In a world where the network is what matters, where being able to tap into knowledge that is distributed and widespread is valued, what does it mean to be an expert? Just because we can figure out the answer to most of our every day questions by googling them or by asking them of our friends and followers, does that mean that having individual experience and knowledge does not matter? Is being an expert today the same as just knowing an expert in years past?
Yet, there is something about actually having the understanding yourself. There is something to being able to call up information and theories and research within your own head and create a synthesis of where to go next on the spot. I have a deep respect for all those who know their stuff and can create something new out of their experience. I believe that the power to rip away any BS from what you are looking at is in knowing the truth for yourself. And so it could be that only when expertise is tested that you can see what it truly is. That is why it is still so important to know who is an expert and who is a pretender. I still need to be able to rely on the people who do have something to offer of themselves rather than those who are simply offering up their network or remixing other’s ideas by 1 degree. I believe that in a world of wikipedia, true expertise is in short supply.
So, how can we put expertise to the test? Walking up to a PhD and asking them about their work isn’t exactly going to yield the results I am looking for. I also can’t just say that I know expertise when I see it. There must be a good way to tell who it is that knows what they need to.
Perhaps there is a question that can be designed, one that will test the very nature of “knowledge” within the person. The question should be something that requires you to justify your position, to show that you believe what you believe for a reason. “Who do you think you are?” doesn’t have quite the right level of nuance. And, “What is your truth?” is really an existential mess that I think would cause more confusion than anything else.
A Curriculum Vitae is supposed to do this for us. The list of accomplishments in a resume is supposed to have the same affect. A blog perhaps is the digital equivalent of someone attempting to state their knowledge. But, I want a way to weed out the spam. Surely, even in the best Curriculum Vitae, there is some filler, some padding, some spam.
The one sticking point of my argument (although I should probably leave it to others to find those) is that becoming an expert requires experience, it requires living through and telling the stories of how you got from point A to point B. So, perhaps there is no better question than “What is your story?”.
If they have a story that is worth listening to, that really does reveal their expertise then they could be considered an expert. On the flip side, anyone who is not willing to tell their story cannot be an expert. They can be knowledgeable and even wise, but without sharing their wisdom, their expertise cannot be established. Telling your story is the test of your expertise. It is how you show the world that you are who you say you are.