
Title: Hyper-Knowledge Codes: Contesting Knowledge-Building on the Climate Sceptic Blogosphere.
Knowledge codes are not guarantees of knowledge-building; in fact, some may hinder it. This paper explores a ‘hyper-knowledge codes’ through a cosmological analysis of climate sceptic blogs. Studies of the field of production that employ Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) have principally focused on disciplines where the basis of legitimation is a knower code. Maton (2014: 38) identifies the potential of social knower codes to fragment disciplines and undermine knowledge-building. While studies of knowledge code disciplines, e.g. physics, chemistry and biology, have focused on impediments students face to educational attainment and the realization of legitimate knowledge and not the field of production.  Yet, outside knower code disciplines, LCT suggests that the relative emphasis on relations between knowledge practices and the known (ontic relations) or relations between knowledge practices and other knowledges (discursive relations) can produce divergent trajectories in knowledge code fields and impose costs on knowledge-building (Maton 2014: 175, 182).  As Maton (2014: 182) notes “knowledge codes are neither homogeneous nor royal roads to cumulative knowledge-building: stronger epistemic relations  do not by themselves guarantee intellectual progress.” Here a form of knowledge code is proposed that destabilizes knowledge-building by establishing idealized standards of legitimate knowledge and legitimate knowers which are difficult for actors to approximate.

The substantive case study for this theorization is the construal and contestation of legitimate knowledge and knowers on the climate sceptic blogosphere.  Bloggers question the core-set of experts, the assessment reports and statements of leading scientific institutions. Normative literature on the blogosphere either positions it as a positive intervention into the climate change debate as an “extended peer community” (Ravetz 2011: 149) or, more typically, a component of the “denial machine” (Dunlap and McCright 2011: 147) that echoes doubt and misinformation about climate science.  This raises the question of how to describe the knowledge practices of the climate sceptic blogosphere and how bloggers construct, construe and contest knowledge around climate change.  While the importance of the blogosphere for the circulation of climate scepticism is widely acknowledged, and the discourses of the blogosphere have affected the public debate on climate change, there has been comparatively little empirical examination of this sphere (Dunlap 2013).  LCT provides a language of description to unpack the knowledge practices of these actors and assess their engagement in processes of legitimation.  

To address this, a cosmological analysis and analysis of the Specialization codes was conducted. Cosmological analysis provides a means to see how, form a standpoint, the different practices or stances of a field can be arranged, condensed with meaning, and positively charged or negatively charged (Maton 2014: 149-150) and thus allows for an analysis of what knowledge and knowers climate sceptic construe as legitimate.  Blogposts from high-value climate sceptic blogs identified through their centrality in the hyperlink network of the blogosphere are used as the primary data in this paper.  Thematic analysis was first conducted to identify the reoccurring patterns of the climate sceptic discourse after which a constellation analysis and an analysis of the Specialization codes was applied to the themes generated from the data.  The analysis reveals a constellation of stances, from the positively charged climate sceptics, to lukewarmers, and negatively charged alarmists.  Evaluation of these relative positions in the field is based on an idealized conception of science and scientists as disinterested, sceptical and falsificationist.  Technical competence is emphasised as the basis of achievement (ER +) and indications of the gaze of scientists or potential axiology is negative evaluated (SR-).  Open puzzles, interpretative latitude, semantic density or tight social networks of scientists can become the basis of contestation.  From this idealized conception of science, bloggers critique mainstream climatologists, scientific institutions, and boundary organisations that deviate from their ideal of a hyper-knowledge code.  The trouble of maintaining this ideal, provides a basis to contest knowledge without providing alternative explanatory power, and thus aims to impedes knowledge-building. 

Dunlap, R. (2013). "Climate Change Skepticism and Denial:  An Introduction." American Behavioral Scientist 20(10): 1-8.
Dunlap, R. E. and A. M. McCright (2011). “Organized Climate Change Denial.”, The Oxford Handbooks of Climate Change. J. S. Dryzek, R. B. Norgaard and D. Schlosberg. London, Oxford University Press: 144-160.
Maton, K. (2014). Knowledge and Knowers: Towards a Realist Sociology of Education. London, Routledge.
Ravetz, J. (2011). "‘Climategate’ and the maturing of post-normal science." Futures 43(2): 149-157.


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