Harry Collins

Harry Collins
Cardiff University | CU

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218
Publications
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15,215
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Publications

Publications (218)
Article
Not many people seem to understand what it is to mimic human intelligence successfully irrespective – that is, irrespective of internal states such as intentions. Successful mimicking will involve embedding in human societies. AI practitioners have concerned themselves with reproducing something that can mimic an individual human brain, failing to...
Article
Full-text available
Here I try to improve on the available answers to certain long-debated questions and set out some consequences for the answers. Are there limits to the extent to which we can understand the conceptual worlds of other human communities and of non-human creatures? How does this question relate to our ability to engage in other cultures’ practices and...
Article
Harry Collins, Bill Barnes and Riccardo Sapienza warn against a wholesale shift to virtual workshops and conferences following the COVID-19 pandemic
Chapter
The rise of populism in the West has led to attacks on scientific expertise. We explain populism through its contrast with pluralist democracy and explain why populists attack scientific expertise. Populism treats the losers at the ballot box and anyone who stands in the way of the government, including scientific experts, as traitors. In contrast,...
Chapter
Since the early 1970s, in social studies of science and technology (STS), the ‘logic of scientific discovery’ has been displaced by detailed examinations of science in practice; this has eroded the cultural position of scientific expertise. Furthermore, the ‘crown jewels’ of science, Newtonian physics and the like, are no longer accepted as justify...
Chapter
According to Studies of Expertise and Experience (SEE), expertise is socialisation into an expert domain. Society consists of many expert domains of different extent, some small and esoteric, some, like language, large and ubiquitous. Expert domains overlap and are embedded within each other like a fractal. Citizens possess ‘ubiquitous meta-experti...
Chapter
Societies are distinguished by what their citizens take for granted. In ‘Western societies’ most citizens agree, among other things, about the need for regular elections with near-universal franchises, how to treat strangers, the poor and the sick. These understandings are sedimented in the course of socialisation and constitute the organic face of...
Chapter
There are many forms of democracy. Importantly, is there continual accounting to the public via referendums—‘direct democracy’—or do the people choose representatives who govern relatively independently between elections? It is natural in representative democracy for experts to be consulted by the elected government, whereas if directness is the id...
Chapter
Populism contrasts clearly with pluralist democracy. By treating the result of elections as representing ‘the will of the people’, populism misrepresents the enumerative face of society as the organic face and defines all opposition to the elected government as traitorous. Minorities, and the institutions and experts upon which the checks and balan...
Book
“Collins, Evans, Durant, and Weinel set out convincingly, in crystal clear language, why democracies need experts and expert knowledge. They make a rock solid case for the necessity of communities of experts in democratic societies and for the value of esoteric knowledge developed and nurtured within these communities. In doing so, they strike a bl...
Chapter
This chapter uses the Imitation Game to explore Scottish and English identities in the wake of the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum. The two hypotheses—(a) Scottish people would have a stronger sense of national identity than English people, and (b) it would be harder for English people to pretend to be Scottish than vice versa—were based on t...
Chapter
This chapter elaborates the model of trading zones first presented in Collins et al., “Trading Zones and Interactional Expertise” (Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 38 (4): 657–666, 2007). It argues that this expanded version of the model includes important but previously overlooked ways for separate language communities to commun...
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This paper draws an earlier book (with Evans and Higgins) entitled Bad Call: Technology’s Attack on Referees and Umpires and How to Fix It (hereafter Bad Call) and its various precursor papers. These show why it is that current match officiating aids are unable to provide the kind of accuracy that is often claimed for them and that sports aficianad...
Preprint
This paper draws an earlier book (with Evans and Higgins) entitled Bad Call: Technology’s Attack on Referees and Umpires and How to Fix It (hereafter Bad Call) and its various precursor papers. These show why it is that current match officiating aids are unable to provide the kind of accuracy that is often claimed for them and that sports aficianad...
