Tuesday, June 10th ~ Workshop Breakout Schedules from 13:15 to 15:30
Organizer: Martin Weinel & Rob Evans
Click speaker/talk below for abstract and bio
Queen Elizabeth Suite
Organizer: Katie Plaisance
Click speaker/talk below for abstract and bio
Organizer: Erik Fisher
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Bios & Abstracts from this session
Trust as a Community Epistemic Capacity
Authors: Ian Werkheiser, Michigan State University
Abstract: Trust is a vital community epistemic capacity. Without it, communities as wholes and the members of these communities are at significant epistemic disadvantage in solving problems, participating meaningfully in policy decisions, understanding risks, adapting and adapting to their environment, and a host of other activities important to self-organized community viability. While the importance of trust has been acknowledged in social epistemology and the philosophy of science, the emphasis has typically been on intra-community trust networks among scientists on the one hand, and on the question of how to get non-scientific communities to trust science more (either through better communication or by reforming scientific practices and institutions) on the other. What has been much less discussed is the question of how a community which will not and perhaps should not fully trust scientific communities can nevertheless benefit from critical engagement with science and scientists. In this paper, I will argue that in at least these situations, community viability requires the community epistemic capacity of trust to be manifested both in functional, legitimated trust networks internally, and in critical engagement with experts in conditions of sharply constrained trust externally. This paper will also briefly look at how the community epistemic capacity of trust can be increased in the community by its members, with (perhaps) some help from the outside.
Bio: Ian Werkheiser is a PhD student in the philosophy department at Michigan State University. His interests include environmental philosophy, social and political philosophy, philosophy of food and agriculture, and epistemology (particularly social epistemology). His dissertation will focus on the capabilities approach and food sovereignty, and will argue that community epistemic capacity is a necessary requirement of meaningful political participation, particularly in issues around food and environmental justice. He will graduate with specializations in Animal Studies and Environmental Philosophy & Ethics.
Ian's current projects include an interdisciplinary workshop on food justice -- foodjusticepeace.org; a research project on the barriers to participation in food justice movements for women in East Asia; a taxonomy of the various approaches to food justice; structured decision making processes as a means of building community epistemic capacity; and is editing a special issue on food sovereignty.
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Commissions of Inquiry and Causal Discovery
Keywords: Causal inference, Sources of bias, Commissions of inquiry, Evidence-based policy
Authors: François Claveau, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM).
Abstract: Keywords: Randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews are, according to the influential evidence-based policy movement, great strategies for causal discovery. They are presented as privileged sources of information for public policy. Yet, policy makers often rely on other strategies to inform their choices. This paper assesses the epistemic characteristics of a strategy often preferred by policy makers, but quite unlike the ones advocated by the evidence-based policy movement: public commissions of inquiry. The paper assesses both the epistemic potential of commissions of inquiry and the typical defects in actual implementations of this strategy. The assessment is done through an explicit comparison with the strategies advocated by the evidence-based policy movement, and it is illustrated by a case study of a commission on the recent reform of the unemployment-benefit system in Canada. The main thesis is twofold. On the one hand, commissions of inquiry have a great potential to pool local and distributed knowledge. On the other hand, they typically fail to even approach their epistemic potential because of defects in design and conduct. The general message is meant to be encouraging: by being more careful in designing and running commissions, their promise of being a great strategy of causal discovery might be met. The most important contribution of this paper to the literature is a typology of the likely sources of bias of a commission of inquiry. This typology draws from the few existing methodological reflections on commissions, but relies mostly on a in-depth case study of a commission – including document analysis, observation and interviews. One must first distinguish between the potential biases arising at the step of information collection and the ones at the step of information aggregation. In the first step, three likely defects must be highlighted: biased sampling, confirmation bias from commissioners having strong prior beliefs, and inappropriate probing of opinions without regard to the competence of speakers (the last defect was already emphasized by Sidney and Beatrice Webb in the early 1930s). At the step of information aggregation, two defects can be distinguished: distorted assessment of reliability of information and faulty inferential patterns. The paper discusses each source of bias and gives for each a concrete illustration drawn from an actual commission of inquiry.
