2.3.1 From tacit pre-understanding to symbolic representation
This section reflects many of the critiques that have been made of efforts to apply technology to knowledge work without taking seriously the differences between human and artificial knowledge representations. Stahl (1993a,b) has presented an informative analysis of the transformation of knowledge from tacit to explicit to formally codified representations in computer-interpretable form, emphasising the centrality of interpretation situated in the workplace (Figure 2).
Stahl also seeks to clarify how individual knowledge, through becoming shared knowledge, and subsequently codified in computer-interpretable form, moves from hermeneutic presence to symbolic representation (Figure 3). ‘Hermeneutic presence’ is a term taken from the philosopher Heidegger, and refers to tacit knowledge that underpins individual and collective understanding; it shapes our perception of the world, and we cannot step completely outside this perception. Although we can rationally critique what we have previously taken for granted, this then changes the tacit pre-understanding we bring to future situations. In contrast, ‘symbolic representation’ enables us to treat information and ideas as separate from ourselves – once codified, they can be manipulated and analysed (hence the possibility for self-reflection and the learning of abstract concepts).