Article
The risk of populism is ever-present in democratic societies. Here we argue that science provides one way in which this risk can be reduced. This is not because science provides a superior truth but because it (a) preserves and celebrates values that are essential for democracy and (b) contributes to the network of the checks and balances that cons...
Article
I describe an approach to the meaning of expertise that grows out of sociological approaches to the analysis of science such as ‘sociology of scientific knowledge’. This approach was introduced to counter certain political interpretations of the movement associated with that new perspective. Here, ‘Studies of Expertise and Experience’ is described...
Article
The nature and role of social groups is a central tension in sociology. On the one hand, the idea of a group enables sociologists to locate and describe individuals in terms of characteristics that are shared with others. On the other, emphasizing the fluidity of categories such as gender or ethnicity undermines their legitimacy as ways of classify...
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In this interview, Harry Collins and Marcelo Fetz discuss Collins’ early work on the importance of tacit knowledge in laboratory research, the revolutionary spirit of early Science and Technology Studies (STS) research, and his concerns about its current intellectual decline which he sees as a result of the popularity of Actor-Network Theory (ANT)...
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I describe the program of analysis of expertise known as ‘Studies of Expertise and Experience’, or ‘SEE’ and contrast it with certain philosophical approaches. SEE differs from many approaches to expertise in that it takes the degree of ‘esotericity’ of the expertise to be one of its characteristics: esotericity is not a defining characteristic of...
Article
Full-text available
We describe and then elaborate the model of trading zones first presented in Collins et al 2007, Trading Zones and Interactional Expertise. We believe this expanded version of the model includes some very important but previously overlooked ways for separate language communities to communicate. We illustrate the argument with examples.
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Here we try to characterize the fringe of science as opposed to the mainstream. We want to do this in order to provide some theory of the difference that can be used by policy-makers and other decision-makers but without violating the principles of what has been called ‘Wave Two of Science Studies’. Therefore our demarcation criteria rest on differ...
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In a recent editorial for this journal, Sergio Sismondo makes two claims. First, he states that STS bears no responsibility for the emergence of post-truth politics. Second, he claims that debates about the nature of expertise that take place within STS are irrelevant in this context. In contrast, we argue that, whether or not STS had a causal infl...
Article
In a recent article published in this journal, Atkinson and Morris explore the kinds of expertise and competence needed by ethnographic researchers. In doing so, they refer to the work of Collins and Evans and, in particular, the idea of interactional expertise, which they dismiss as largely unhelpful to their project. In this response, we show tha...
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We use an extract from an interview concerning gravitational wave physics to show that the meaning of hesitancies within speech are different when spoken and when read from the corresponding transcript. When used in speech, hesitancies can indicate a pause for thought, when read in a transcript they indicate uncertainty. In a series of experiments...
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In Part 1 of this paper, I introduce the idea of interactional expertise while in Part 2, I focus on its implications for philosophical theories of the importance of the body in forming our conceptual world. I argue that the way philosophers have dealt with the body turns attention away from the most important questions and that we cannot answer th...
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The 'Imitation Game' is a Turing Test played with a human participant instead of a computer. Here the author, a sociologist, who has been immersed in the field of gravitational wave physics since 1972, tried to pass an Imitation Game as a gravitational wave physicist. He already passed such a test in mid-2000s but this test was more elaborate and c...
Chapter
This chapter describes the experimenters' regress, a problem that scientists face when they try to replicate experiments. It shows itself where repeatability is used to settle scientific controversies. The chapter describes some of the problems that experimental or observational findings face based on statements of statistical confidence drawing an...
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In this paper we illustrate the tension between mainstream 'normal', 'unorthodox' and 'fringe' science that is the focus of two ongoing projects that are analysing the full ecology of physics knowledge. The first project concentrates on empirically understanding the notion of consensus in physics by investigating the policing of boundaries that is...
Chapter
The debate between Collins and Franklin over the demise of the credibility of Joseph Weber’s gravitational wave claims has been treated as an iconic case of conflict over rival interpretations of the history of science (see, for example, Kinzel, this volume). Collins conducted contemporaneous interviews with the scientists and argued that the exist...
