Social Cognitive Theory and Digital Knowledge

Bandura (1999) explains the concept of social cognitive theory as “a theoretical framework applicable to both individualistically and collectivistically oriented social systems through its expanded conception of human agency exercised individually, socially mediated, and collectively” (p. 278). The digital age revolutionized communication practices and created a global community that blurs traditional notions of time, distance, and space. Bandura (1999) argues that electronic technologies “transmit new ways of thinking and behaving simultaneously to vast number of people in widely dispersed locales” (p. 25). The internet offers an accessible space for billions of people to exchange ideas and collect information in a matter a seconds. As a social learning tool, the internet provides an endless amount of information from sources varying in reliability.

This means that the construction of knowledge is at least partially dependent on an individual’s ability to conduct digital research. Bandura (1999) describes electronic inquiry as a “complex cognitive skill requiring a resilient sense of efficacy” (p. 29). A skilled researcher is more likely to gather data that is both accurate and relevant. Bandura (2002) explains that the “accelerated growth of knowledge is greatly enhancing human power to control, transform, and create environments of increasing complexity and to shape their social future. (Bandura, 2002, p. 272).

Digital storage is more cost effective than print and allows individuals and groups to secure and access data with ease. As a result, less information is being stored in print form. Over time most information will only be “accessible electronically and knowing how to search for information is vital for knowledge construction and effective functioning” (Bandura, 1999, p.29). A person with poor research skills is more likely to have difficulties sifting through the information or may require more time and energy to achieve the same results. Bandura (2002) explains that “with growing international embeddedness and interdependence of societies, and enmeshment in the Internet symbolic culture, the issues of interest center on how national and global forces interact to shape the nature of cultural life” (p. 284).

Bandura’s arguments reminded me of the YouTube video “Is Google Knowledge?” uploaded by the PBS Idea Channel.

The host of the show, Mike Rugnetta discusses whether Google should be considered ‘knowledge’ and if it has made people more knowledgeable. The internet influences social learning and social learning affects culture. Rugnetta uses John Locke’s theory of knowledge, defining knowledge as: “the perception of, the connection of an agreement or disagreement of any of our ideas”. Locke argues that ideas themselves are not knowledge. Facts and ideas become knowledge when they are put to use with and against other facts and ideas.

Rugnetta explains that if knowledge is the collection and systematization of facts, then websites like Google should be considered ‘knowledge’. Rugnetta explains that websites like Amazon and Netflix are forms of knowledge according to Locke’s theory because they gather information based on the user’s selections or purchases and formulates suggestions based on connections in the data. As technology continues to grow and evolve, understanding how to find information will be essential. The digitization of information has changed the way we produce, distribute, and consume information. Clearly the role of technology and its influence on social knowledge and culture are important factors to consider in analyzing communication.


Bandura, A. (1999). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 21-41.

Bandura, A. (2002). Social Cognitive Theory in Social Context. Applied Science, 269-290.


5 thoughts on “Social Cognitive Theory and Digital Knowledge

  1. Being able to navigate the vast amounts of information that is available on the internet is quickly become a required skill set for many areas of employment. Not only this but it is becoming far more prominent with day-to-day tasks of many individuals, just think how often you resort to a smartphone, tablet or computer to look up information on something of interest. The rapid reliance and immediate consumption of information is sure to change the traditional prospect of what can be defined as knowledge. John Locke’s theorization of building knowledge in our digitized age speaks clearly to myself as I am sure many others in that the information we find on the internet becomes knowledge as we connect them together in a web that relates back to a centralized idea or notion. As virtual reality devices are on the immediate horizon it will be interesting to see what will soon become part of the digitized knowledge base around the world.


  2. While I was reading your post I couldn’t help but notice that we agree on many points. I like how you pointed out that Bandura focuses a lot on the fact that we gain most of our information these days through the use of technology. Even though many people have access to virtual information, it doesn’t necessarily mean that if we all have access to knowledge than we all take the same and correct information from it. That’s why we are different. We don’t all access information the same way. Some people do it better than others and vice versa. I believe that in a way it is good that we are progressing towards a more virtual state of information. This was more people can access it and become more knowledgeable from any part in the world. As you mentioned in your post it is also a cheaper alternative to hard-copies.


  3. I really enjoyed reading this post. It really does give a sense that as time goes on, technology will keep making its way into our lives. More and more information is being made available through technology whether it be through a search engine or some other data base. The paperless aspect is becoming more popular for many reasons. It is better for the environment and it makes the information easily accessible. I know I am spoiled by how easy it is to get information that I don’t know through technology. If there is something that I don’t know or if someone asked me a question that I don’t have an answer for you will always hear me say “Google knows”. This happens multiples times a day. This correlates perfectly with the YouTube video that you referenced that was put up by PBS. Google is what I turn to when there is knowledge that I need to know. That to me makes it very knowledgeable. It makes me wonder what the future holds when it comes to technology and knowledge. I am sure that it will surprise us all.


  4. I completely and utterly disagree that Google is knowledge. However, I do feel that it is a compiled database tool of links to others SHARED ideas, theories and bits of information that people can acquire for their own use. Knowledge itself is saying that you know something and how do do what you know. For example, I have the knowledge that I can use Google or whatever search engine tool to find the knowledge that I am looking for. Whether it be something someone else has studied or researched. Also, to say that we use technology to gain information is entirely correct. We spend hours of our days now in front of screens either playing games or looking at social media and even doing research because it is the easiest and fastest way of gathering information instead of looking for it in books.


  5. Interesting post. In the video, Mike Rugnetta, who I thought was very entertaining, mentions that the Internet could be actually very bad for our processing. He mentions that we will not analyze the data we are looking for on a certain knowledge and essentially not remember it and that there is to just too much knowledge out there to do anything about. So, if we were attempting to gain all the knowledge we could, our brains would explode. I feel like the first point Mike laid out makes sense because if we do not know something, we just google it for specific answer and do not dive any deeper in the subject matter. So, we know a little bit about a lot of things but not a lot about one thing.


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