Many authors have described the role of asomatic knowledge, two that come to mind are Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Tim Ingold. On the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC the director of the British Museum has been talking about the BBC's "History of the World" exhibition, which depicts the history of our world through 100 objects. I have not had a chance to listen to any of the shows yet (they are doing one object per day, so perhaps I will catch one). It seems to me that in our everyday life we do not look at the objects we use as "full of knowledge". From the intention in their design, to the way objects are produced; we forget that we are interacting with historic creations and the knowledge that they embody. We forget that we change the objects and the objects change us.
In looking at whole environments do we stop to see the objects they contain?
I was surprised to hear the beginning of this clip on the radio. It is of Merryl Streep performing as Margaret Thatcher, she says to the British Parliament:
"Teachers cannot teach when there is no heating, no lighting in their classrooms..."
There is such an obvious connection between the quality of the school environment and the quality of academic outcomes that it almost sounds as a cliché. Even though I have not seen this film, and therefore don't know the context of the clip, Thatcher's proclamation sounds like the all-too-known issue in education. There is little understanding of the processes that occur in the human-environment interaction, What is it about a poor environment that impedes education's goals? There are the clear functional factors: We cannot see without proper lighting. We cannot learn if we are sitting at an uncomfortable temperature. But beyond that, what does it mean to attend a school in disrepair? What are the implications for education as "the great equalizer"?
This is the subject of my dissertation research and of much of my future research.
My concern is the reproduction of social structure, where poor school children attend poor school environments and attain poor educational outcomes.
I heard about this show when listening to Radiolab (www.radiolab.org). It was very interesting to hear about the "invisibility" of design.
The issue of design, just as the issue of environment as an active aspect of human activity has a way of disappearing in the background.