Epistemic Vigilance


When I was drafting sections of the Sport Informatics and Analytics course on WikiEducator (link), I had an opportunity to look at what is to count as evidence in our work as analysts (link) and to contemplate our epistemic culture, how we come to know (link) and the construction of the machineries of knowledge construction (Karin Knorr Cetina, 1999) (link).


Once we have started to think about our culture as analysts and how we address the construction of knowledge, I think it is a short, epistemological and ontological step to think about epistemic vigilance. Dan Sperber and his colleagues (link) observe “people stand to gain immensely from communication with others, but this leaves them open to the risk of being accidentally or intentionally misinformed, which may reduce, cancel, or even reverse these gains”. Epistemic vigilance seeks to address this misinformation potential.

Gergely Csibra, and György Gergely (2011) (link) discuss the cognitive mechanisms that enable the transmission of cultural knowledge by communication between individuals and regard this as a system of ‘natural pedagogy’. This transmission raises for Louise Gupil (2020) (link) and her colleagues the importance of evaluating the confidence our social partners have in the information they are providing.

This evaluation seems very important when we have an analytics profession that has varying levels of experience. Lisa Scharrer, Marc Stadtler, and Rainer Bromme (2019) (link) note “results of two studies suggest that non experts are not sufficiently aware of the relative importance of source evaluation, which may increase their susceptibility to misinformation”.


Epistemic vigilance is a very important meta-issue for analysts. How we learn to become analysts raises fundamental issues for us. We need to be able to evaluate the information we are given and then apply it in context. Vigilance connects us with our epistemic culture and our awareness of the machineries of knowledge production.

What it is to be an analyst is a technical and a social undertaking. Vigilance suggests to me that we take profound care in what we share and how we learn.

Photo Credit

Gallery (Hernan Pirera, CC BY-SA 2.0)


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