Accepted Paper:

Performing Expertise: The Epistemic Work of a Bottom-up Organised Privacy Advocacy Group  


Marlene Altenhofer (Institute for Advanced Studies Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at the role of forms of expertise and their hybrids for the engagement of a bottom-up organised privacy advocacy group. It will show that institutionalised expertise alone is not sufficient for successful epistemic work of such collectives, but it requires the use of manifold resources.

Paper long abstract:

In social science literature, specific forms of expertise are considered as important for the success of activist groups in general, and privacy advocacy groups in particular. This paper will look at the role of knowledge and other intellectual resources for the work of an Austrian-based data protection and privacy advocacy collective. From a theoretical and analytical perspective, it does so by using ethno-epistemic assemblages (Irwin & Michael, 2003) as a heuristic device as well as Hilgartner's (2000) concept of front stage and backstage performance of science/expertise. Drawing upon data from semi-structured interviews with members of the analysed group as well as from ethnographic fieldwork, the findings of this study suggest that institutionalised forms of expertise alone are not sufficient for successful epistemic work in privacy advocacy, or even for an epistemic authority of such a collective. By contrast, the studied group uses a broad range of different resources for their engagement, among them tacit skills, experiences, (personal) values, or opinions. These resources, however, are not detached and applied individually, but they are strongly interrelated. This paper will further show that these resources and their hybrids are constantly contested, formed and re-formed; even more so, it will be discussed how these epistemic hybrids take different forms depending on whether the engagement happens within the group or towards a broader public.

Panel T073
Epistemic Regimes - Reconfiguring epistemic quality and the reconstitution of epistemic authority