Knowledge that has been or can be articulated, codified, and stored in certain media. The most common forms of explicit knowledge are manuals, documents, procedures, and stories. Knowledge also can be audio-visual. Works of art and product design can be seen as other forms of explicit knowledge where human skills, motives and knowledge are externalized.

Source: WP5 - glossary


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I have to admit that I have some problems in following this definition, as even in the case of manuals and documentations it seems as if they require knowledgable readers which are able to make sense of what has been written. Therefore I ask my self if it really makes sense to define explicit and implicit knowledge as distinct categories or if it would make more sense to see them as idealized ends of a continuum? Furthermore I disagree with the statement that "Works of art and product design can be seen as other forms of explicit knowledge". From my point of view works of art and product designs are objectifications of knowledge, while the knowledge underlying these artifacts usually stays implicit.

--Christoph Richter, 19-Jul-2006


As a short comment on this: I agree with Christoph's concerns here. It seems that the distinction between explicit and implicit (or tacit) knowledge is very hard to make. Manuals are maybe something where explicit knowledge is emphasized but they have a lot of implicit knowledge also (like the way of how things are presented, connotations of various terms, etc.). Pictures and works of art as such can be explicit knowledge but often their meanings and interpretations are not. According to Polanyi's idea of tacit knowledge there are always "hidden" (or tacit) parts around explicit knowledge. For example, stories (above defined as a common form of explicit knowledge) typically inhere a lot of hidden or veiled meanings, and structures, suggestions, implications, connotations, etc. I would start to characterize explicit knowledge as that part of knowledge which is easily and clearly seen and understood by everyone who knows that particular language or code in which the knowledge is presented, and which is more or less understandable in itself contrary to suggestions, hidden meanings, implications, and such.

--Sami Paavola, 11-Aug-2006

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