Just want to draw your attention to the conference “Re-Thinking the Role of the Expert” here in Copenhagen 6-7 March — dealing with different aspects of knowledge and science communication (with an emphasis on ‘expertice’).

Personally I am eager to hear what Stephen Turner has to say about the role of bloggers as public intellectuals vs. traditional experts (which is one of my favorite topics right now). But the other papers look very attractive too. Here are the abstracts:

Stephen Turner, University of South Florida: Experts, Celebrities, the Blogosphere: The New Order of Public Knowledge?

The classical picture of expertise is one in which experts speak “as” experts of a particular kind within the limitations of accepted knowledge in their group. In this paper, public intellectuals and celebrity experts are considered. It is shown how little control is exercised by professional communities in many of these cases, and why the blogosphere, which provides access to expert opinion unmediated by reporters, is a better means of control and a positive contributor to liberal democracy.

Søren Brier, Copenhagen Business School: Who decides who is the expert? How the “Science Writer” and the ”Spin Scientists” beat the traditional scientific experts in the media war on global warming

Traditionally, an expert’s standing in the international research community of the subject area should determine his trustworthiness and that – in combination with his communication skills – his usefulness for the mass-media. But it looks like the communication skills and media fame has become a more and more important factor in the selection of experts by the mass media to communicate the” actual state of the world” to the public. We focus on the science writer Michael Crichton with his best selling book State of Fear that brought him to testify before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works; and the Danish “spin scientist” Bjørn Lomborg with his book The Skeptical Environmentalist, who was invited to make a written submission to the Congress, as two examples of powerful non-researchers in the public battle of “Global Warming” who caught the politicians ears.

Anne Marie Pahuus, Aarhus University: Who’s the expert – the actor or the spectator?

Only few 20th century philosophers have defended the spectator’s role. Taking up Kant’s idea of the judging spectator, the political theorist Hannah Arendt defended the spectator’s role. She considered the spectator as being constitutive for both understanding and experience and pointed out the twofold role of the spectator, being both witness and judge. Being a witness, the spectator is also an actor, witnessing the appearance of others. Being not only a spectator, but a judging spectator, the expert withdraws from the situated action in order to reflect on the meaning of it. The idea found in Arendt’s work is that as a spectator, the expert must withdraw from the community in order to connect the worlds of action and thought through imaginative or reflective judgment. In the paper I will discuss, and bring together with the ongoing debate on the expert’s role in society, the Arendtian view that the spectator is not only presupposed by every appearance of action but also by every judging of it.

Klemens Kappel, University of Copenhagen: Liberal Democracy and Epistemic Neutrality

Controversies regarding the proper role of experts and expertise in liberal democracy in part concern what attitude to take to cases of conflicting knowledge claims, i.e. cases where two or more groups of experts (or purported experts) disagree about what is known. There are two crucial questions. First, should the liberal state aim to remain neutral in such epistemic conflicts, just as the liberal state aims to be neutral with respect to a variety of value questions over which we disagree? Second, if the liberal state is not committed to epistemic neutrality, there is a question about what justifies the liberal state taking particular stances. Why can the state prefer a scientific outlook over others, say religious outlooks (when these are in conflict)? What sort of reasons can the state appeal to when a choice between two groups of scientific experts has to be made?

John Lyne, University of Pittsburgh: Prospects for a rhetorical model of expertise

The use of expertise as a means of reaching conclusions within scientific and other technical processes differs from the more “unruly” social uses of expertise. The latter occur in such areas as democratic politics, jury trials, consumer decisions, personal health care decisions, and questions of prudence. This paper considers the possible advantages and risks of framing expertise rhetorically, in terms of discursive genres, performative competence, media uses, and the kinds of relationships that experts have with various audiences. This may help to recast the distinction between the “controlled” and “unruly” uses of expertise, and to soften the contrast between technical expertise and the discourses of democratic and social life.

Christa Lykke Christensen, University of Copenhagen: The know-how of the lifestyle expert

The expert appears in public as communicator of his or her knowledge, as an interpreter of tendencies in society and culture, as a debater – but also as a trouble-shooter knowing and telling people how to act in the right way. Knowledge and capability of the expert reaches the general public through the media. At the same time media also influence ideas of what an expert is and what may be expected from an expert. The paper will study the ideas of experts in factual tv-entertainment, such as lifestyle programmes, where the expert has a central position and it will examine the kind of knowledge and expertise demanded for in these programmes.

Anne Jerslev, University of Copenhagen: Visuality and knowledge in the American medical show “House M.D.”

The talk discusses the American hospital drama series House M.D (2004-). The central characters are a team of specialized doctors lead by the brilliant but also grumpy and sarcastic diagnostician Gregory House. Even more than other hospital dramas the series is filled with medical language and like the crime series CSI computerized images invite us on hazardous journeys into the inner body. I want to focus on three aspects of the series; first the construction of the specialist as scientist and secluded hero, genius and social cripple at one and the same time, second the series understanding of the production of knowledge and truth and, not least, the representation of knowledge as a field of visual – mediated – evidence to be interpreted, and third, the series construction of the body as a dangerous and unreliable organism operating by rules of its own beyond the agency of its owner.

Peter Harder, University of Copenhagen: Knowledge and authority in the humanities: an urgent project in social (re)construction

In the postmodern era no experts can take their authority for granted – but in the humanities, traditional authority has perhaps taken a particularly severe beating. The talk will discuss the need and the prerequisites for rebuilding a viable platform for expertise in the humanities. Like all social identities, expert roles are socially constructed, and the talk’s emphasis will be on the fact that operational social constructs are essential parts of shared reality. If experts in the humanities are to establish a key role in the public sphere, we have to give up those parts of our familiar profile that are no longer sustainable and find a way to live with problematic facts of life such as increasing market pressures, postmodern reflexivity and professionalization. Like platforms for multiethnic co-existence, platforms for intellectual expertise have to be constructed partly on other people’s premises; it is going to be hard work, but it needs to be done!

Venue: Copenhagen University, Humanities campus, Njalsgade 126, Building 23, room 23.0.49. For further info, se http://vidensformidling.mef.ku.dk/konference


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