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We add a small increment to understanding the notion of Primary Source Knowledge, knowledge that the non-expert and the citizen can acquire by assiduously reading the primary scientific journal literature without being embedded in the cultural life of the corresponding technical specialty. This comes from exposing four papers to the automated compu...
Article
In this response to Ribeiro and Lima’s paper on interactional expertise, we argue that, by not incorporating the insights of constructivist social science, their analysis goes backwards rather than advancing the debate. We show that much of the evidence they present does not lead to the conclusions they draw. We also critically examine the idea of...
Article
We describe the Imitation Game, a new research method that collects both qualitative and quantitative data, and which can be used as a mixed methods procedure in many disciplines. Drawing on two projects, one investigating gender, the other sexuality, we show that the quantitative and qualitative aspects of the Game combine in four different ways,...
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By distinguishing between a survey and—a newly introduced term—a “probe,” we recast the relationship between qualitative and quantitative approaches to social science. The difference turns on the uniformity of the phenomenon being examined. Uniformity is a fundamental idea underlying all scientific research but is rarely spoken about. The idea expl...
Article
In Part I of this two part paper we try to set out the 'essence' of the notion of interactional expertise by starting with its origins. In Part II we will look at the notion of contributory expertise. The exercise has been triggered by recent discussion of these concepts in this journal by Plaisance and Kennedy and by Goddiksen.
Article
In Part I of this two part paper we tried to elicit the 'essence' of the notion of interactional expertise by looking at its origins. In Part II we will look at the notion of contributory expertise. The exercise has been triggered by recent discussion of these concepts in this journal by Plaisance and Kennedy and by Goddiksen.
Article
We question the logic of Coopmans and Button's critique of our analysis of expertise on three grounds. First, their critique depends on a clear distinction between actor and analysts that we show cannot be maintained. Second, we question their reticence to allow the use of taxonomies in the analysis of expertise, suggesting that it is contradicted...
Article
Citizens, policy-makers and scientists all face the problem of assessing maverick scientific claims. Via a case study, I show the different resources available to experts and non-experts when they make these judgements and reflect upon what this means for technological decision-making in the public domain.
Article
Crazily, Christopher Norris seems to think sociology is at war with philosophy; it is not. I respond to his hostile comments on the sociology of scientific knowledge, which was inspired by Wittgenstein, by explaining the need for symmetry in the explanation of scientific knowledge, methodological relativism, elective modernism and a number of other...
Article
My book, Tacit and Explicit Knowledge, is introduced. The introduction is also helpful in explaining the book to me, the author.
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Reber and Collins are each major researchers in psychology and sociology respectively. Both focus on the analysis and investigation of tacit knowledge. Yet neither had read or cited the other's work. Here we explore how this similarity of interest can coexist in the midst of ignorance. Over many months we explored the differences in our world views...
Article
This article describes a new research method called the Imitation Game. The method is based on the idea of interactional expertise', which distinguishes discursive performance from practical expertise and can be used to investigate the relationship between groups that diverge culturally or experientially. We explain the theory that underpins the me...
Article
Technologies of visualisation and measurement are changing the relationship between spectators and match officials at sporting events. Umpires and referees find themselves under increasing scrutiny and sports governing bodies are experimenting with new technologies and additional "off-field" officials in order to preserve the legitimacy of decision...
Article
I reply to my critics in respect of my work on expertise. I define the 'core' of the multidisciplinary 'expertise studies'. I argue that those who have taken the work seriously could resolve their problems by paying more attention to the core. Each could have made good use of an aspect of the core.
Article
Recently, technology has impacted upon sports umpiring and refereeing. One effect is that the means to make sound judgments has becoe ‘distributed’ to new groups of people such as TV viewers and commentators. The result is that justice on the sports field is often seen not to be done and the readiness to question umpires' decisions that once pertai...
