Volume 11 Issue 2 (2015): Experiential Knowledge, Expertise, and Connoisseurship
Main Articles

Expertise and Tacit Knowledge in Artistic and Design Processes: Results of an Ethnographic Study

Johanna Schindler
Zeppelin University
Published December 4, 2015
  • tacit knowledge,
  • embodied knowledge,
  • capacity for action,
  • electronic musical instrument,
  • design process,
  • artistic research,
  • ethnography
  • ...More


Professional experiences and expertise are considered to rely on tacit knowledge, knowledge we use unconsciously and cannot entirely put into words. In the context of artistic research, the notion of tacit knowledge has been invoked to explain artistic practices as well as research and design processes. However, few authors precisely distinguish between an explicit and an implicit dimension of tacit knowledge. This article focuses on different qualities of implicit knowledge and questions its ineffability. It assesses the interplay of latent and manifest forms of knowledge involved in artistic and design processes. An artistic research project seeking to develop new electronic musical instruments was observed over a 5-week period. The results of this ethnographic study show that, against common conceptions of the ineffability of tacit knowledge, it can be conveyed partly in an articulate manner. In addition to models and gestures, researchers need a certain expertise in capturing their knowledge in words. A further conclusion is that merely sensuous knowledge—knowledge related to the five senses—cannot be entirely put into words.