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Negotiating expert status: who gets taken seriously

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2 Author(s)
Rifkin, W.D. ; Dept. of Manage., Wollongong Univ., NSW, Australia ; Martin, B.

A lay person may listen puzzled as a specialist in a public hearing discusses a technical point. Similarly, a challenging question from a technically knowledgeable member of the audience may be difficult to fathom. Failure to understand what a speaker discusses-despite one's interest in a topic-can cause frustration, anger and despair. It makes a listener wonder why they are there trying to engage, and why technical specialists persist in such a style of presentation. Breakdowns in communication between technical and nontechnical people are linked to the concept of "expert". This link involves the process of the "negotiation of expert status"; this refers to the social construction of the role of the "expert" by the participants in a conversation. The term "negotiation" refers to the sometimes subtle and sometimes overtly contentious nature of a debate about who deserves to be listened to as a voice of authority on a particular topic.

Published in:

Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:16 ,  Issue: 1 )