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Tacit knowledge and the locus of legitimate interpretation


Harry Collins

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June 20, 2023

This keynote took place on Tuesday 20 June 2023 (13:15-14:15 CEST) during the TACK Final Conference at ETH Zürich.

“I will suggest that tacit knowledge comes in three variants which are relatively easy, a bit more difficult, and impossible or near impossible to transform into explicit knowledge. The existence of tacit knowledge means that sciences are never as exact and deterministic as they were once thought to be. Scientific domains can be defined by their ‘locus of legitimate interpretation’ (LLI), the group entitled to comment on creative work. Science’s LLI is restricted to those very close to the producers; the LLI of the adventurous arts gives little emphasis to producers but much to consumers – gallery owners, newspaper critics, the general public. Architecture’s LLI has lobes of both types.”


Harry Collins is Distinguished Research Professor at Cardiff University. He is an elected Fellow of the British Academy and winner of the Bernal prize for social studies of science. His c25 books cover, among other things, sociology of scientific knowledge, artificial intelligence, the nature of expertise, tacit knowledge, and technology in sport. His contemporaneous study of the detection of gravitational waves has been continuing since 1972 and he has written four books and many papers on the topic. He is currently looking at the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on science due to the ending of face-to-face conferences and workshops and on the role of science in safeguarding democracy.