How come it’s July?!
If you’re a new subscriber, welcome! My name is Gianfranco Chicco and here I write about craftsmanship (duh!). This edition is shorter than usual, as being in lockdown has prevented me from meeting any craftsmen in person, although I did manage to follow up with a few via virtual interviews.
I also spent most of the last few months researching and writing for my book on Japanese craftsmanship, which I hope I can share more about soon. As part of my research, I read Simon Roberts’ book on embodied knowledge, which I review below.
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A Call To Rebalance Tacit & Explicit Knowledge
“Our understanding of the world arises from our bodies’ interactions with and perceptions of the world — and it is through these interactions that our bodies acquire knowledge.” — Simon Roberts
This book is about Embodied Knowledge, which is non-verbal, acquired through direct experience, and gives us practical ability and understanding of the world. It’s not in opposition, but rather a natural complement to Explicit Knowledge, which arises from logic and can be transmitted through words.
Embedded knowledge is deeply intertwined to intuition and is an integral feature of craftsmanship, where it is often referred to as Tacit Knowledge. When we have it, we instinctively know how to act.
Simon Roberts, a business anthropologist, argues that if we only think with our minds, we are throwing away an invaluable resource, and denying how we truly learn and achieve experience. Since René Descartes proclaimed “cogito, ergo sum” in the 17th century, Western thought has been operating on the pervasive idea that brains matter and the body, well, not so much. This has given birth to the analogy that the brain operates like a machine, a computer, and the body’s main task is just that of carrying it around. Taking this notion to an extreme, trans-humanists like Ray Kurzweil are hoping to one day upload their minds to a computer simulation of sorts to gain immortality, as if the body had no value whatsoever.
The book does not favour the knowledge that arises from the body while ignoring the brain, but is “a call to rebalance our understanding of where intelligence comes from and where it resides.”
Roberts explores how the concept of the extended mind, one that pulls in brain, body and environment, can give humans a significant advantage over artificial intelligence: “At a time when many intellectual or analytical tasks are being done faster (and sometimes more accurately) through the use of artificial intelligence, it is important to recognise that much of what makes our human intelligence distinctive and hard to replicate emerges from our bodies.” He also reflects on what is being lost when our lives are more and more digitally mediated, removing our bodies from our interactions with each other.
“[…] it is because we are embedded in the world that we are able to make sense of others’ goals, moods or emotions. It is through our repeated exposure to novel situations, and the repetition of similar ones, that we are able to develop knowledge that is highly adaptive and adaptable. Our bodies’ sensory capabilities enable us to perceive the world as a whole, while our brains and specific motor-related capabilities enable us to comprehend the actions and experiences of others.”
The e-book is available now (Amazon UK). The print version has suffered several delays due to the global pandemic and should be out later this year.
The Power of Not Thinking: How Our Bodies Learn and Why We Should Trust Them
By Simon Roberts
Transformation through Brokenness & Restoration
Prepare yourself a cup of tea and watch several weeks of kintsugi effort condensed into seven minutes. The video shows Showzi Tsukamoto repairing a broken bowl using lacquer (urushi) and gold dust. Kintsugi (also called kinsukuroi) is often described as mending broken pottery with gold, but as you can see in the video this is not accurate. Metallic powder — including gold, silver, and bronze — can be used as a final step to enhance the aesthetic value of the object, although it’s not strictly required. Kintsugi is about fixing the broken object as much as intesifying its character. The cracks become a part of its history.
The video was filmed and directed by Nick Böse, Timm Markgraf, and Klaus Motoki Tonn.
- The Three Kinds of Tacit Knowledge — This is part of an extensive series of articles on tacit knowledge written by Cedric Chin on the Commonplace Newsletter.
- How can the craft world address its lack of diversity? (Crafts Council UK) — The latest issue of the Crafts Council newsletter (read) brings together concrete thoughts and actions to tackle racism and discrimination in the arts and crafts.
- A new collection of furniture combines Italian and Japanese craftsmanship (Wallpaper*) — Italian furniture maker De Padova and Japanese brand Time & Style created furniture building on each others’ skill.
- The Battersea Table — Either if you love the iconic London power station or if you’re a fan of the Pink Floyd album Animals as much as I am, you’ll go crazy about this furniture masterpiece.
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