Trading Zones and Interactional Expertise

Trading Zones and Interactional Expertise: Creating New Kinds of Collaboration

edited by Michael E. Gorman
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 312
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Trading Zones and Interactional Expertise
    Book Description:

    Cross-disciplinary collaboration increasingly characterizes today's science and engineering research. The problems and opportunities facing society do not come neatly sorted by discipline. Difficulties arise when researchers from disciplines as different as engineering and the humanities work together and find that they speak largely different languages. This book explores a new framework for fostering collaborations among existing disciplines and expertise communities. The framework unites two ideas to emerge from recent work in STS: trading zones, in which scientific subcultures, each with its own language, develop the equivalents of pidgin and creole; and interactional expertise, in which experts learn to use the language of another research community in ways that are indistinguishable from expert practitioners of that community. A trading zone can gradually become a new area of expertise, facilitated by interactional expertise and involving negotiations over boundary objects (objects represented in different ways by different participants). The volume describes applications of the framework to service science, business strategy, environmental management, education, and practical ethics. One detailed case study focuses on attempts to create trading zones that would help prevent marine bycatch; another investigates trading zones formed to market the female condom to women in Africa; another describes how humanists embedded in a nanotechnology laboratory gained interactional expertise, resulting in improved research results for both humanists and nanoscientists.Contributors: Brad Allenby, Donna T. Chen, Harry Collins, Robert Evans, Erik Fisher, Peter Galison, Michael E. Gorman, Lynn Isabella, Lekelia D. Jenkins, Mary Ann Leeper, Roop L. Mahajan, Matthew M. Mehalik, Ann E. Mills, Bolko von Oetinger, Elizabeth Powell, Mary V. Rorty, Jeff Shrager, Jim Spohrer, Patricia H. Werhane The hardcover edition does not include a dust jacket.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-28943-6
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. 1 Introduction: Trading Zones, Interactional Expertise, and Collaboration
    (pp. 1-4)
    Michael E. Gorman

    The problems and opportunities facing our civilization do not come neatly sorted by disciplines. This book outlines a framework for fostering collaborations among existing expertise communities that have radically different views and practices—what Kuhn called different paradigms, or exemplars (Kuhn 1962). However, the 2006–2011 NSF Strategic Plan ( emphasizes the importance of collaborating across paradigmatic barriers:

    Discovery increasingly requires the expertise of individuals with different perspectives—from different disciplines and often from different nations—working together to accommodate the extraordinary complexity of today’s science and engineering challenges. The convergence of disciplines and the cross-fertilization that characterizes contemporary science...

  4. I Theory
    • [I Introduction]
      (pp. 5-6)

      The first chapter that follows is a reprint of an article by Harry Collins, Robert Evans, and Michael E. Gorman that was written after a 2006 workshop on Trading Zones, Interactional Expertise, and Interdisciplinary Collaboration. It presents a synthesis of ideas about trading zones and interactional expertise that emerged, in part, from their thinking during the workshop and collaboration afterward. This chapter serves as an introduction to the core concepts of this book and uses them to create a taxonomy that shows how a trading zone between expertise communities can gradually morph into a new area of expertise—such as...

    • 2 Trading Zones and Interactional Expertise
      (pp. 7-24)
      Harry Collins, Robert Evans and Michael E. Gorman

      Peter Galison introduced the term “trading zone” to the social studies of science.¹ His purpose was to resolve the problem of incommensurability between Kuhnian paradigms: How do scientists communicate if paradigms are incommensurable?² Galison’s approach has two legs. The first leg denies that scientific paradigms are as monolithic as Kuhn says. The second leg uses the metaphor of the trading zone to explain how communication is managed where there is a degree of incommensurability. Here we concentrate on the second leg.

      We concentrate on the second leg because the first leg diverts attention from the interesting philosophical/sociological questions; if paradigms...

    • 3 Trading with the Enemy
      (pp. 25-52)
      Peter Galison

      One way to think through what a concept like the trading zone does is to press objections against it, for only then do sharpened boundaries pull foreground from background. Analyzing such confrontations tracks my ideas about these scientific subcultures and exchange languages. But because it is sometimes useful to start with the history of a concept, I want to begin there—and then follow the history into more analytical territory.

      What grabbed me most in Marx’s work—and the history of work more generally—was certainly not the labor theory of value and the interminable battles over its limits. Instead,...

