Academic dissertation for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology at Stockholm University to be publicly defended on Friday 14 June 2019 at 10.00 in William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Campus Frescati (in Swedish).

Download the thesis from DiVA (Academic Archive On-line)

Abstract

The coproduction idiom within Science and Technology Studies (STS) centers on how science and society produce knowledge together. The current thesis explores expert communication – which is immersed in the relationship between science and society – as a case for understanding such coproducing processes. Expert communication is often characterized as a democratic initiative of knowledge enlightenment. But we know less about the consequences that communication initiatives bring. For instance, while groups of publics and experts are large and heterogeneous, expert communication often involves simplified and dichotomized relationships between these groups. The aim of this thesis is to understand the practice of expert communication in terms of how expertise is communicated and received. Who gets to represent experts and publics, in what ways and in which situations, and how do they engage with expertise?

Expert communication takes place in all kinds of fields. The focus of this thesis is communication of addiction expertise. The addiction field makes a suitable case for studying co-constitutive practices of communication, as it is broad and disparate, and filled with different contradictory perspectives, actors and relations. The current study explores communication of addiction expertise through three cases that involve different types of experts and publics, as well as different dimensions of the expert/public relationships and of communication as a process of coproduction: Newspaper readers’ interpretations of media representations of biomedical addiction expertise, conference participants’ collaboration within a conference on codependency, and civil servants’ and politicians’ interaction within county council committee meetings. Drawing on STS approaches of coproduction of knowledge and classical sociological conversation analysis, the thesis explores questions of how, what, and whose knowledge is communicated and received, and what activities and actors are involved in these processes. A specific focus is put on how sociability in the form of conversational routines is productive, as sociability carries expertise and establishes relations between actors involved in coproducing processes of communication.

Publics are not only recipients of expertise but also active enablers of how expertise comes into being in the everyday society, as publics engage with expertise through filtering and intertwining expertise through and with their personal experiences. Expertise, at least regarding human and social activities such as addiction, is thus bound to everyday experiences and lives. It is also shown how certain expertise, certain experiences, and certain actors and victims of addiction related problems are included while others are excluded. For example, biomedical explanations such as the reward system and the brain disease model seem to co-exist well with peoples’ personal experiences in contrast to social scientific explanations. Moreover, certain actors manage to draw on personal experiences in multiple roles as both experts and publics. Introducing the concept of conversational coproduction, the studies also highlight the sociability and conversational routines involved in expert communication as crucial for (de)establishing relations and making expertise flow or freeze in local coproducing processes as well as for understanding consequences of expert communication and its relation to public participation and democracy.

Opponent

Professor Mikael Klintman, Department of Sociology, Lund University, Sweden

Supervisors

Docent Mikaela Sundberg, Department of Sociology, Stockholm University
Docent Johan Edman, Department of Criminology, Stockholm University