Principles and patterns of interplay between local and expert knowledge: A mixed-method socio-semantic network analysis

Kseniia Puzyreva, Artem Antonyuk, Darkhan Medeuov, Nikita Basov


Owing to the increased probability of flood hazards, there has been recent change in the approaches to flood management that stresses the need for a dialogue between professionals and lay people who reside in flood-prone areas. This dialogue is considered a prerequisite for enabling an interplay between local and expert knowledge, which is to ensure flood risk management-related decisions correspond to peculiarities and needs of local communities. However, literature analysis shows that professional knowledge - the system of meanings developed by experts - has a greater legitimacy in the field of flood risk management in comparison with the meanings created by local communities. Owing to their legitimacy and authority, the meanings developed by experts are imposed on local communities as normative prescriptions. Local communities are forced to meet institutional expectations and, thus, are subjected to symbolic dominance. At the same time, expert knowledge is not merely handed down as a rigid mandate. The influence of expert knowledge on local knowledge does not presuppose locals taking expert knowledge at face value, but appropriate and reproduce it fitting experts’ knowledge to the local contexts. The existing research provides almost no explanation of what exactly happens with local knowledge under the influence of expert knowledge and how does appropriation and transformation of expert knowledge in local knowledge take place. This study introduces a mixed-method socio-semantic network analysis of the impact of expert knowledge on local knowledge in the context of local social relationships. To do so, we jointly examine semantic networks produced by experts, semantic networks of local flood management communities, and social ties between the members of the latter. Based on a set of theoretically-informed principles of local knowledge creation under the influence of expert knowledge in the context of local social interactions, we introduce corresponding socio-semantic patterns - elementary dyadic or triadic configurations that connect signs and actors. We propose a technique and a customizable tool that allows us to computationally extract instances of patterns from empirically mapped socio-semantic networks and to locate the contexts of their use in the original textual data. The derived instances of patterns are then analyzed in three steps. First, we examine visual representations of the patterns. Second, we qualitatively analyze each instance of an element of a pattern within the computationally derived contexts - to conclude on the meaning of a sign and/or association between signs that compose the pattern. Finally, we identify if the derived pattern is representative of the corresponding principle by aiding the analysis of contexts with an analysis of ethnographic data. We illustrate our approach with an analysis of local communities engaged in flood risk management drawing on a pilot dataset obtained in England in 2019.

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