Friday, March 25, 2011

experts wanted

from malcom gladwell's blink (and i'm paraphrasing here):
The gift of their expertise is that it allows them to have a much better understanding of what foes on behind the locked door of their unconscious...The first impressions of experts are different. By that I don't mean that experts like different things than the rest of us -- although that is undeniable. When we become an expert in something, our tastes grow more esoteric and complex. What I mean is that it is only experts who are able to reliably account for their reactions.
i know, i know - the word expert is loaded, even suspect. in fact, during university, the whole concept of being an expert (and related ideas such as mastery) were very much "interrogated" as being x-centric (and by x i mean choose your term: western, male, hetero, etc.) and an imposition negotiated by various avenues of power blah blah blah. today, there's a real sense (propogated by sites such as wikipedia, for instance, and the blogosphere - and yes, i appreciate the irony here) that "everyone's an expert" i.e. everyone's opinion about something holds equal weight. even though it doesn't. so we're uncomfortable with the idea. it may even offend us.

regardless, its roots are old - the 14c in fact, from old french - and that springs from the latin: expertus, (from experiri) "to try, test". the sense of "person wise through experience" existed as early as the 15c. expertise (16c french) in turn denotes "expert appraisal, expert's report".

some various definitions include:
  • a person with a high degree of skill in or knowledge of a certain subject
  • having or showing knowledge and skill and aptitude
  • having or showing or requiring special skill
  • skilled through training or practice

to become an expert means that one must have some experience with something, one must be an explorer, one must have intimate knowledge (a passion?) of and for a subject or activity. there's a full-person'd engagement with something: heart, mind, soul and body.

so here are my questions: what are you an expert on or about? or do you even consider yourself an expert? why or why not? does the idea of being "an expert" make you uncomfortable? why or why not? alternatively, do you know anyone you consider an expert on or about a particular topic? why? i'm curious.