Knowledge and the Artifact (2000)

Rust, C. Hawkins, S, Roddis, J. Whiteley, G. (2000) Knowledge And The Artefact Proceedings Of Doctoral Education In Design Conference, La Clusaz, France, July 2000

Knowledge And The Artefact

This paper was my first attempt to deal with the most interesting issue that arose in the investigation with Graham Whiteley and Adrian Wilson into analogous artificial limbs. The key idea that emerged was that artefacts could provide a means to tap into tacit knowledge.

The La Clusaz Conference was a scary event for a novice academic. Around 80 people in a single four-day session including some of the toughest minds involved with design research. At one point I seriously thought about withdrawing this paper because I had seen the way that the audience would dissect any weakness of argument or evidence.

I solved the problem by presenting the paper as a set of research questions rather than findings and it was well-received. The encouragement I had then led me to look more deeply into the subject of tacit knowledge and led to more recent work, particularly my papers on Design Enquiry: Tacit knowledge and invention in science (2004) and Unstated Contributions (2007)

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This paper discusses ways that knowledge may be found in or through artefacts. One purpose is to suggest situations where artefacts might be central to a narrative, rather than secondary to a text. A second purpose is to suggest ways that design and production of artefacts might be instrumental in eliciting knowledge.

Four general situations are proposed:

(1) Simple Forms – an artefact demonstrates or describes a principle or technique.

(2) Communication of Process – artefacts arising from a process make the process explicit.

(3) Artefacts Within the Research – artefacts are instrumental in advancing the research by communicating ideas or information.

(4) Knowledge Elicited by Artefacts – artefacts provide a stimulus or context which enables information to be uncovered. .

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