"Tacit Knowing: Manual Knowledge in Art, Science and Technology" - Bauhaus-Universität Weimar - December 15-16, 2010

Tacit Knowing: Manual Knowledge in Art, Science and Technology

A Workshop at the IKKM – Internationales Kolleg für
Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie, Bauhaus-Universität
Weimar (December 15-16, 2010)

In modernity, science and art have come to designate two opposing ways
of appropriating the world, each governed by different logics and
aiming at different goals. Whereas the intentions and content of
artistic and scientific projects have diverged in distinct directions,
the practices and media applied in the respective fields remain akin.
Practices of referencing, (re)arranging and recording, techniques of
representation and imagination still stretch across disciplinary and
institutional boundaries. The common foundation of the arts and
sciences has already been given expression by historians and
philosophers of science with the introduction of terms like
"style" (Ludwik Fleck), "virtuosity" (Hans-Jörg Rheinberger) and
"representation" (Ian Hacking) into the epistemological discourse; and
by contemporary artists, designers and architects, who have begun to
describe drafting processes in terms of "artistic research," "practice-
based research" or "designerly ways of knowing."

The workshop will focus on an especially crucial concept at the
threshold between art and science, namely that of "tacit knowing."
First described by the Hungarian physical chemist and philosopher of
science Michael Polanyi in a series of lectures given in 1951-52, this
form of soft knowledge – in opposition to explicit ways of knowing –
is closely bound to (manual or more generally bodily) experience and
is difficult or nearly impossible to verbalize or formalize. Polanyi
reconsidered human knowledge by "starting from the fact that we can
know more than we can tell." Based on a psychophysiological theory of
attention, he compared all kinds of quotidian, craftsmanly and
scientific knowledge whose structure and functioning cannot be made
explicit by the actor. Riding a bike, the art of the experienced
diagnostician, the skill of the athlete and the artist: all of these
demand a sort of practical ‘assimilated’ knowing that defies any
differentiation between knowledge and ability (or in German 'Wissen'
and 'Können').

Polanyi posits that this implicit dimension is operative in all
meaningful uses of knowledge. However, the two forms of knowing are
not equally available as two options in research: Polanyi assumes the
primacy of implicit knowledge. Everything that we can know or are able
to do has a latent aspect in the sense of tacit knowing or is founded
in it. Thus the “implicit dimension” has a crucial role in the
formation of new experiences: it functions as a clue enabling the
practitioner to form a consistent perceptual or conceptual image of
the object being considered.

In the last twenty years the concept of tacit knowing has been
imported into the field of economics and work study. Not less
significantly, architects and designers began to describe their work
as a kind of practice-based research, which stood in contradiction to
the widely held opinion that processes of developing new forms could
be explained in the manner of rational, fully comprehensible
protocols. In recent years, the references made by the lobbyists of
"artistic research" to Polanyi’s concept have become rather
inflationary, whereby the specific potentialities and the limits of
this transfer have never been explored in depth. The workshop wants to
reconsider Polanyi’s concept and its application in the study of
drafting processes in architecture, science and technology. If the
generation of new forms, spaces and scientific objects is indeed
closely bound to implicit, practical competences and skills, then: in
what way and in which (epistemological) situations does it come into
play? How is it acquired and transmitted? What is the relation between
media, tools and implicit ways of knowing? Against a normative
understanding of knowledge, the workshop aims to outline an amorphous
field of practical competences and generative skills that always come
into play when the trained body of an architect, engineer or scientist
interacts manually with objects, instruments and media.


December 15, 2010

7:00 p.m.
Welcome Address
Barbara Wittmann (IKKM Weimar)

Evening Lecture
Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science,
Penser avec ses mains. On the Creativity of Experience

December 16, 2010

10:00 a.m.
Franziska Uhlig (Bauhaus-Universität Weimar)
Some Observations Concerning Tools in Arthur D. Mitchells Rhind Lectures

11:00 a.m.
Monika Dommann (Universität Basel)
Hands and Handling

12:00 noon

12:30 p.m.
Gloria Meynen (eikones Basel)
Malen nach Zahlen – das stumme Handwissen der Fläche

1:00 p.m.
Lunch break

3:00 p.m.
Omar Nasim (eikones Basel, ETH Zurich)
Astronomical Drawings and Tacit Knowledge

4:00 p.m.

4:30 p.m.
Tim Ingold (University of Aberdeen)
Telling by Hand: Drawing Making Writing

5:30 p.m.

6:00 p.m.
Wrap-up session: Implicit and Explicit Knowledge
Presentation by Harry Collins (Cardiff University), and concluding
panel discussion with Bernhard Siegert (IKKM Weimar) and Barbara
Wittmann (IKKM Weimar)

Venue: IKKM, Palais Dürckheim, Cranachstraße 47, 99423 Weimar, Germany.

Contact: Katharina Schmidt: katharina.schmidt [at] uni-weimar.de.

Venue: IKKM, Palais Dürckheim, Cranachstraße 47, 99423 Weimar, Germany.

Further informations: www.knowledge-in-the-making.de / http://www.ikkm-weimar.de