Transmission of knowledge

Transmission of knowledge refers to any method, explicit or implicit, used to transmit knowledge related to technology. According to this, we can differentiate between formal and informal transmission of knowledge. In the first group, the most common process is education. In the second one, the possibilities are wide open, and include exhibitions, museums, news and references in newspapers and magazines, images, art and symbolic representations, etc.

A very important aspect in both of them is tacit knowledge, which can only be acquired through experience, when using technological objects. According to Herschbach, “A large part of tacit knowledge cannot be transmitted through written or oral form. It is personal knowledge, it is subjective knowledge, and it is immediate and specific knowledge. Tacit knowledge is primarily learned by working side by side with the experienced technician or craftsman”.

Finally, when taking into account the process of transferring technologies it’s also important to pay attention to the fact that we also transfer cultural values, and that “there is no such a thing as an all-purpose context-free tool”. As stated by Díaz-Canepa,

“Currently, there are two main approaches in the field. Some researchers favor a normative strategy that emphasizes technical training and the transfer of “simple” technologies, whereas others favor a constructive strategy that evaluates the resources and local dynamics of the receiving country. Those endorsing the first approach talk in terms of the adaptation of technology, emphasizing the necessary adjustment of technologies to the user’s characteristics […]. Those favoring the second approach speak of the appropriation of technology, and point to the active character that users assume while incorporating technology” […] “Successful appropriation, then, occurs when imported elements can be integrated to some degree with a preexisting work situation and/or to the users’ previous schemata. The appropriation process can accordingly be understood as one modality in which people “attempt to integrate the new tool’s utilization within the set of schemata previously constructed”. […] “Whereas adaptation is a process driven by the provider of the new technology, appropriation is based on the ends, mental representations, competencies, and contexts that exist in the receiver’s work situation. The locus of control in adaptation is internal and socialized. Adaptation emphasizes the role of memorization in the transfer of knowledge; appropriation calls for the reelaboration of situated learning”.

For further reading see: Dennis R. Herschbach (“Technology as Knowledge: Implications for Instruction”, Journal of Technology Education, vol. 7, n.º 1, Fall 1995, pp. 31-42) and Carlos Díaz-Canepa (“Transferring Technologies to Developing Countries: A Cognitive and Cultural Approach”, in Robert J. Sternberg and David D. Preiss, Intelligence and Technology: The impact of tools on the Nature and Development of Human Abilities, Mahwah (New Jersey), Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005).


Diagrammatic definitions of ‘technology’ and ‘technology practice’, by A. Pacey

Esquema Pacey con pie

The triple distinction: As a human action, technology is the result of the interactions between three factors: machinery-mechanical systems (techniques in general, not necessary material, it could be a sequence of logical sentences or commands; making sure that it works), skills (tacit and explicit knowledge and competences of individuals) and cultural meanings. The gradual combination of these dimensions creates a particular meaning of technology, which in turn derives from its consideration as a social practice integrated in a community. History of technology is confined many times to the first factor, and it is regarded in this sense as a collection of technical (practical and useful) solutions willingly offered to a receptive and expectant public.