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.

Means:
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.

Ends:
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.