Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Language as a tool
I've just been reading Being There by Andy Clark. Clark argues for the importance of understanding cognition within real environements i.e. that we manipulate what we have around us to help us think, what he calls 'scaffolding'. He argues that language too isn't just for communication but is also a valuable tool for individual thought.

For example, when putting together a chapter for his book, he used many papers, online references and so on to pull it together. Its not that it existed in his head and just needed to be transcribed "instead it is the product of a sustained and iterated sequence of interactions between my brain and a variety of external props. In these cases... a good deal of actual thinking involved loops and circuits that run outside the head and through the local environment" (p207)

KM implications?
1) That to transfer knowledge we sometimes need to understand how an expert uses loops and artefacts to support their cognition, perhaps on an ongoing basis (e.g. a spreadsheet for playing around with models, a favourite template, doodles and sketches)
2) Be wary of mistaking the loops outside the brain for explicit knowledge. Templates are no more explicit knowledge than giving somebody a knot in your handkerchief as a memory aid.

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