Re: [xmca] Material cognition

From: Bruce Robinson <bruce who-is-at>
Date: Tue Oct 30 2007 - 09:21:18 PDT


Not sure if this answers your question but it seems to me that both the
neglect of tacit knowledge and false consciousness rest on a belief that
things appear to us in the form that reveals what they really are. Thus
tacit knowledge not being immediately perceptible leads a shadowy
existence until it forces its way into the light of day when it is seen
to be crucial to making things work. Fetishisation and reification
entail an acceptance of the immediate - everything can be taken at face
value. The neglect of tacit knowledge seems to me to be both ideological
- a wish to deny that apparently simple things done by the 'unskilled'
involve a lot of hidden knowledge and skill, perhaps even more than
their managers have - and a consequence of the belief that knowledge
should be capable of being spelled out and thus formalisable (thus
Dreyfus and others attack AI for believing that intelligence can be
expressed as a program, thus ignoring the tacit which is
unformalisable). May be this is too simple?

By chance, earlier today I found this article:

The emancipatory power of the tacit dimension by Rene´ Brohm
Critical perspectives on international business Volume 2 Number 3 2006
pp. 244-258
Findings – The instrumental approach to knowledge, so frequently used in
knowledge management,
neglects important issues. The conventional question: “How should we
organize knowledge?” neglects
the question: “How should knowledge impact organization?”. With use of
Polanyi’s concept of
knowledge, a richer interdependency between knowledge and organization
can be conceived. Findings
were drawn from an ethnographic case study in the IT sector to
illustrate how professionals can
successfully negotiate the content, meaning and development of their
tasks and practices. The attempt
to create a safe haven, supporting professional and personal
development, illustrates how the tacit
dimension has emancipatory potential.
Originality/value – Contributes to clarifying the richness of Polanyi’s
social thought and the uses of
the concept of the “tacit” to organization when it is not functionally
misunderstood but appreciated in
its full critical force.

Not read it yet but it looks interesting.


Martin Packer wrote:
> Once again a thread on XMCA has intersected with something I'm currently
> working on. I'm feeling stupid, so let me just throw out a question, perhaps
> provocative, perhaps dumb. How do we reconcile the fact that tacit knowledge
> is undoubtedly important but neglected by much mainstream research (and
> devalued in society) with the suggestion that participation in the practices
> of modern society leads to MISunderstanding how that society works (false
> consciousness, alienation, etc.)?
> Martin
>> All of these hover around my central interest, which is the often unspoken
>> (sometimes called "tacit") knowledge that people working develop and share
>> about how to get the work done. For example: a class which we have been
>> asked to teach in November will take place at a plant where the workers are
>> represented by the grainmillers' union. This is an old plant. Under the
>> original management, the workers essentially ran the plant -- they had the
>> knowledge and the means to run the plant efficiently and safely. Then the
>> plant was sold and new management came in. This new management took an
>> adversarial position against the union and attempted to take over control of
>> the work without fully understanding how it was done (without exploring the
>> social practices related to the working knowledge of the plant?). A bitter,
>> non-productive culture developed. Now another new management has taken over,
>> and this new management has gone to the union and together they have
>> approached us to teach a class to the supervisors that is essentially about
>> getting them to respect the working material knowledge that the workers have
>> developed. "Leave us alone and we'll run the plant better than you can ever
>> do it," the union is saying.
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Received on Tue Oct 30 09:27 PDT 2007

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