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Kill Your Darlings: Advertising, Expertise, and Commercially Elicited Knowledge

Thu, August 30, 11:00am to 12:30pm, ICC, E5.4


Based on fieldwork observations in a large advertising firm, this article examines the forms of expertise developed by producers of "commercially elicited knowledge"— knowledge constructed as part of a commercial project, and that serves a commercial end. Focusing on the work of "account planners," the article shows how the organizational structure and temporalities in an advertising firm make both campaign ideas and knowledge claims highly fragile. The article then shows that an important part of such knowledge producers' expertise is the ability to oscillate between pulses of attachment and detachment—where at one moment they treat their data and claims as given and fixed and at the next they cogently explain how they were constructed, and why the categories and methods through which it was composed are suspect. Doing so, the article argues that the sociology of knowledge should focus more attention on the experiential relationship of experts to the knowledge they produce, and shows the utility of treating some of the laboratory-elicited theoretical terms used in such work as axes of variation rather than as descriptive theoretical terms.