Technical, Arcane, Interpersonal, and Embodied Expertise

Joshua Ben Barbour, Paul A Sommer, Rebecca Gill

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Expertise matters at work in part because it has implications for functional outcomes (e.g., having the knowledge needed to get the work done), but also because it has implications for the meaning and legitimacy of work. Expertise confers power. Building on previous work that has compartmentalized expertise differences according to discrete knowledge areas or knowledge typologies, we enumerate a taxonomy of expertise forms: technical, arcane, relational, and embodied. This taxonomy illuminates how the practice of expertise involves knowledge about the technical properties of work; the policies, standards, and laws that govern it; the people involved; and a material sense of the spaces in which work takes place. We argue that experts must negotiate the multiplicity of their expertise in their interaction with different audiences and that these forms of expertise involve differing standards of legitimate performance, differing encumbrance on the work of others, and differing sources of authority.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationExpertise, Communication, and Organizing
EditorsJeffrey W. Treem, Paul M. Leonardi
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191802317
ISBN (Print)9780198739227
StatePublished - Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Expertise
  • authority
  • work
  • legitimacy
  • knowledge
  • experts
  • power


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