Catelijne Coopmans and Graham Button conferred Distinguished Paper Award 2016 by the American Sociological Association

July 10, 2016

We congratulate Catelijne Coopmans and Graham Button on being accorded the Distinguished Paper Award 2016 from the American Sociological Association, Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis section, for their paper: Coopmans, Catelijne & Button, Graham (2014) “Eyeballing Expertise”, Social Studies of Science, 44(5): 758-785.

Catelijne and Graham began the work on this paper in 2012, during Graham’s semester-long stay at Tembusu College as a Visiting Senior Fellow.  
The Award Committee’s citation reads:
This paper offers an ethnomethodological study of the job of classifying eyes, in view of detecting ‘diabetic retinopathy’, at the Singapore Advanced Imaging Laboratory for Ocular Research. The study does not only develop a highly perceptive analysis of diagnostic work at this medical facility, but it does also offer an exemplary demonstration of ‘ethnomethodological respecification’ in and for the field of science and technology studies (STS). It does so by offering an empirical reappraisal of H. Collins’ recent ‘theory of expertise’. Instead of classifying different kinds of possible expertise urbi et orbi (as Collins, in collaboration with R. Evans, does), the paper homes in on how a distinctive set of procedural skills (or ‘technical expertise’) is actually drawn upon in situ. This empirical reappraisal of Collins’ theory – to our knowledge, the first of its kind – is of analytic import for the social study of ‘tacit knowledge’ in EM, STS and beyond. It notably demonstrates the heuristic interest of the shift from a broad theory of ‘ubiquitous expertises’ (sic) and their classification (‘what is expertise?’, ‘who can possess it?’, ‘how should it be classified?’, etc.) to a subtle description of enacted expertise as an ethnomethodological phenomenon, including classification as a constitutive part of a distinctively technical, yet plainly observable practice (‘expert eye grading, in action and interaction’). Thereby, the paper dissolves some of the ‘puzzles’ of Collins’ (and Evans’) ‘normative theory of expertise’, puzzles that appear as technical artifacts of their ‘philosophically oriented social science’ (Collins, Evans 2007:7). In marrying descriptive analysis and conceptual critique, Coopmans’ and Button’s respecification offers an insightful articulation of different strands of ethnomethodological inquiry, which may thus also have paradigmatic implications for related fields, including not only STS but also systems and interface design, if not the social sciences at large.

The Tembusu (Fagraea fragrans) is a large evergreen tree in the family Gentianaceae. It is native to Southeast Asia. Its trunk is dark brown, with deeply fissured bark, looking somewhat like a bittergourd. It grows in an irregular shape from 10 to 25m high. Its leaves are light green and oval in shape. Its yellowish flowers have a distinct fragrance and the fruits of the tree are bitter tasting red berries, which are eaten by birds and fruit bats.