N°82 - 2025/1

Places and modes of existence of experiential knowledge: embodied knowledge, situated knowledge

Breton Hervé, Halloy Arnaud

Volume 82: Places and modes of existence of experiential knowledge: embodied knowledge, situated knowledge, coordinated by Hervé Breton and Arnaud Halloy

Experiential knowledge is highly topical in discourse and practice, to the point where it has become a naturalized object that tends to be thought of without questioning its actual mode of existence. The aim of this issue is not to offer a critique of the notion itself, as Lochard (2007) has done, but to examine the places, conditions and methods by which it finds consistency and legitimacy in the discourses and practices in which it is used. We have to agree that the notion of experiential knowledge is captured by a number of terms, without each of them being really specified: tacit knowledge (Polany, 2009), hidden knowledge (Schön, 1984), local knowledge (Maehira, 2011), embodied knowledge (Durrive, 2020), knowledge of action (Barbier, 2011), etc. Each of these terms designates a type of resource whose places of emergence, constitution processes and modes of existence need to be characterised. Of all the terms mentioned above, embodied knowledge will be the subject of a sustained examination in this new issue of the journal Intellectica. It is a question of thinking about experiential knowledge from the point of view of a place, the body, and its modes of embodiment in the world (Merleau-Ponty, 1994/2005). More recently, in 1995, Leplat put forward the idea of embodied skills to designate those "that are at one with the actions that express them". This formula may seem enigmatic, as it seems to attribute an agentivity of its own to the skills themselves. However, it allows us to use agentivity theories to examine the ways and places in which experiential knowledge exists, particularly in relation to work on abilities (Chauviré, 2002), dispositions (Bourdieu, 1998), habits of action (Romano, 2011), or activity regimes (Billeter, 2009).

The aim of this dossier is therefore to differentiate and specify the theories on the basis of which experiential knowledge is conceived and characterised in research in the social sciences, cognitive sciences, health and artificial intelligence. Three distinct levels can be distinguished: that of the processes by which experiential knowledge is constituted (1), that of its location (2), and that of its mode of existence (3).

The first level, that of the processes of constitution, presupposes questioning the ways in which a resource for the subject is constituted in the course of the experience, or in the aftermath of the lived experience. To do this, we will define what this resource is (experience, knowledge, peers, stories, etc.) and specify the way in which this acquisition process can be thought through: what counts as an experiential resource? What dispositions and environments facilitate learning? What forms of expression help to identify, recruit and legitimise them?

The second area concerns the location of experiential knowledge. Here, the substantive nature of experiential knowledge and its location are examined. This spatial, social and material dimension is regularly contained in the names used to designate experiential knowledge: situated knowledge, embodied knowledge, distributed knowledge, practical knowledge, local knowledge, etc. Each of these names designates a privileged place for the expression of experiential knowledge and mobilises, without always making it explicit, a theory of contexts that needs to be specified: Whether we are talking about technologies [dispositifs] (Foucault 1994, Agamben 2007), frames of experience (Goffman 1991), living environments (Canguilhem 1952), worlds (Becker 1988), communities of practice (Lave & Wenger 1991) or epistemic communities (Akrich 2010), the question at the heart of the location of experiential knowledge is that of its relevant unit of analysis and the role of contexts in its constitution: Where should experiential knowledge be located: in subjects or in contexts? Does it result from the sedimentation of personal experience or is it the emerging product of situations? Is it distributed in the environment or inscribed in bodies? In other words, to whom or rather where should the formative role of experiential knowledge be attributed: in cultural resources such as language, discourse and shared places and practices, or in the resources of the individual, with a history incorporated in the form of personal prescriptions and dispositions?

The third level, that of the modes of existence of experiential knowledge, concerns their mode of institutional donation and the political processes involved in their manifestation. The aim here is to consider what, by differentiating the dynamics of acquisition from which a resource emerges as a result of the experience it has undergone, a resource gives itself within environments traversed by fields of force according to configurations, trends, rhythms and power relationships that need to be examined. The notion of modes of existence therefore refers to temporalities, interplays of analytical scales, regimes of intensity and modes of donation of experiential knowledge inscribed in the agenda of distinct actors pursuing distinct goals: What and for whom is experiential knowledge useful? What is the purpose of experiential knowledge and why is it mobilised, or even instrumentalised, and what are its modes of existence: political, activist, scientific, narrative, poetic, etc.?

The texts proposed for this dossier may fit into one or more of the three previously formalised areas. Each of the articles will aim to define and support, through theoretical and/or empirical studies, the notion of experiential knowledge, based on research rooted in cognitive science, philosophy of mind, educational science, anthropology, sociology, history, health and artificial intelligence.

The articles published by Intellectica, in French or in English (for non-native speaker), are not highly technical so that they can be read by a wide range of readers having already a certain acquaintance with the domain. The articles have an epistemological character, and attempt to give an account of the main tendencies around the theme in question. Potential authors can consult the online archives of Intellectica to see the sort of article that the journal has published over the years (http://intellectica.org/en/issues).

Please send you manuscript (or your questions) to soumission@intellectica.org, herve.breton@univ-tours.fr, Arnaud.HALLOY@univ-cotedazur.fr
Instructions for authors: https://intellectica.org/en/authors
Deadline: 15th septembre 2024

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