    • 4 Interactional Expertise and the Imitation Game
      (pp. 53-70)
      Robert Evans and Harry Collins

      Interactional expertise provides one solution to the problem of coordination created by the existence of different cultures. Though it is not the only resolution, it has particular relevance for social scientists as it justifies their own status as experts. Put another way, if there was no such thing as interactional expertise, interpretive sociology would be impossible unless social scientists more or less completely shared the physical experiences of those they research. But, to give one counterexample, a criminologist can succeed without first committing crimes. Indeed, if shared practice were always a prerequisite for understanding, then not only would social science...

  5. II Applying Trading Zones and Interactional Expertise to Domains of Practice
    • [II Introduction]
      (pp. 71-74)

      Applying the framework of trading zones and interactional expertise to application areas hones and refines the framework while also determining its practical value. Chapters in this part of the volume include applications to service science, business, the environment, and education.

      Michael E. Gorman and Jim Spohrer’s chapter on service science looks at one possible new field that might emerge out of an astonishingly wide range of existing disciplines, focused on the future of services. The motivating problem is how the producers of services and their clients can create together new sociotechnical solutions that solve existing problems or create new opportunities....

    • 5 Service Science: A New Expertise for Managing Sociotechnical Systems
      (pp. 75-106)
      Michael E. Gorman and Jim Spohrer

      There are three main characteristics of services (Davis and Berdrow 2008):

      1. Services are actions rather than goods;

      2. Customers are involved in the production of value;

      3. When the customer relationship ends, so does the value, unless lessons are captured from the experience for the next service exchange.

      Service systems, including government, health care, education, retail, and professional consulting, are the fastest growing sector of the global economy—especially information and business services (Spohrer et al. 2007). The service component of the major industrialized economies is greater than 50 percent and growing, and developing nations are close behind (Paulson...

    • 6 From Wizards to Trading Zones: Crossing the Chasm of Computers in Scientific Collaboration
      (pp. 107-124)
      Jeff Shrager

      Scientists are the prophets of the modern age. Whereas in the past prophets represented God to the masses, today scientists represent reality. As consumers, we are all quite used to computers as our interface to reality—your phone conversations are transmitted by computers, your bank account is virtual money, and nearly everything that you see or hear in the media is refracted through computers. The same is true, and even more so, in science: scientists don’t fly around in space sketching pictures of the earth’s weather, nor do they peer into atoms with microscopes. These are the jobs of instruments...

    • 7 Authenticity, Earth Systems Engineering and Management, and the Limits of Trading Zones in the Era of the Anthropogenic Earth
      (pp. 125-156)
      Brad Allenby

      Humans now live in a world that is fundamentally different from anything known from earlier experience. It is a world where the critical dynamics of major earth systems—whether they are predominantly atmospheric, biological, or physical, or, for that matter, cultural, economic, or technological—increasingly bear the imprint of the human. Indeed, the anthropogenic earth is characterized by large and complex integrated human/natural/built systems, with complicated biological, physical, governance, ethical, scientific, technological, cultural, and religious dimensions and uncertainties (Allenby 2005). AsNatureput it in a 2003 editorial, “Welcome to the Anthropocene”—roughly translated, welcome to the Age of Humans....

    • 8 The Evolution of a Trading Zone: A Case Study of the Turtle Excluder Device
      (pp. 157-180)
      Lekelia D. Jenkins

      Sea turtles are among the best-known marine endangered species, and shrimping is the most profitable U.S. fishery. Thus, the incidental death of sea turtles in shrimp trawls (a problem generally known as bycatch) resembled the clash of two juggernauts, and became one of most controversial problems ever confronted by U.S. fisheries management. The stakeholders were numerous and diverse, from politicians to school-children, fishers to environmentalists, and scientists to fisheries managers. Each group had differing opinions of how best to resolve the problem, and cooperation between groups would be critical to a successful solution, which came in the form of a...

    • 9 A Network States Approach for Mapping System Changes
      (pp. 181-208)
      Matthew M. Mehalik

      In this chapter, I describe the use of a three-states network framework, derived from actor network theory, distributive cognitive systems, trading zones, and shared mental models, to describe how a group of University of Pittsburgh researcher-interventionists attempted to promote district alignment on several policy goals and measurement initiatives in a large, urban school system in the United States. These researcher-interventionists engaged various district personnel in a process of policy, measurement, and network innovation.

      I begin by describing the origins of the states framework in actor network theory, shared mental models, distributed cognitive systems, trading zones, and boundary objects. I then...