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Chapter
The relationship between language and practice has been badly and profoundly misunderstood. There is an intimate relationship at the collective level and the content of language is formed by the practices of a community. It is not the case, however, that an individual has to engage in all the practices of a community in order to acquire the languag...
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Any attempt to simulate science has first to say what science is. This involves asking three questions: 1) The Scope Question: What bit of science is the target? It is immensely confusing (as the history of these debates shows), if one simulates some little aspect of science, as in the case of BACON, and then claims that one has built a machine tha...
Article
To become an expert in a technical domain means acquiring the tacit knowledge pertaining to the relevant domain of expertise, at least, according to the programme known as “Studies of Expertise and Experience” (SEE). We know only one way to acquire tacit knowledge and that is through some form of sustained social contact with the group that has it....
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Psychologists and philosophers tend to treat expertise as a property of special individuals. These are individuals who have devoted much more time than the general population to the acquisition of their specific expertises. They are often said to pass through stages as they move toward becoming experts, for example, passing from an early stage, in...
Article
What are the relative contributions of language and physical practice to practical understanding? The resolution of a series of puzzles depends upon the answer. I argue that language is, and must be, more central than physical practice in individual acquisition of practical understanding. Only this makes it possible for there to be a sociology of s...
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This essay critically examines whether there are ethical dimensions to the way that expertise, knowledge claims, and expressions of skepticism intersect on technical matters that influence public policy, especially during times of crisis. It compares two different perspectives on the matter: a philosophical outlook rooted in discourse and virtue et...
Article
A history of unsupported claims, untameable statistics, extreme caution and yearnings for perfection. Welcome to real life inside one of science's longest running projects
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This chapter discusses recent empirical studies of interactional expertise. Interactional expertise involves “walking the talk” of an expert community, which means using the language of the community in ways that are indistinguishable from the language usage of an expert practitioner. A kind of Turing test is conducted for interactional expertise,...
Article
I argue that it is serious mistake to treat instruments as having parity with humans in the making of scientific knowledge. I try to show why the parity view is misplaced by beginning with the “Extended Mind” thesis which can be seen as an individualistic version of Actor/ant Network Theory, and then move on to instruments. The idea of parity canno...
Article
We outline the political implications of the program known as the ‘Third Wave of Science Studies’. Here we develop the politics of the Third Wave showing how it bears on technological decision-making in the public domain. The main concern is to combat ‘technological populism’. The prescriptions that emerge include asking and answering as many techn...
Article
The fact that we negotiate daily life without knowing how much we know has some very important – and bizarre – consequences
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How should scientific advice be incorporated into the political decision-making process? Harry Collins explores this question in his review of The Paradox of Scientific Authority.
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Este livro é o resultado de uma longa e difícil jornada iniciada em meados dos anos 1990. As obras acadêmicas têm fama de serem teorias afastaqdas do cotidiano. Contrariando essa opoinião, este livro faz eco a fatos e situaçòes que a cada vez mais compõem o nosso dia a dia.
Article
Much of what humans know we cannot say. And much of what we do we cannot describe. For example, how do we know how to ride a bike when we can’t explain how we do it? Abilities like this were called “tacit knowledge” by physical chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi, but here Harry Collins analyzes the term, and the behavior, in much greater...
Chapter
Wer auf das 20. Jahrhundert zurückschaut, der sieht sich konfrontiert mit einer erstaunlichen Regelmäßigkeit von Unfällen und Katastrophen. Mal mehr, mal weniger häufig, mal lokal begrenzt und dann von globaler Prominenz: Unfälle gelten einerseits als das Paradigma des Unvorhersehbaren und Zerstörerischen. Andererseits lernen Kulturen offensichtlic...
Article
This paper is intended as a contribution to the sociology of skill. Research which suggests that skills and their transmission are the properties of communities leaves unanswered the question of how information may be explicitly transmitted and acquired as part of the process of leaning a skill. Second-order studies of skill accept that skill acqui...
