How is gender equality represented on the web? Philosophical Methodology   no comments

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This post will look at the basic questions in philosophy, the different types of philosophy, how different philosophical approaches view the world, and the different philosophical research paradigms.

What is Philosophy?
The common perception of a philosopher is generally an incorrect one. Theories have emerged that understand a philosopher to be someone with ‘airy fairy’ qualities or someone who has a glass half full approach to life. This is however quite far away from the actual definition of a philosopher. A philosopher is someone who is searching for a definite answer to his or her questions. A true philosopher aims to solve the problems of the universe and therefore philosophy can be defined as ‘seeing to explain the universe and nature’; in other words, it is a general study of a range of problems from the trivial to the extreme.

Philosophical Views of the World
There exists a wide range of types of philosophy and philosophical views, but the simplest way the two different ways of representing the world from a philosophical way is:

  1. The world explained via scientific method
  2. The world explained via unscientific method

Philosophical Explanations of the World – Matter & Spirit
When attempting to solve problems of the universe, philosophers defined two different ways of explaining ‘things’.

  1. Matter – material things which we can touch
  2. Spirit – things we cannot touch, i.e thoughts/ideas

The Fundamental Problem/Question of Philosophy
The relation between matter and spirit is one that has puzzled many philosophers and depending on their philosophical beliefs, the answer must be presented either as:

  1. The scientific answer
  2. The unscientific answer

Broad Types of Philosophy:
Materialist Philosophy: This is not as the word materialist might suggest, a philosophy that is only concerned with the material problems in life, but rather a philosophy which strives to explain the problems of the universe through science.
Idealist Philosophy: This is the opposite and contradicting philosophical approach to materialism. This is the unscientific approach to conceptualising the world, where all of the answers are given in relation to the spirit as opposed to matter.
Agnosticism: We are incapable of knowing whether the ‘answer’ or ‘explanation’ of the worlds problems is scientific of unscientific, we are in fact ‘incapable of knowing’.

Sub Types of Philosophy
Epistemology: this is the study of knowledge. It is concerned with both the scope and nature of knowledge; asking ‘what is knowledge?’ ‘How can we acquire it?’.
Positivism: traditional scientific approach to gaining knowledge, through repeated observation.
Realism: reality exists independently to the human brain, in other words what our senses show us to be true, is true.
Interpretivism: Research should be based upon different people rather than different objects, and those people’s role as social actors must be taken into account.
Ontological: the study of ‘being’ broken down into objectivism and subjectivism. Interestingly Ontology in the philosophical sense deals with categorising beings and an ontology in computer science in relation to the semantic web deals with categorising data to form a shared vocabulary reminiscent of a dictionary/thesaurus construct.
Objectivism: Social entities exist outside social actors concerned with their existence.
Subjectivism: Social actors perceptions and actors, create social phenomena.
Pragmatism: The question determines the strategy. Depending on the research question asked, different philosophical approaches may be more suitable than others.
Axiology: The ethical part of philosophy, where your values impact your research.

Philosophical Research Paradigms:
Functionalist: Rational explanation of why something is occurring, with recommendations of how to fix it.
Interpretive: Seeking to understand the underlying meanings behind what is occurring.
Radical: Studying the effect of the current structure.
Humanist: Looking at the social phenomena that has been created by the social actors.

In relation to using this information to look at philosophical approaches to gender representation on the web I will be using both general types of philosophy, although probably erring more on the side of the idealist. Theoretically it would be possible to set up scientific studies that could partially look at gender equality on the web, but with such a tenuous issue it’s hard to give it a solely scientific answer; after all even if it were possible to fully survey web usage between the two genders or look at gender representation on blog sites, journal sites etc, that still wouldn’t give a decent picture. In order to properly look at this issue we need to look at the more spiritual side, taking into account the actual ideas represented on the web. For instance a blog might hold equal postings from men and women, but that’s not to say it means that they are being equally represented, one gender might be slating the other or making sexist comments. Or there might be more posts from one gender than another on an academic site, but that might not be because one gender is being misrepresented, merely that more of one gender is currently qualified in the subject of the site.

Narrowing down my approach, I feel a pragmatic approach is the most sensible one to choose; therefore depending on the sub question posed within my essay, I will look to answer it with the appropriate philosophical approach that lends itself to the question. I.e in relation to gender equality representation purely in terms of numbers,  I will probably use a positivistic approach to analyse this question; whereas looking to categorise areas of gender representation, an ontological approach would seem more sensible.

These philosophical musings will begin the philosophical part of my essay, which can then nicely lead onto the equality questions posed in my previous philosophy based post.

[1] Georges Politzer and Barbara L Morris. Elementary principles of philosophy, volume 469. International Publishers, 1976.

Written by Samantha Kanza on November 4th, 2013

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