    • 10 Embedding the Humanities in Engineering: Art, Dialogue, and a Laboratory
      (pp. 209-230)
      Erik Fisher and Roop L. Mahajan

      In this chapter, we discuss the development and pursuit of two interdisciplinary trading zones in which the authors participated: (1) an initial year in which we developed the notion of “humanistic engineering” in the University of Colorado at Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, and (2) a thirty-three-month period in which Fisher functioned as an “embedded humanist” in Mahajan’s Thermal and Nanotechnology Laboratory. In both cases, we sought to integrate the divergent perspectives of engineering and the humanities in order to enhance the ability of engineers—in undergraduate, graduate, and ultimately professional contexts—to engage in productive, self-critical inquiry....

    • 11 Can Trading Zones and Interactional Expertise Benefit Business Strategy?
      (pp. 231-242)
      Bolko von Oetinger

      The constancy of change is a hallmark of business. Management spends most of its time initiating numerous minor changes and a few dramatic ones, and hopefully these changes are implemented. The emphasis here is on the word “hopefully,” since the track record of success in regard to substantial changes is somewhat mixed.

      The academic trading zone is a communication/collaboration framework intended to overcome well-defined boundaries across different science disciplines. The approach comprises processes (e.g., common language, collaborative activities, tacit knowledge, mediating, values, and identities) and structures (various settings for interdisciplinary organization). The notion of a trading zone is used throughout...

  6. III Ethics and Trading Zones
    • [III Introduction]
      (pp. 243-244)

      In this part, three chapters are devoted to the topic of ethics, values, and trading zones.

      Michael E. Gorman and Patricia H. Werhane demonstrate how trading zones and interactional expertise can be used to avoid normalized deviance in organizations. Normalized deviance occurs when evidence that suggests a problem within an organization is reclassified as normal—and then future instances maintain that classification, instead of serving as warning signs. Gorman and Werhane discuss two cases: the explosion of the space shuttleColumbiaand the collapse of WorldCom. In the former case, a tiger team should have been assembled to decide what...

    • 12 Using Trading Zones to Prevent Normalized Deviance in Organizations
      (pp. 245-264)
      Michael E. Gorman and Patricia H. Werhane

      Peter Galison has developed the notion of a “trading zone” to describe how people from vastly different theoretical, practical, or cultural perspectives can interact meaningfully about subjects which they understand from seemingly incommensurable points of view (Galison 1997). A trading zone is a locus of communication, involving the development first of a jointly understood jargon, then a pidgin, and finally a creole among individuals or groups of individuals whose background or theoretical points of view are vastly different and sometimes conflicting, such that no individual could hold all represented points of view simultaneously without contradiction. Galison defines a jargon as...

    • 13 Viewing Trading Zones Developed to Advance Health as Complex Adaptive Systems
      (pp. 265-280)
      Ann E. Mills, Mary V. Rorty, Lynn Isabella and Donna T. Chen

      The concept of a trading zone is particularly important today in the health-related research world, where the seeming scarcity of publicly funded health research dollars has resulted in calls for concrete deliverables: useful products and information that is relevant to actual clinical or policy decision-making needs (Sung et al. 2003; Tunis, Stryer, and Clancy 2003; Woolf 2008; Zerhouni 2005). The trading zone concept highlights the importance of people coming together and working synergistically toward a shared goal.

      What happens when people work for a shared purpose can also be conceptualized as a “complex adaptive system.” The idea of complex adaptive...

    • 14 Creating Trading Zones across Continents and Economies: The Female Health Company
      (pp. 281-288)
      Mary Ann Leeper, Elizabeth Powell and Patricia H. Werhane

      Chapter 12 in this volume, by Michael E. Gorman and Patricia H. Werhane, borrowing from Peter Galison (1997), defines a trading zone as a locus of communication, often involving the development of a jointly understood “pidgin” or “creole” between individuals or groups of individuals whose background or theoretical points of view were vastly different and sometimes incommensurable. In this chapter we shall see how trading zones are useful in commerce to produce some extraordinary results that would otherwise not be possible.

      To understand the evolution of the Female Health Company’s work in developing trading zone strategies to enable the core...

    • 15 Conclusion: Future Research on Trading Zones and Interactional Expertise
      (pp. 289-296)
      Michael E. Gorman

      This volume is not an end but a beginning. The 2006 workshop on Trading Zones, Interactional Expertise and Interdisciplinary Collaboration was followed by two workshops on Studies of Experience and Expertise (SEE), held by Harry Collins and Rob Evans at Cardiff. These workshops encouraged the development of a community of scholars who would continue work in SEE.

      In addition, the psychology of science, long considered a minor area in science and technology studies (STS) and in psychology, is now achieving status as an interdisciplinary field, with its own society and journal, theJournal of Psychology of Science and Technology. The...

  7. Index
    (pp. 297-302)