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Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities

Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities has 50 remote-ready activities, which work for either your classroom or remote teaching.

QIR: Tacit Knowledge Forum

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Tacit Knowing
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-10-20 19:46:56
Link to this Comment: 11151

Welcome to the third portion of our class on "Questions, Intutions, Revisions...." Our topic for the next few weeks is the brain of the storyteller: What's in it? How's it work? How does its working influence how we work--how we intuit and write and revise our stories?

So, for starters: What experiences of tacit understanding have you had? What sorts have you seen others using? What tacit knowledge did you come in here possessing? What do you know that you cannot tell? (And? so? How are you going to tell it?)

And then, for following up: Our initial readings in this topic include selections from Polanyi's The Tacit Dimension,, from Lakoff and Johnson's Philosophy in the Flesh and from Belkin's piece on "The Odds of That: Coincidence in the Age of Conspiracy." You might want to record here, too, what they said to you: What did they teach you? What was fruiful/added to you by these essays? Where were the points of confusion/blockage that we can work through together? How did the essays seem to extend and build on (or contradict) one another? In what ways did they intersect (or not) with your own tacit knowing?

Are feelings part of tacit knowing?
Name: Samantha
Date: 2004-10-20 22:00:08
Link to this Comment: 11153

“tacit knowledge comprises a range of conceptual and sensory information and images that can be brought to bear in an attempt to make sense of something.”

When I think of tacit knowledge, right away want to think of tactile, what I can touch. Because tacit knowing appears to arise from sensory information, I see why my mind connects the two together.

What experience of tacit knowledge have I had?

walking the streets of New York City, not bumping into anyone
standing on a train platform on September 11th, 2001, and slowly absorbing sirens, the spiraling papers in the sky as a sign that something was wrong

I think to all the times my sister/mother/lover/friend called me a bruja—a witch, because I had somehow known who would be calling on the phone, or mentioning the name of someone who the other person happened to bump into.


I think of ways others have used tacit knowing, like their ability to pick up from inflections in your voice that you are sad, mad, depressed, happy

Some of the tacit knowledge I came in possessing has to do with an ability to read between the lines, a worked on ability to decipher brief conversations…I think poetry is a form of tacit knowledge, a way to draw on experience to almost touch upon that which is unspeakable
I found Polanyi’s piece reminded me (perhaps because it was mentioned) of a high school teacher who taught my peer educator class what gestalt therapy was about…I felt like this piece put into academic terminology that which speaks to the role of intuition, how we as humans remember things in an “if this happens then that is the outcome scenario” whether we want to or not…

In Lakeoff’s piece, what struck me the most was the idea that we are not so different than animals in the way we use experience and instinct to guide us through life—animal instincts are what reasoning is to humans! That’s wild

and, in The Odds of That, I kept thinking is this what Pythagoreans thought the world was about? statistics and probability? It feels bad to me just as it was mentioned in the article, to think that things do not happen as a coincidence but as a statistical probability. It’s funny that even I recall wanting to associate September 11th with some other phenomenon

I wonder where tacit learning and probability intersect? Am I missing the connection between tacit knowing and coincidence?

the tacit dimension - a refreshing concept
Name: Patricia W
Date: 2004-10-21 00:31:27
Link to this Comment: 11156

Samantha, I can agree with many of your experiences with those of my own. Being aware of that unseen world of knowing took time for me to become accustomed to its oftentimes errie reality. To get a tinkle before the phone rings, or to feel the presence of someone you hold dearly and get a call from them with a couple of minutes. To feel and hear the presence of someone else and know they's in pain and in need of support. I question why for some there is a desperate need to define, explain and quantify.

Polanyi's, "The Tacit Dimension" was a breath of fresh air for me. Polanyi is a scientist who has retained an acceptance that being human is not restricted to the physical only. Polanyi accepts and argues that it is our tacit dimension which allows for the discoveries that science enjoys. What I really liked about this piece was the calm assurance Polanyi has in presenting his theory, a far different tone than what was offered by Dennett.

Then I read George Lakoff's(?)" Philosophy of the Flesh" and I feel a growing irritation similar to what I had felt when reading Dennett and I have to wonder why the views of these men evokes such a reaction in me? There is an arrogant, "I've been to the mountaintop" the tone of the text. They have been weighed and nothing was found wanting and they are prepared to enlighten those lesser beings in need of their knowledge. I look forward to hearing from the rest of you tomorrow.

I find it a interesting point that Lakott(?) and Dennett texts were written in 1999 and 1997 respectively and Polanyi was written in early part of the 20th century.

