Do and Think and Play and Show and Tell: Artefacts All the Time

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Marc Rettig


This is a practitioner’s response to Show and tell: Accessing and communicating implicit knowledge through artefacts, a paper by Yoko Akama and her colleagues appearing in this same issue of Artifact. Their findings suggest that people assign their own meanings to physical artefacts. In the author’s experience, this insight proves useful in industry work. In this paper, that usefulness is illustrated by six stories from projects, describing how the author and his colleagues and have observed and often encouraged this behaviour using indigenous, introduced, and constructed artefacts. Additionally, two theoretical areas are briefly discussed that underpin the methods referenced in the stories. The first theoretical underpinning concerns a distinction drawn from anthropology between the etic or observer’s understanding of an object, and the emic or indigenous person’s understanding. The second is a brief discussion of our somewhat different perspectives concerning a language of artefacts. While Yoko Akama, Roslyn Cooper, Laurene Vaughan, Stephen Viller, Matthew Simpson, and Jeremy Yuille argue that artefacts present their own embedded language, the author suggests a practical understanding of language behaviour that accepts non-verbal, non-textual elements into the lexicon.

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