Why does ignorance matter?

The global economic crisis of 2008, combined with the rise of social media and digitalisation, has contributed to the development of post-truth politics and resistance to institutional authority. The project develops a new theoretical angle for understanding how the digital economy, peer support groups in social media and voluntary work alter the status, competence and employability of highly educated professionals. Based on the epistemology of ignorance and theories of professional education, our project outlines the significance of non-knowing and ignorance for professional work, stressing the potential of non-knowing in creativity, unlearning and the toleration of uncertainty.

The interdisciplinary project builds on the previous research projects of PI and six other researchers. The project examines expertise work on struggling with ignorance through three empirical case studies on social work, the ICT sector and health care. Our focus is on the external pressures faced by professionals, and we seek to understand the new strategies professionals develop to overcome these pressures. We ask the following questions:

1) How does expertise from experience and peer support work alter professional work?
2) How do experts overcome and redefine their expertise under the pressure of digitalisation?
3) How do peer support groups in social media erode institutional authority by challenging professional scientific knowledge?

Utilising a mixed methods design in empirical cases, the project combines different qualitative and quantitative methods and research materials, including expert interviews, surveys, video data and textual data from social media. The theory building is conducted through dialogue, with an analysis of empirical data. This research design allows us to investigate both the micro-level dynamics of expertise and the bigger picture of the erosion of the information society. The research will be done at the University of Tampere and at hosting universities in Europe, Canada and Australia with the help of our research partners.

The purpose of the project is to establish ignorance studies as a new research field in Finland. The results will benefit professionals struggling with recurring unemployment and re-education and provide insights for policymakers and those working in the field of Finnish higher education.