The Vastness of tacit knowing
Name: Kathleen
Date: 2004-10-21 06:58:46
Link to this Comment: 11160

My experiences of tacit knowing are too numerous to list...
swimming, dancing, driving, writing, caring for a baby, knowing how to make love to someone that I deeply love, reading Tarot cards, casting astrological charts, cooking behind the line during an incredibly busy dinner shift (what a dance that is), skateboarding, BODY SURFING (everyone in my family always wants to know how I do it the way I do it but I can't seem to tell them or show them- waves are different, but I always know how to work them), lucid dreaming, knowing when cakes or pies are done by sight or smell, knowing when dough is "ready", knowing when something is wrong with my best friend Randi even though she is 400 miles away and we haven't spoken in days, knowing exzactly what time it is before the alarm goes off and before I even open my eyes in the morning, etc. etc. Too many "paranormal" things to go into here, really.

I see people using tacit knowing all the time- we couldn't function without it.

I like to force Lakoff to astral project or have an out of body experience so that he would come to know that mind is emphatically not embodied...or at least it doesn't HAVE TO BE. Also, he acts like Kant never existed. I'm with Patricia on the Dennet comparison.

questions and no answers
Name: angela joy
Date: 2004-10-21 08:54:31
Link to this Comment: 11161

Is tacit knowledge the human version of instinct, I wonder? What happens if it seems to lead you astray? Can you trust your feelings? How do you know if what you think you know isn't simply something that you were being fed all along without your knowledge? What do you do then with the feelings of paralysis?

Tacit Knowledge
Name: Andrylyn P
Date: 2004-10-21 09:23:18
Link to this Comment: 11162

Michael Polanyi's piece was a slow read for me but interesting. In the end I felt, with regards to his text that I understood what I could not articulate. Which for me speaks to what I feel is an important point that he makes.The way we know the world comes through the relationship that is built between the internal and what we are observing. The relationship is not evident to us but is evident in our response.(note Polanyi per Andrylyn I am painfully remembering Foucault).
When he says "Tacit knowledge is shown to account for 1) Valid knowledge of a problem 2) for the scientist's capacity to pursue it, guided by his sense of approaching its solution, and for a valid anticipation of the yet indetermineate implications of the discovery arrived at in the end (pg.24) , i was prompted to think that perhaps Tacit Knowledge is wwhat leads us to revise. We "sense" that there is something waiting and so are pushed by an "unseen" force to continue looking, to revise , to discover.
When he speaks of what it means to hold knowledge, "to be deeply committed to the conviction that there is something ther to be discovered" and the accompanying sense of responsibility I could not help but to think of A. Square and Galileo.
As for Conspiracy VS Coincidence... Hmmmm

Untellable Answers
Name: Annabella
Date: 2004-10-21 09:54:47
Link to this Comment: 11163

I enjoyed reading all of your postings. Angela, I particularly enjoyed your questions. How do we know if our tacit knowledge is actually pre-programming, and will actually lead us astray instead of lead us where we want to go? Tacit knowledge experiences happen more often than conscious knowledge. But how do we know what is tacit knowledge and what is something else?
Through tacit understanding, that's how. And that is something that is untellable. To me, as long as I keep asking, I know I am going in the right direction. I trust my unconscious mind to be able to lead me in the right direction, and I consider the asking to be a way to keep the door open between my conscious and unconscious centers. That way, hopefully they will coommunicate effectively, and the ideas of the unconscious can be carried out in the physical. But then as I read this, I find it isn't accurate either. Because that would imply that I have some major effect on my life other than how I percieve it. And I don't believe that is true.
So I find myself just moving along in faith of the verity of the knowledge of my tacit self. She seems to take great care of me, when I relinquish myself to her. But then who is doing the relinquishing? The holder of the tacit knowledge?
And so it goes on forever.

Date: 2004-10-21 10:46:47
Link to this Comment: 11165

Lakoff's work makes a few statements as truth that I may not entirely agree with. The embodiment of the mind for instance. I'm not sure whether it has been conclusively demonstrated that the mind and the brain are the same, and whether or not the mind has any part to play in the process of thought. Also problematic was the idea of unconcious thought and the dismissal thereof of the idea of a rational man. Undoubtedly thought is mostly unconsious, but in most situations of import, people consciously direct their thoughts or exercise control of them. I will think long and hard and without many diversion if I am about to make a decision about which house to buy, when to buy it and how much I want to spend. I would not make a decision like that based on random, disconnected thought.
Insofar as knowledge created before recent scientific advances, what import do these new insights have on it? Do we keep it? Do we throw it out? Has it any validity and can it have any use for us? Do we have to reevaluate all knowledge every time a new discovery is made?

