Knowledge

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Knowledge is used to refer to two related but distinct concepts:

  1. in the colloquial meaning, knowledge is any information, regardless of origin or nature, that a player has, and which they can use to answer questions correctly
  2. in quiz bowl contexts, knowledge is the subset of information which is suitable for use in quizbowl questions; this excludes trivia because it does not meet a standard of importance

Awareness of this second meaning is necessary when participating in discussions of questions and the writing/editing process and is inextricably linked to the definition of "importance". For example, assertions of what players "know" about a given author will necessarily exclude things like their date of birth or specific years of publication because these are generally considered to be "unimportant" and thus fail a key standard of "good quizbowl". In all other regards, though, this narrowed concept of knowledge is referred to in the exact same way as it would otherwise: players know things and have knowledge, and questions test knowledge, regardless of the definition being used.

Real knowledge

Main article: real knowledge

One subset of knowledge is so-called "real knowledge": information that a player gained from outside quizbowl. This excludes information gained through deliberate studying or through osmosis, and in particular does not include particularly artificial means of learning like list studying. In recent years, "real knowledge" has been considered at odds with carding, though this is a false dichotomy: flashcards can be used to retain any kind of information, including "real knowledge".

The concept of "real knowledge" exists for all categories, but is most significant in those which require specialism, e.g. science and auditory fine arts. The definition is not hard and fast - a player who has "fake knowledge" about something can gain "real knowledge" by engaging with it outside of the game. For example, someone could learn about a book for the first time through quizbowl and then go on to read it.

The dichotomy between "real knowledge" and its complement (sometimes derisively called "fake knowledge") is a practical way to organize facts into those which a player is more likely to know from independent study (e.g. from coursework) versus time with the game, respectively. However, the term is almost always accompanied by a value judgement: players with "real knowledge" are thought to have a purer engagement with material, and clues which reward "real knowledge" are consequently held in higher regard. While there are benefits to specifically targeting the body of information which a player is likely to know from other sources, focusing on the distinction between "real" and "fake" is negative for a variety of reasons:

  • the divide is artificial: quizbowl is a game and does not (and could not) distinguish between how players learned a piece of information
  • because "real knowledge" is defined by how one encounters it, sets of facts can be "real" or "fake" for different players in inconsistent or outright contradictory ways
    • one example of this is that there are things that are routinely taught in college curricula but rarely, if ever, encountered in high school - as a result, clues that are very "real" for college players are "fake" for high schoolers, as they likely encounter them through packets
    • another example is that, even though it is always possible for people to learn a piece of information from outside the game, the moment that it becomes a clue some fraction of players will view it as "fake" despite the fact being unchanged

Rewarding real knowledge

Despite the aforementioned issues with the label, writers often seek to reward players who have "real knowledge". However, it is not possible to specifically reward "real knowledge" because of the structure of the game. Nevertheless, encountering information for the first time outside of quizbowl is a useful proxy for a deeper level of engagement characteristic of structured learning (i.e. taking a class). Since a key feature of classroom learning is knowing related pieces of information and in particular awareness of things without names (like procedures and methods), questions which seek to reward this will typically use clues of this nature with the expectation that it will benefit those with "real knowledge" proportionally more, especially in the long run.

The other major strategy for writing questions that reward "real knowledge" is to use metrics like database hits to assess how often a clue comes up (and thus how "fake" it is) and either replace them or move them down. When uncontrolled, however, this has the consequence of causing rapid difficulty creep. The main way to combat this is to be willing to have clues which come up more often, especially at the end of questions.

Gettier problems

Main article: Gettiering

A Gettier is a correct buzz on a question made by a player who arrived at the answer through an incorrect thought process of a certain sort: they correctly determined that a clue corresponded to the right answer, but were mistaken about how. The term is named for the "Gettier problem" of American philosopher Edmund Gettier, who introduced it to challenge the definition of knowledge as "justified true belief." Making a Gettier is called Gettiering.

It is generally held that players who perform a Gettier do not have knowledge about the clue in question.