Re: Emergent Learning LO2084
Thu, 13 Jul 1995 07:58:13 -0700

Replying to LO2050 --

I've been reading the stuff on tacit vs. explicit knowledge with some
concentration, wondering at times if the debate was centering more on
questions of theoretical definition than on anything else -- but still,

Then, Grant Harris said something ("I have yet to see a database system
that does anything more 'knowledgeable' than store and manipulate
symbols.") that provided a kind of "ah-hah!"

I began to wonder about the kinds of assumptions we're all making
regarding the _form_ of these database, or knowledgebase, systems. For
some reason my mind wandered to -- of all people -- F. Scott Fitzgerald,
and to the "knowledgebase" represented in his stories and novels. (You
can substitute anyone you want; I happen to have a thing for Nicole and
Dick Diver...) "Tender Is The Night" contains within it a helluva lot of
knowledge, much of it, in fact, tacit. And that knowledge rests in
Fitzgerald's language, in the acuity of his observations that, seemingly,
have nothing to do with the plot per se, in his metaphors. (The use of
language, by the way, is a whole other area that's started to fascinate me
in connection with this list: Although I'm not one, I suspect
deconstructionists would have a field day here, as would classical
rhetoricians wanting to see how "debate" proceeds.) If it were otherwise,
if all Fitzgerald did were to make assertions about the vagaries of human
emotions and relations, I doubt any of us would find his work as
compelling as it is (alright, as compelling as _I_ find it!). We can read
it, absorb what he is saying, use it to illuminate our own inchoate
perceptions, provide us with new ways of looking at both our own work and
his, etc., etc.

Which brings us, I guess, to Story Telling (remember Story Telling?).
Here's a proposition -- which I'm concocting as I write -- I haven't
thought this through, but it seemed worth getting on paper, so to speak:

*a story is a knowledgebase, a means for articulating tacit, as well as
explicit knowledge;
*the beauty of a really good story is that the more tacit it is, the more
effective it is;
*a story can be collaboratively created;
*a story is a (I almost said _the_...) vehicle by which knowledge can be
dessiminated, altered, enhanced, and so on.

I think the mechanics, or electronics, are available by which to collate
or capture these kinds of knowledgebases. They begin with narrative and
even as they move out into a more "objective" (read: organizational)
world, they can sustain some of these same characteristics.

I have to think about this some more, but I hope somebody out there will
help me move this along, or help me move this back to from whence it came.


Ron Mallis
12 Chestnut Street
Boston, MA 02108
Phone 617-723-8362
Fax: 617-720-1935