and now: language....
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-10-27 18:22:55
Link to this Comment: 11235

Our discussion of "apprehending and absorbing the storyteller" will continue tomorrow morning. Please post here, before then, the thoughts that arose for you in reaction to Vygotsky's Thought and Language and Pinker's The Language Instinct. How does their thinking about language--where it comes from and how it "works"--intersect w/ (or interrupt!) the data about tacit knowing that you are gathering this week?

project implicit
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-10-27 21:31:53
Link to this Comment: 11238

Here's another site where you might find it interesting to go exploring in the world of "tacit knowledge"--a place where, as Samantha suggested, we may find ourselves guided by probabilities (=stereotypes?). It's a web project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, called Test Yourself for Hidden Bias, which includes "Implicit Association Tests," designed to measure unconscious bias. Try 'em.

thoughts and words
Name: Samantha
Date: 2004-10-27 22:34:10
Link to this Comment: 11239

As I began to read these articles, I could not help but think about this woman I knew not long ago who was illiterate. She worked at a library where she was the "housekeeper". Many times we would speak and I noticed I had some difficulty understanding her. I spoke to my boss at the time, a professor and dean of libraries who told me something that has stayed in my mind--since she could not read, she could not picture in her mind words--no words, no meaning, no sense of how to really say what she wanted to say.

Inner speech
Name: angela joy
Date: 2004-10-28 07:46:40
Link to this Comment: 11242

Vygotsky's discussion of inner speech made my eyes light up. It's nice to put a name and definition to something I have always wondered about. We are sort of talking to ourselves inwardly all the time, aren't we? It can be seen on people's faces, sometimes, that an inner monologue, maybe even dialogue, is taking place. What would the words sound like to someone else, would they make any sense at all? And yet- hopefully- they make perfect sense to the person experiencing them. Has anyone else, while drifting off to sleep at night, been thinking earnestly about something and then realized with surprise that you were thinking in what might be described as "nonsense" words and sentences? And yet at the time you knew what you were thinking about. What about "speaking in tongues"? Does the speaker know exactly what he/she is saying even though the listeners have no idea? (I'm skeptical about "speaking in tongues", though, as I know people who admitted to pretending to do so in order to seem "spirit-filled.")

I agree with Pinker that language is an instinct and that it is shared by every living thing, though expressed differently (admittedly Tolkien's Ents have made me wonder if trees can communicate too.... who knows?). Animals find ways of communicating their needs, is that a form of language? And it seems that even before people learn to speak, there is a form of language happening internally- you can see the thoughts on their faces.

Too bad for us quiet ones that inner speech just doesn't cut it in class....

Name: Kathleen
Date: 2004-10-28 07:47:30
Link to this Comment: 11243

In response to Samantha's remarks... I don't see how the professor could be right about the cleaning woman. The Hopi language was not written down until the late 19th century (I think), and yet people thought and communicated effectively, eloquently. The Kung San people's language was not written down until anthropologists began "studying" them, but in the book Nisa: The Life and Words of a Kung Woman, Nisa is extraordinarily articulate- profound and and expressive.
I have also known a few illiterate people. Most of them were elderly, and I met them through my mother, who worked at a nursing home when I was younger. I remember that one woman, Jo, who had also grown blind in her old age, was a fantastic story-teller...articulate, funny, sensitive to her audience. Her inabiliy to read did not seem to limit her ability to think or communicate to me.
I work now with a man who is, for all intents and purposes illiterate. It is not that he is a bad speller; I think it's more that letters don't "mean" to him the way that they do to an fully literate person. He will spell garlic "gralicre" one time, "gelic" another, and "galice" another. When I asked him about this, he said "You know what it is Kat!". And indeed I did, since the garlilc was in a clear container. When he needs to label something for a customer, he will ask someone else to spell it for him, and he does not so much write the letters as draw them (an experience that I just had while learning ancient Greek). Oftentimes the word will still be misspelled, strangely. This illiteracy does not impede Dwain's ability to communicate.Dwain is a baroque and gifted liar, a legend at the restaurant- a consummate storyteller in the tradition of the Baron von Munchausen.He is a great communicator. And he cannot properly spell his daughter's name.
I enjoyed the Pinker piece, have not yet slogged through the other. Having read a good bit of Chomsky before, most of PInker's ideas did not feel new to me, but his writing style is certainly a hell of a lot more engaging than Chomsky's! To me, the notion that we humans are hard-wired to make language, in much the same way that a bird is wired to grow wings and fly, is cogent and appealing. The evidence for localized functions in the brain made me a bit uncomfortable because I recently read a book that argued for the idea that the brain is "holographic" in nature (each small part containing the whole, etc.) and stores information that way. The author of this book, Michael Talbot, presented evidence to support this model of the brain, but Pinker's (and Oliver Sacks') evidence, which seems equally persuasive would seem to undermine Talbot's theory. And I realy liked this holographic model!!! Hmmm, perhaps I will be prodded into rewriting "my" holographic story of the brain...
My mother in law has had multiple surgeries on her brain (for aneurysms). She has gone blind in one eye, lost much of her personality (according to my husband, I have never known her to be any other way), lost a lot of impulse control, etc. Gloria's very specific loss of some functions would also seem to support the idea that brain functions are localized to specific regions.