Article
I cannot imagine a better introduction to the mainstream philosophical debate about artificial intelligence than that provided by Hubert Dreyfus in this volume. 1Dreyfus, H., 2008, 'Why Heidegerrian AI failed and why fixing it would make it more Heideggerian.' pp. 000-000 in After Cognitivism, (ed.), Karl Leidlmair, Dordrecht: Springer. Dreyfus, as...
Chapter
References and Further Reading
Article
Scientists have been too dogmatic about scientific truth and sociologists have fostered too much scepticism - social scientists must now elect to put science back at the core of society, says Harry Collins.
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The key question in this three way debate is the role of the collectivity and of agency. Collins and Shrager debate whether cognitive psychology has, like the sociology of knowledge, always taken the mind to extend beyond the individual. They agree that irrespective of the history, socialization is key to understanding the mind and that this is com...
Article
My claim is clear and unambiguous: no machine will pass a well-designed Turing Test unless we find some means of embedding it in lived social life. We have no idea how to do this but my argument, and all our evidence, suggests that it will not be a necessary condition that the machine have more than a minimal body. Exactly how minimal is still bein...
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Public understanding of science, though it approaches the specialist knowledge of experts only in rare circumstances, can be enhanced more broadly in respect of the processes of science and technology. The public understanding of mea-surement errors and confidence intervals could be enhanced if "sports decision aids," such as the Hawk-Eye system, w...
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Yves Gingras says of my book Gravity’s shadow that it is too long, the style is poor, and in its 870 pages there is nothing new that is not to be regretted. Gingras’s purity of vision would be a cause for congratulation were it not for the appalling implications of one of his claims. For the sake of the future of social science—indeed for the sake...
Article
Physicists are often quick to discount social research based on qualitative techniques such as ethnography and "deep case studies" – where a researcher draws conclusions about a community based on immersion in the field – thinking that only quantitative research backed up by statistical analysis is sound. The balance is not so clear, however.
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The phrase ‘trading zone’ is often used to denote any kind of interdisciplinary partnership in which two or more perspectives are combined and a new, shared language develops. In this paper we distinguish between different types of trading zone by asking whether the collaboration is co-operative or coerced and whether the end-state is a heterogeneo...
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In this four part exchange, Evan Selinger starts by stating that Collins’s empirical evidence in respect of linguistic socialization and its bearing on artificial intelligence and expertise is valuable; it advances philosophical and sociological understanding of the relationship between knowledge and language. Nevertheless, he argues that Collins m...
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The author claims to have developed interactional expertise in gravitational wave physics without engaging with the mathematical or quantitative aspects of the subject. Is this possible? In other words, is it possible to understand the physical world at a high enough level to argue and make judgments about it without the corresponding mathematics?...
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On the face of it, the directors of new large scientific projects have an impossible task. They have to make technical decisions about sciences in which they have never made a research contribution—sciences in which they have no contributory expertise. Furthermore, these decisions must be accepted and respected by the scientists who are making rese...
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Could you persuade someone that you are able see colours when you can't? Or could you talk convincingly about the LIGO gravitional wave observatory if you were not working on the project? Harry Collins explains how you might succeed
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We analyse Nonaka and Takeuchi's (1995) claim that a master baker's tacit knowledge was made explicit and incorporated into a home bread-making machine and its manual - the `knowledge capture' thesis. In order to test the claim, bread was made without and with a breadmaker and we carried out an analysis of the bread-making actions before and after...
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A creature of Jewish mythology, a golem is an animated being made by man from clay and water who knows neither his own strength nor the extent of his ignorance. Like science and technology, the subjects of Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch's previous volumes, medicine is also a golem, and this Dr. Golem should not be blamed for its mistakes—they are...
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When I was preparing this talk I stumbled across another computer file entitled ‘Leeds.’ Curious, I opened it (converting it from Wordstar!) and found an account of the journey I made about 18years ago, the last time I came to a conference in Leeds. By the end of the talk I hope to find the moral.

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