Bio: I am a philosopher of science with graduate training in economics. My PhD thesis was on causal reasoning in economics (semantic and epistemic issues). My main case study is the "economics of unemployment". In my postdoctoral research, I focus on the social epistemology of economic expertise, trying to better account for the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the collective processes of belief formation on economic topics of societal importance. My current work involves conceptual analysis informed by direct observations of epistemic communities and interviews with their members.
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Participation, Expertise and the Social Amplification of Risk
Authors: Paul B. Thompson, Michigan State University
Abstract: “Social amplification of risk” is a loosely configured body of research in social psychology and science studies that investigates a number of ways in which cognitive or social factors are implicated in a person or group’s estimate of the risk associated with a given socio-technical phenomenon. Phenomena studied under the social amplification of risk paradigm include sites for industrial facilities, disposal of chemical, radioactive and pharmaceutical waste, nuclear power (both respect to specific facilities and as a general energy strategy), genetically engineered crops and wind turbines. All these phenomena are targets of political action and social protest, and their risks all are also amenable to analysis by experts in biophysical science. Thus “social amplification” can be understood as a set of socio-perceptual process that either increase or attenuate an individual or public’s estimate of risk, leading to a systematic deviation between the estimates of expert and non-expert groups.
The social amplification of risk literature suggests that social and perceptual factors can both distort expert estimates of risk, and also substantially improve expert estimates through inclusion of factors that lie beyond the normal scope of biology and physical science. That is, in some cases of amplification people are responding to illegitimate and unsubstantiated fears, while in others the non-expert groups are wiser than the experts. I will argue that social amplification thus poses a problem for democracy: On the one hand, when social amplification leads a public to judge a given risk as substantially greater than it is, democratic decision making is hampered in much the same way as when public opinion is manipulated by demagoguery or prejudice. In such cases, expert views might be thought to provide a brake on “democratic excess”. On the other hand, in other cases the inclusion of non-expert perspectives serves not only the participatory goals of democratic decision making, but also the goal of protecting vulnerable parties against physical threats.
In the long run, a response to this problem will require us to develop an ability to discern one case from the other. However, the more immediate task in this paper is to show how epistemic and methodological commitments in the social sciences have obscured the problem in question. Two key commitments will be identified. One is the somewhat familiar overstatement of constructivist implications in social science methodologies. To wit, if risks are “socially constructed” (as they most certainly are), many investigators in the social amplification of risk have taken this to imply a form of relativism that would render any assertion of risk—expert or non-expert—exempt from all forms of benedictory valuation. In contrast, a pragmatic notion of warranted assertability provides an epistemic orientation in which both social construction and an actionable epistemic status can be conferred on some judgments of risk, while being denied to others. Second, within science studies the methodological commitment to “symmetry” (that is, treating each contending theory or research program equally and not giving any priority to the one that turns out to be “true”) has often been transformed into a procedural bias that winds up favoring non-experts, undercutting the logical possibility of a demagogue. Here, the methodological commitment to something like investigative “fair play” when studying the social interactions of scientists who are advocating for their preferred explanatory strategy becomes transformed into a standpoint that cannot accommodate epistemic distinctions between “distortion” and “correction”. As valuable and appropriate as this might be in studying the history and sociology of a given scientific paradigm, I will argue that it should not be translated into a principle of political organization. Instead, some sort of fallible but socially and pragmatically justified commitment to “getting it right” must be in play for any coherent conception of democratic decision making.
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Patient-provider communication and the Imitation Game: understanding the lived experiences of patients with eating disorders
Authors: Rik Wehrens, Erasmus University
Abstract: The strong increase in chronic conditions calls for important shifts in medical care. As more people are living longer with chronic illnesses, understanding the social and psychological aspects of such illnesses becomes much more important. Medical professionals are increasingly expected to understand what the illness means for these patients, because this understanding can greatly influence the (necessarily long- term) relationships with their patients. Such understanding has tremendous potential in facilitating coping, self-care management, and a better quality of life. This ability of professionals is often limited, however. Research on the relationships between chronically ill patients and health care providers empirically showed problems in patient-provider communication.