more thoughts
Name: Samantha
Date: 2004-10-28 08:33:34
Link to this Comment: 11244

Angela, you said "I agree with Pinker that language is an instinct and that it is shared by every living thing, though expressed differently…"

Is “language “ or communication the instinct? Vygostky stated that children don’t learn the meaning of their words until they are what 4, 5? I recall this movement that happened maybe a couple of years ago where these psychologist, or scientist (I don’t recall the authority) stated babies had more ability to communicate than was previously thought. They were teaching babies sign language so that they could communicate with their mothers better. So would this mean that their thoughts and words were developing faster?

linguistic determinism? linguistic relativity?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-10-28 16:36:41
Link to this Comment: 11252

As always, a rich conversation this morning; thanks for all your words-and-thoughts. Here are the links I promised you:
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by Daniel Chandler
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: a Critique, by Neil Parr-Davies

And, if you are interested in the alternative theory about the origins of language which I mentioned at the close of class today, check out Mary Klages' lecture on Jacques Lacan, for an overview of his ideas about language originating in the irretrivable loss or lack of union w/ the mother....

more, more.....
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-11-03 13:41:24
Link to this Comment: 11336

Our readings for tomorrow are two stories from Oliver Sacks' collection An Anthropologist on Mars. How are they like-and-different in what they demonstrate about tacit knowledge? How do they add to (simplify-or-complexify) your own understanding of tacit knowledge? How do they intersect w/ your own collections of data of tacit knowledge?

Name: Samantha
Date: 2004-11-03 21:00:50
Link to this Comment: 11347

First, I'd like to say I hardly feel able make meaning from anything after the disappointment of this election. That said...


sound. Sound, melody, rhythm, these are the things that seem to find the true Greg, and to soothe the Tourettic Bennett. These two pieces delve into the folds of the brain--the matter that we say holds the mind, the mind, does it hold the soul of the being? Kathleen, is this what metaphysics is about?

These two stories alike in their need to search for "normal" behavior; they require us to make sense of the human being who loses "control"--one by cancer, the other by Tourette's.

these stories seem to lead us into the idea that tacit knowledge can be rekindled by music--

"ordinary things easily slip from the memory while the striking and the novel stay longer in the mind...let art, then, imitate life>" (89)

Primitive this where tacit knowledge resides? What a neat idea to think that even if we lose parts of our mental facilities, our primitive mind will help us find a way...

What do you do when reason fails . . .
Name: Patricia W
Date: 2004-11-03 22:54:26
Link to this Comment: 11349

Ditto Samantha . . . I've been on a mission all day trying to find "why" and with each new piece of information, reason falls away. Morals . . . tacit?

I guess I could not divorce myself from the events of yesterday and today enough not to see similarities within these two stories. Samantha, I really like your assessment about the primitive mind finding its way; or never losing the connection, however he got me thinking what remains when the brain is damaged or unable to function at its fullest capacity. I found Greg's situation the most fascinating. Secluded within the Temple, Greg's diminished mental capacity was at first perceived to represent "spiritual progress" and "enlightenment". However, there did appear to be a line by which the members of the Temple recognized that Greg had slipped beyond their understanding. I wonder about this "bliss" existing without emotional depth or an interest in living.

The different disconnections of the brain between Greg and Bennett are amazing. Greg had lost the "desire", while Bennett had retained the desire of self to live. The chemical imbalance challenges his will and yet in his persistance fulfillment is achieved "like a long-married couple, they become a single, compound being".

