Managing Distance in Commissioned Knowledge Production
Johan Nilsson (Stockholm University)
Paper short abstract:
Movement of knowledge has been studied focusing on the social outcomes of such distribution. Drawing on ethnographic study of market researchers and 'commissioned knowledge production', this paper inquires into how to understand the role of mutually shaping knowledge and relationships in tandem.
Paper long abstract:
Anthropologists write and seek to spread material across both epistemic and geographical distances. Mobility of knowledge over networks and relationships has been studied under the assumption that the phenomenon (or its absence) is socially transformative: distribution of knowledge or secrets produces social categories by means of asymmetrical understanding and access. However, translation between disciplines and settings is not merely the transfer or dissemination of material. The knowledge itself is also shaped by the social relationships through which it is made and spread. This paper discusses how to understand the moving and making of knowledge through attention to local knowledge. Drawing on the anthropology of knowledge and secrecy, as well as the study of public understanding of science, it explores how knowledge interacts with epistemic distances in the making, staying and moving of descriptions, texts and reports. As such it inquires into the shaping knowledge and relationships in tandem. By discussing settings of 'commissioned knowledge production' (e.g. analysis, consultancy and marketing research), including ethnographic material about a Swedish market research firm, I will discuss the particularities of knowledge production as the mutual shaping of relationships and knowledge in managing epistemic distance. Comparisons between the interplay of local knowledges of commissioned knowledge production, public understanding of science and technology and the challenges of knowledge in anthropology are all drawn on to inform problems of how to make knowledge while maintaining connections.
Making knowledge mobile: knowledge production and transfer in/to/across/between anthropology's actors, locations, and performances