This paper investigates the ability of medical professionals to connect to the lived experiences and experiential knowledge of chronically ill patients through the application and extension of the innovative Imitation Game method. The Imitation Game offers a way of understanding more systematically the experiential knowledge of chronically ill patients (and what this experiential knowledge consists of), and the extent to which health care professionals are able to connect to this in their interactions with patients. This paper will present the results of a pilot study on understanding the lived experiences of patients with eating disorders through the utilization and application of the innovative Imitation Game method.
Next to presenting the main results of this pilot study, the paper will discuss the benefits of extending the original Imitation Game design to include multiple forms of qualitative data (we have combined the Imitation Game with three separate focus group discussions). I will argue that the main advantages of the Imitation Game method may be these additional ‘reflective layers’ that can be built into the design, as well as the ‘interventionist potential’ of the method: its ability to combine research and intervention in one design. The paper thus reports on the promising empirical results of a novel field of application for the Imitation Game method, and presents a methodological discussion about the main advantages of this method.
Bio: I am a broadly trained, interdisciplinary qualitative researcher who has been working within and across various research fields. Keywords are: science and technology studies, sociology of scientific knowledge, interpretive policy analysis, public health, medical sociology.
My current interests are in exploring novel research methods for conducting qualitative research as well as mixed method designs. I have experience with simulation games (serious gaming) as research methods and am currently working on my own research project in which I am further developing the innovative Imitation Game method within a health care setting (see http://www.cf.ac.uk/socsi/contactsandpeople/harrycollins/expertise-project/imitationgamehome.html for more information about the method). My project focuses on the extent to which health care professionals and medical specialists are able to connect to the 'experiential knowledge' of chronically ill patients.
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Accounting Practices in the Imitation Game
Authors: Mika Simonen and Ilkka Arminen, University of Helsinki
Abstract: The imitation game played last year at the University of Helsinki had nearly 300 students participating according to their Christian/non-Christian background. We analyzed using qualitative methods how judges accounted reasons for their views in Step 1 and paid attention to the ways of how the expertise displayed in the responses was considered. In terms of epistemic asymmetry, the student playing with the role of ‘pretender’ doesn’t have access to the specific interactional expertise of Christianity that Christian judges and non- pretenders have. According to our preliminary analysis it seems that the judge may set forth questions that only a true believer can understand in the right way. While accounting about reasons, the judge may then write: “Respondent 1 answers just like I would answer”, thus recognizing the epistemic correspondence between her/his and the non-pretender thinking. However, our emphasis on epistemics seems to lead us to the cognitive illusion; i.e. that the interactional expertise is based on the rational thinking displayed in the language. Instead, our data shows that this is not the case with the interactional expertise of Christianity, since personal experiences and the emotions of salvation are highly respected signs of the non- pretender.
Bio: My research interests lie in research interviews, interactions with older people and unemployed people, and recently, question-answer sequences in IMGAME. I am currently finishing my sociological dissertation which discusses the assessment of functional capacity in interview interaction.
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Producing Sexuality: What qualitative Imitation Game data can tell us about local social identities
Authors: Jennifer Lyttleton-Smith, Cardiff University
Abstract: The Imitation Game project was conceived as a method which could produce reliable quantitative data measuring expertise, and one of the great benefits of the method is that researcher knowledge of the expertise is unnecessary to produce or interpret that data. That given, the project has also produced vast quantities of qualitative data concerning local understandings of social identities over the course of its development, and over the past seven months I have been exploring that data in order to discover the following: what can the qualitative data tell us about how and why the Imitation Game works in practice; what can it tell us about the social identities we take as our research topics; and what does it reveal about the construction of those identities as individuals and as societies? Although the qualitative analysis stage of the project is still in its relative infancy, we have already identified some interesting paths for future inquiry and in this presentation I will share some of the qualitative data from the sexuality Imitation Games and discuss the above questions in relation to it. Using this data we are able to think through what it means to be a homosexual man in socially conservative Poland, or in liberal Spain and the UK, as well as how heterosexual men understand their experiences and how this understanding relates to their own social identities.
Bio: I am a Research Associate working on the Imitation Game (IMGAME) project. My role is to explore the qualitative data produced through IMGAME to discover what it can reveal about the identities we study as well as aid the development of the method.
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