At #heanpl last week we sat around talking about Visitors and Residents all day. This was fun, but by mid-afternoon I'd decided that there were questions that needed to be asked...
Karl Popper argued that the central problem in the philosophy of science is that of demarcation, i.e. of distinguishing between science and non-science such as logic, metaphysics, psychoanalysis, and religion. Popper's major insight into the philosophy of science was empirical falsification. Put simply, a true scientific hypothesis is falsifiable and can be tested by experiment, whereas any statement which is non-falsifiable by experimentation is a mere belief. In addition, Popper also stated that a good scientific theory:
- is wide-ranging and open to examination.
- is clear and precise.
Confused? You have my sympathy, so here are a few examples:
- All swans are white: falsifiable through testing (look for non-white swans).
- The Earth orbits around the sun: falsifiable through testing (astronomical observation).
- The acceleration due to gravity on the surface of the Earth is 9.8 m s-2: falsifiable through testing (measure it).
- God is good.
- Gluttony is a sin.
- The English are better than the French.
In order to progress, first we need to define Visitors and Residents as a testable hypothesis. From the First Mondays paper, I suggest:
The behavior of Web users can be mapped onto a continuum between Visitors, who see the Web as a tool, and Residents, who see the Web as a space.Is this hypothesis falsifiable, wide-ranging and open to examination, clear and precise?
- Wide-ranging and open to examination? √
- Clear and precise? The non-binary continuum nature of the framework makes falsification difficult. Any observations which seem to fit the theory are fine, but observations which clearly do not fit into this framework are required for falsification and thus acceptance as a valid hypothesis. Is such data obtainable or can the framework be stretched to meet all eventualities ?
Clearly, I'm way out of my depth here, so your input is required :-)