Form: Interactional Expertise (IE) is a form of socio-technical integration that emphasizes the role of expert individuals in being able to learn the language of a new specialization (e.g., a sociologist learning the language of a physicist). IE is gained at the individual level through prolonged immersion – known as “enculturation” – within a specialist community. It requires direct and ongoing interaction with full-fledged experts in the field to maintain this linguistic proficiency. IE is generally tested for through a blinded Turing Test against a conventional expert in the field by answering questions asked by expert judges. If the IE can only be identified from the established expert at a chance rate, they have achieved interactional expertise.

While this linguistic immersion and fluency allows for a wide range of socio-technical integration, it does not actually demand more than multidisciplinarity. Synthesis and integration of multiple expert domains is optional, and can occur to varying degrees. A hobbyist might obtain IE in a domain of interest but not integrate it with their primary expertise at all. A sociologist could use IE to study a group of scientists, opening room for some cross-disciplinarity and reflective integration. By contrast, collaborators could obtain a high degree of IE in each other’s disciplines, resulting in the emergence of a truly transdisciplinary project.

Accordingly, the ends of IE are highly variable. As argued by Kennedy (forthcoming) and Kennedy & Plaisance (SEESHOP 2012), interactional experts can have vastly different motivations for acquiring IE. Much as IE isn’t necessarily transdisciplinary, IE does not imply anything about the two (or more) disciplines – a expert in a social science could become an IE in another social science, without exemplifying socio-technical integration. In the end, IE is a powerful tool for facilitating socio-technical integration, but doesn’t necessarily always represent STI.


Mike Gorman
05/19/2013 1:52pm

I am gaining interactional expertise in the community of Sensory Integration (SI) researchers and therapists. This community was unified under the master practitioner who created SI until about 1990 when she died. As of 2013, the community is fragmented, with some trying to keep alive the psychological test created and revised by the founder (and a large group of colleagues) and others advocating new tests, some of which embody different theories. I am immersing myself in the community and also reading all the work of the founder, plus a good deal of the literature up to the present. My background in psychological methods is helpful, though I do not know much about testing. The publisher of the tests has scheduled a meeting in November to decide what new test to develop; I will be there.
Interestingly, the community treats me more like an embedded STIR practitioner than a researcher--I am engaging in the various debates, learning more about SI and the controversy by making suggestions.


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