Skip to main content
Start main content

PolyU 85th Anniversary: Distinguished Lectures in Humanities: The Democratization and Technologization of Expertise and their Consequences


  • Date

    25 Nov 2022

  • Organiser

    Faculty of Humanities

  • Time

    10:00 - 11:30

  • Venue

    CD302 & Zoom  


The talk will be conducted in English.



The notion of expertise is integral to all forms of institutional and professional practice in many domains – in education, healthcare, social welfare, law, journalism, banking, information technology, marketing, translating and interpreting services etc. It is a concept addressed by scholars across many disciplines – cognitive science, sociology, anthropology, psychology, language/communication studies, among others. There are, however, enduring problems of definition, description and measurement of expertise. Some scholars draw attention to the ongoing ‘crisis in expertise’ and others pronounce the ‘death of expertise’ in contemporary society.

More humbly, I begin with a characterisation of professional expertise very broadly to include scientific, experiential, technological, organisational, legal, ethical and communicative knowledge. This then leads me to the notion of ‘distributed expertise’, which extends beyond the individual remit and the conventional lay-expert divide. For instance, in the healthcare domain, a significant development afforded by internet-based technology is the increased level of patients’ e-health literacy and, consequently, democratisation of expertise. This amounts not only to accessing health information digitally, but also the phenomenon of patients ‘doctoring’ themselves in ‘the now of its presence’, i.e., ‘expert patients’ becoming instrumental in self-diagnosis and even self-treatment.

Additionally, ‘distributed expertise’ is also constitutive of ‘expert systems’, e.g., diagnostic and interventionist technologies as well as decision aids mediated by algorithms and templates. This is what I refer to as the technologization of expertise. I suggest that there is overreliance on ‘expert systems’ by both experts and lay persons in everyday decision making. Access to and use of ‘expert systems’ in optimal ways inevitably necessitates a reconfiguration of the very conditions and consequences of professional expertise.

About the speakers

Srikant Sarangi has been Professor in Humanities and Medicine and Director of the Danish Institute of Humanities and Medicine (DIHM) between 2013 and 2021 at Aalborg University, Denmark (, where he continues as Adjunct Professor. Between 1993 and 2013, he was Professor in Language and Communication and Director of the Health Communication Research Centre at Cardiff University (UK), where he continues as Emeritus Professor. During 2022-2023, he is Visiting Chair Professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Adjunct Professor at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. In recent years, he has been Adjunct Professor at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway (2017-2021); Visiting Professor at University of Jyväskylä, Finland (2017-2020); Visiting Professor at the College of Medicine, Qatar University (2017-2020); Visiting Professor under the Academic Icon scheme at University of Malay, Malaysia (2013-2015); Visiting Research Professor, Centre for the Humanities and Medicine, The University of Hong Kong (2013-2016); Adjunct Professor at NTNU, Norway (2009-2013); and Honorary Professor at Aalborg University, Denmark (2009-2014).

In 2012, he was awarded the title of ‘Fellow’ by the Academy of Social Sciences, UK. In 2015, he was elected as a ‘Foreign Member’ of The Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters (Societas Scientiarum Fennica).

His research interests include: institutional and professional discourse from an applied linguistics perspective (e.g., health, social welfare, bureaucracy, education etc.); communication in genetic counselling, HIV/AIDS, telemedicine, primary care and palliative care; communication ethics; teaching and assessment of consulting and communication skills; language and identity in public life; intercultural pragmatics. He has held several project grants to study various aspects of health communication.

He is author and editor of twelve books, guest-editor of ten journal special issues and has published more than 250 articles in leading journals as well as book chapters. In addition, he has presented more than 1200 papers (including plenaries, keynotes, masterclasses and workshops) at international conferences and other forums. Since 1998 he is the editor of TEXT & TALK: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse and Communication Studies (formerly TEXT) as well as the founding editor, since 2004, of both Communication & Medicine and Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice (formerly Journal of Applied Linguistics). He is also general editor of the book series Studies in Communication in Organisations and Professions (SCOPE). He serves as an editorial board member for other journals and book series[es], and as a consulting advisor at many national and international levels.

Over the last twenty years, he has held visiting academic attachments in many parts of the world including: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Italy, Malaysia, Nepal, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, UK and USA.



Your browser is not the latest version. If you continue to browse our website, Some pages may not function properly.

You are recommended to upgrade to a newer version or switch to a different browser. A list of the web browsers that we support can be found here