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Abstract

This dissertation comprises three essays that explore the relationship between knowledge and social structure through an examination of the use of science in the culinary arts and finance. The first two of these essays focus on how science has influenced practices and social structure within the culinary arts; the final essay provides a comparison of science’s impact in the culinary arts and the field of finance. Drawing on in-depth interviews, participant observation, online interactions, and a range of other qualitative data from these fields, these essays illustrate how the practices and rhetoric associated with particular types of knowledge can be potent sources of social change. After a brief introductory chapter outlining the project’s major themes, empirical cases, and methods, Chapter 2 focuses on how chefs learn and use science in their everyday culinary work, with special attention to the unique challenges of using science in a field driven by creativity and subjective evaluation. Advocates of science-based cooking address these challenges by adopting two separate rhetorical repertoires—one emphasizing science-based cooking’s advantages over traditional methods, and another that minimizes the differences between these approaches. Observing the strategic deployment of these repertoires illustrates how science-oriented chefs have successfully legitimated the use of this exogenous expertise, without disrupting their field’s existing structures of authority. Chapter 3 illustrates how knowledge sharing practices can influence a social field’s status order. Through a close look at the culinary field’s embrace of a science-inspired system of open collaboration, this chapter shows how embracing this mode of knowledge sharing has precipitated a system of peer-based citation, whereby producers receive direct recognition for their discoveries. This citation-based prestige system opens the culinary field to participation from new kinds of actors, generates new roles that are better insulated from the economic demands of restaurant work, and may even influence the field’s traditional status hierarchy. These findings suggest that the way knowledge is shared plays an important role in the organization of fields where expertise and innovation are highly valued, and that changes in these practices can have other consequences in the field at large. Finally, Chapter 4 compares the use of science in the culinary arts and finance, with special attention to how this exogenous knowledge has been incorporated into each field’s existing organizational structures. In both of these fields, scientific knowledge has been accompanied by more open knowledge sharing practices, such as publishing in journals or posting work online. But where open sharing has benefitted both chefs and their affiliated restaurants in the culinary arts, this practice has created tension between quantitative researchers and the financial firms for which they work. This distinction is largely due to the organizational structures in which science-oriented actors are embedded in each field. Where even low-ranking culinary professionals have a clear career ladder to follow—on which scientific expertise may expand their opportunities—scientists working in large, segmented financial organizations are often isolated from the firm’s other functions and leadership roles. As a result, these financial researchers follow a more individualistic strategy for recognition, with less regard for the interests of firm with which they are affiliated.

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