Application of the Action Survey for Tacit Knowledge Production in Artistic Research




For the application of the Action Survey for Tacit Knowledge production in Artistic Research I have chosen for a lecture performance. In the seminar Lecture Performance – Between Art and Academia, archived on the website of Overgaden, Institute of Contemporary Art, that took place from the seventh to the ninth of June 2013 in Copenhagen, the format of the lecture performance is characterized as a particular discipline in a field between art and science.[1] The character of the lecture performance is exemplified as follows:




‘As a hybrid of research, lecture, visual art and performative narrative techniques, the lecture performance as format addresses key questions of the status and potential of art in knowledge society, as well as the mechanisms of producing and framing knowledge.’[2]




In my opinion lecture performances are therefore the designated format, discipline or medium to show the application of the Action Survey.

The format is also linked to my practice project. During my study Artistic Research at the University of Amsterdam (2010-2013) I mainly focused on the lecture performance as format for my artistic research projects that resulted in the lecture performance If Life Gives You Lemons (2012) as final project.[3]




To give an example of the Action Survey as tool for Tacit Knowledge production in Artistic Research i will apply this tool on the artistic research of the lecture performance If Life Gives You Lemons (2012).




[3] Hosted by Rongwrong on the 14th of December 2012 Amsterdam. Rongwrong is a space for art and  theory, run by Arnisa Zeqo and Antonia Carrara.


Introducing the Three Phase Model developed by Collins


For the application of the concept of tacit knowledge I will use the Three Phase Model developed by Collins, which he created for the purpose of automating and reproducing actions.[1]

My motivation to use the Three Phase Model is that this tool functions within the field of knowledge management for analyses of situations to ‘detect’ available tacit knowledge. I will discuss this tool for the application on artistic research projects in order to present the tacit knowledge that is produced, or that it produces.Applying this tool on artistic research projects should then be helpful in providing the tacit knowledge that is articulated: Tacit Knowledge Production.

The Three Phase Model suits every created situation: production and reception. The model maps the three types of tacit knowledge as 'most human activities involve the three tacit components.'[2] These different kinds of tacit knowledge are based on the three different ‘origins or dimension’ of tacit knowledge: the relational, the social and the collective characters. Relational tacit knowledge turns on how people relate to each other, for example the personal propensities or social group one identifies with.[3] Relational tacit knowledge cannot all be made explicit at once.[4] Somatic tacit knowledge has to do with the properties of individual bodies and brains as physical things.[5] The knowledge is in principle possible to explicate, but there are limitations within us, how we are constituted. Thus, imposed on us by our bodies.[6] [7] Collective tacit knowledge turns on the nature of the collective.[8] The knowledge is located in society and is the strongest kind of tacit knowledge. It is comparable with the personal neural network, but then this is the collective version: ‘a connection of interconnected neurons'.[9]  To clarify strong tacit knowledge Collins gave the example of keeping ‘the right’ distance to people in public space and improvisation. I will elaborate on the latter. These (intentional) actions of improvisation are not possible to repeat or re-do as there are no prescriptions or rules for improvisation.[10] It is not possible to give the necessary information beforehand for the upcoming unforeseen situations. The application has to be acted-out in the moment.


[1]                Collins (2010) p. 157

[2]                Collins (2010) p. 146

[3]                Collins (2010) p. 86

[4]                Collins (2010) p. 98

[5]                Collins (2010) p. 85

[6]                Collins (2010) p. 101

[7]                Collins (2010) p. 103

[8]                Collins (2010) p. 85

[9]                Collins (2010) p. 132

[10]              Collins (2010) p. 123

Action Survey


First I will give the original action survey developed by Collins that is as follows:



Part of an action tree [1]













by machine






by humans


A) Actions


Description of each of the actions that are part of the chosen situation





Polymorphic or Mimeomorphic








Polymorphic or Mimeomorphic




A)        In the columns of actions a description is given of all the consecutive actions of the selected situation.


B)        The master is the ‘beholder of the tacit knowledge’ and a situation is chosen for the action survey of the expert in his or her field of expertise.


C)        Actions that can be automated or reproduced. These actions are always mimeomorphic.


D)        Actions that cannot be automated or reproduced, and are therefore enacted by humans. How easily are these actions done by human beings? Is it possible to assign these actions to other people, just by explaining: ‘please fill the bottle with water’ or is it more like a salesman on the market grabbing the right amount weight of fruits just by one take.


E)        Now this is the point where it becomes more complex. Is the described action a polymorphic or mimeomorphic one? Does the master enact much of his or her personal knowledge for the action to succeed? Is it an exceptional action that requires a lot of expertise? Is it possible to let the action be performed by someone else with ease?


F & G)A distinction between the actions that are possibly able to automate or reproduce and the ones that are not (yet).


[1]           Collins (2010) p. 174 The essence of this action tree is based on the given example of a bread-making machine