Gerry's Home Page Interpretation in Design Hermeneutic Software Design Marx & Heidegger

Sec 5.1
Sec 5.2

Chapter 5

Part II. The Problem of Tacit and Explicit Understanding

“The predicate calculus is often treated by philosophers as if it were the universal language; but to put beliefs expressed in a natural language into the predicate calculus format, one must first interpret them—that is, one must deal with the very problem we wish to solve.”

                                                                                    Hilary Putnam

                                                                                    Representation and Reality

                                                                                    (1988, p.88)



Part I presented several analyses of the process of interpretation in innovative design. The various analyses were not always entirely consistent with one another and were open to a variety of misinterpretations. Despite the effort to view them from the perspective of this dissertation, they retained the influences of their sources in very different enterprises: Alexander’s focus on patterns, Rittel’s on deliberation, Schön’s on discovery, Archie and Desi’s on habitability issues, and Heidegger’s on ontological concerns. Although most of them (except Heidegger’s) were related to attempts at computer support for design, the analyses did not explicitly address issues of computer support. In order to provide a foundation for the development of a theory of computer support of interpretation in design in Chapter 6, a number of open issues need to be clarified in the present chapter. Inconsistencies should be resolved and misinterpretations guarded against.

In Part I, evidence was presented in Chapters 2 and 3 to show that design is an interpretive process. Then in Chapter 4, the character of interpretation as situated, perspectival, and linguistic was explicated using Heidegger’s philosophy. Although some examples from the earlier chapters were used to illustrate Heidegger’s ideas, the relation of Heidegger’s analysis of interpretation in general to interpretation in design specifically still needs to be addressed (Section 5.1). Here it will turn out that the domain of design fits Heidegger’s analysis particularly well in several interesting ways.

A theory of computer support for interpretation in design centers on human-computer interaction and the role of the people whose interpretive processes are to be supported. The distribution of roles between the computer and the people is determined by how interpretation is socially grounded (Section 5.2). This includes the way in which the understood reality is socially constructed and how people have intentional access to that reality. It has implications for the problems of application and relevance, which are critical for a theory of computer support.

The theory of computer support is based on the transformations of tacit to explicit forms of knowledge (Section 5.3), by which people’s preunderstandings can be articulated and represented in a computer. Definitions of tacit and explicit must be developed. The different forms explicit knowledge can take must be distinguished and the processes by which one form is transformed into another identified.

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This page last modified on January 05, 2004