3.6.2 Implicit Knowledge Artifacts

3.6.2 Implicit Knowledge Artifacts

            These are knowledge artifacts whose meaning are not explicitly captured, but can be inferred; in effect, the codification process is incomplete. Explicit artifacts can be interpreted totally on their content whereas interpreters of implicit artifacts must rely on previously retained knowledge. 

            The potential for ambiguity is one of the characteristics of implicit knowledge artifacts.  Most readers of the sentence, “Ann put on her heavy coat and locked up her classroom.” implicitly understand that it is winter and Ann is a teacher, but there are other inferences that could be made as well. For consistent interpretation, both the person making the statement and the person interpreting it must share some common context to understand when heavy coats are worn and who locks up classrooms.

            The underlying knowledge embedded in processes can also be considered as an implicit artifact. For example, a manual detailing the safe way to handle corrosive materials might include a statement such as “This material should not be used on polished or anodized aluminum services. If swallowed, immediately rinse mouth and drink a glass of milk or water. Do not induce vomiting.” The implicit knowledge contained within these warnings, combined with what the reader might recall from high school chemistry, tells the reader that the material is likely to be very caustic.

            Implicit knowledge artifacts can also be found in process-specific software. In developing the software, the designers had to conceptualize the processes that the software would be supporting. That knowledge will show in the way the software is intended to be used and in the range of behaviors it directly supports. Even if not explicitly apparent, these implicit knowledge artifacts will effectively constrain users’ actions. This is often referred to as implicit policy making by technologists (Conrad, 1995).