I look forward to our discussion tomorrow.

two forms of education
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-11-03 23:38:49
Link to this Comment: 11352

Here's an offering from me and Annabella. We call it Two Forms of Education: A Table and invite your responses.

the table, the stories
Name: angela joy
Date: 2004-11-04 07:19:37
Link to this Comment: 11353

Wow! Looking at the two types of education almost makes me want to join a convent.

Wait. I'm already in one.

When reading "An Anthropologist on Mars" I became so swept up in the marvelously vivid writing, the storytelling, that I forgot to look at it analytically. The story of the surgeon with Tourettes syndrome was an eye-opener. Who would ever have thought someone with Tourettes could fly planes, could be a surgeon! My cousin has Tourettes and his life has been a bit hellish; his parents are at their wits' end with him. I've been very ignorant of what people with this disorder can accomplish. I was also very moved by the wife of the surgeon, who "wouldn't have him any other way." If that isn't love, nothing is...

"The Last Hippie" was chilling at the end. Greg had that wonderful experience of the Grateful Dead concert and then it was as if it never happened.

In both stories, seeing the disorder of each man as a revelation of their "primitive" side was striking to me. It's almost like a horror movie... I can hear the narration in the trailer, (cue spooky voice) "What really lives inside us all?" Of course, it's been done already in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", I suppose.

Dick Cheney is the Antichrist
Name: Kathleen
Date: 2004-11-04 07:38:39
Link to this Comment: 11354

Oh jeeez. I just spent a half hour posting and then hit some button and all is lost. What a terrible way to start the day.

I feel like I'm being redundant, having just typed this, but here goes again:

I really liked these readings. I wish that I didn't have to relate them to tacit knowing.

Very interesting observations about the musical connection between Greg and Dr. Bennet. I wonder how the human biocomputer "stores" music...why are we able to access our memories of music, consciously and unconsciously, even through disease and times of extreme stress. I wonder if our facility for remembering music is a vestige of our mostly pre-literate, orality-focused human evolutionary history, when rhythm and meter and patterns of sounds acted as a mnemonic device and helped us to recall information necessary to our individual and cultural survival.

Besides smelling something, to me, music is the most powerful evoker of memory. I need only put on Joni Mitchell's Blue to remember, both physically and emotionally, what I felt like to have my 21 year old heart "broken". And I can recall thousands of song lyrics with virtually no effort, yet I can't remember how to spell Polanyi's name properly. Or maybe I did just spell it right! Music seems to be stored...differently...than other memeories. In the deep wrinkled places perhaps. Or maybe in the soul.

I loved how Dr. Bennets's colleagues disn't not fuss over his Tourette's syndrome. I'm thinking that in people with Tourettes those internal censors don't work the way they do in non-Tourettes folks... and all sorts of tacit knowing, tacit connection-making among symbols, sounds and objects and "unconscious" stuff spills out, is made explicit. In a person with Tourettes, their lack of control is right out there on the surface of their being, while in a non-Tourettes person like me, most of the time I labor under the illusion that I have good control of myself and can manage others' assessments/judgements/feelings about me.
Self-control sometimes comes at a terrible price, and can impede genuine self-exploration and self-growth.

A Problem?
Name: Annabella
Date: 2004-11-04 09:30:20
Link to this Comment: 11355

What is a problem? Someone looks at a yellow wall and likes it that way, there is no problem. Someone else looks at the same wall and wants it white, there is a small problem. If the two are a couple and must come to a consensus on what color the wall will be, it could become a big problem. So how much does the wall have to do with the problem? One wall, three scenarios, three degrees of a problem. The wall has nothiing to do with the problem. It is just being a wall.
Knowing this, let's look at "The Last Hippie".Here is a man who has grown a tumor in his brain that completely changes his behavior. It must not cause him pain, and he is not even aware that it exists. His behavior is changing in a way that he is wanting it to change. No problem. His peers look at him with admiration because of his high degree of achievment in their fields. No problem. Father comes in, and does not accept nor see value in the changes. He thinks they are bad changes. Enter the problem.
Certainly the whole world would agree that something is wrong with this young man. This is akin to thinking the wall has a problem, and it's color is that problem, not our thinking about the color of the wall... Back to the Hippie.
So we fix the problem as best we can by operating on the man. Then we observe him to see how bad the problem is. But the man is still happy and glad to see people and everything. So who has the problem?

Place of the US in the World Community
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-11-04 17:26:18
Link to this Comment: 11361

If you'd like to share your thoughts/questions/confusions/illuminations about the election, as a way of helping us all make sense of what happened (and what can happen next) there's a forum now open called Place of the US in the World Community - Nov 04.

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