Local Knowledge in the Context of Expert System of Knowledge: Chia-yi Charity Organization's Bridge-Building Practice

Author Info
Hung-Jen Yang
Institute of Science, Technology and Society, National Yang-Ming University

For the past forty years, Chia-yi Charity Organization has been constructing bridges in the mountainous area of Southern Taiwan. Except for the late director, Ming-te Ho, who received civil engineer training during the period of Japanese colonization, members of the charity are not formally trained in bridge building. During the building practices some of the members acquire more knowledge and techniques and become semi-craftsman volunteers and semi-volunteer craftsmen.

Both acquire techniques from the government engineers while developing their own local knowledge and innovation. On the one hand, the craftsmen appropriate the expert engineering knowledge system in their own locally embedded logic of field practices; on the other hand, by following the logic craftsmen develop local knowledge of a working site, which is conceptualized as ‘practical wisdom’, ‘local categorization’, and ‘tacit techniques’. Comparing to other bridges of similar scale, with the local knowledge the charity builds much endurable and safer bridges and provides a fine example of engineering ethics.

Taiwanese Journal for Studies of Science, Technology and Medicine, Number 10 (April 2010)