Artefacts and expertise in sport: An empirical study of ice climbing

David Ade *, Ludovic Seifert *, Nathalie Gal-Petitfaux ** and Germain Poizat ***

(*) Normandie University, UNIROUEN CETAPS, Rouen, France
(**) University of Clermont-Ferrand 2, Faculty of Sports Sciences, Clermont-Ferrand, France
(***) University of Geneve, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Geneve, Switzerland

The aim of this study was to investigate the relationships between material artefacts and expertise in the sports context. The role of material artefacts (ice axes, crampons and screws) in the activity of four expert ice climbers is examined from the enactive perspective, using the theorical and methodological framework of course-of-action. Two types of data were collected: (a) video recordings and (b) verbalisations during post-protocol interviews. The data were processed in two steps: (a) reconstruction of each climber’s course-of-action and (b) identification and comparison of their typical concerns. The results show that these artefacts are key elements in expert ice climbing performance and expertise, in so far that they can amplify and reveal information that would have otherwise remained unclear or unnoticed in their absence. On the basis of these findings, we suggest the expertise has a distinct signature in the dynamic process of appropriating material artefacts during performance.

Keywords: Actor-environment coupling, Course-of-action, Expertise