Tacit and formal knowledge LO28165

From: Don Dwiggins (d.l.dwiggins@computer.org)
Date: 04/07/02

At, in LO27909, writes in reply to Mark Spain:
>> 1. What does my tacit knowledge become when
>> I articulate it?

> It emerges into "articulated" knowledge. Since these articulations can
> also be considered as inFORMation, I prefer to call it FORMal knowledge.

> Most importantly, the tacit knowlegde decreases accordingly.

I remember you saying this before, and I let it pass even though it seemed
strange to me. Now I'd like to question it.

I have a different mental model: the formalization process, operating on a
"chunk" of tacit knowledge (TK), doesn't transform the tacit knowledge;
rather, new formal knowledge (FK) is created ("to learn is to create"),
and the result is enriched knowledge EK = TK * FK. I use "*" here to
indicate that there's a new whole, with the "back action" (your term) of
the FK on the TK acting as umlomo. Inspired by Polanyi, I'd say that the
TK->FK mapping is like a homomorphism; that is, there is more in the TK
than the FK can express. Because of this, if the TK were lost, the result
of the formalization would be a net loss to the person. (I suppose this
actually happens, when people mistrust their TK and discount it as soon as
they have a plausible formalization.)

The FK adds an important feature, however. The FK supports a richer
communication with others than the TK and thus provides an indirect way to
transmit TK. (Peter Beamish's work, referenced by Andrew in recent
messages, suggests some interesting possibilities for more direct TK-based
communication.) Also, the "construction" of the FK in itself can throw a
new light on the TK, suggesting ways to enrich the TK itself. Finally,
the FK can be "objectified" and support the methods of math and science to
create the unique kind of community knowledge that they afford.

At, I appreciate how your writing prompting me to formalize (to a first
approximation) my tacit model on this. Even more, I look forward to a
better understanding of your statement "the tacit knowlegde decreases

With best wishes for the joy of creation (and Creation),


Don Dwiggins d.l.dwiggins@computer.org Man ascends through the discovery of the fullness of his own gifts. What he creates along the way are monuments to the stages of his understanding of nature and of self. -- Jacob Bronowski, "The Ascent of Man"

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