Programme

(T032)
Science Communication
Location 115
Date and Start Time 01 September, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 5

Convenors

  • Maja Horst (University of Copenhagen) email
  • Sarah Davies (University of Copenhagen) email

Mail All Convenors

Chair Sarah R Davies (Univ. of Copenhagen,1), Maja Horst (Univ. of Copenhagen, 2), Joachim Allgaier (Alpen-Adria-University Klagenfurt, 3), Dorothea Born (Univ. of Vienna, 4), Erik Stengler (Univ. of the West of England, 5), Göde Both (TU Braunschweig, 6))

Short Abstract

We focus on critical inquiry into the 'deficit to dialogue' narrative (a move from one-way PUS to more dialogic approaches). We also explore the boundaries of STS scholarship on science communication and invite papers on formats which might appear more as one-way communication.

Long Abstract

The last decades have, in a number of countries, seen an increase in science communication and public engagement activities. In many places a well­defined 'deficit to dialogue' narrative tells of the move from 'public understanding of science' (PUS) models of communication (dominant in the 1980s and '90s) to more dialogic approaches, based on two­way communication between science and its publics.

STS scholarship has been instrumental in these developments. Theoretical and analytical attention, as well as experiments with practice, have, however, tended to focus on policy­ oriented or governmentally­ sponsored engagement, and especially on overt efforts to 'democratise' science. This panel focuses on the often overlooked area of (what we might call) 'straight' science communication —that which does not claim to formally influence policy or scientific research, and which may at first glance feature one­ way communication. This includes, for instance, science in museums, science fairs and festivals, popular science media, science blogging, sci-­art activities, and university and lab open days. We invite critical STS analysis and discussion of these activities. This might include, for example, reflections on the role science communication may play in the democratisation of science, analyses of the constitution of publics and knowledges within particular science communication activities, or accounts of experimental practice. The panel will thus use the methodologies of critical STS to reflect upon the problems, potential and practice of contemporary science communication.

SESSIONS: 5/5/5/5/5

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Science communication: Culture, Identity, Citizenship

Authors: Sarah Davies (University of Copenhagen)  email
Maja Horst (University of Copenhagen)  email

Short Abstract

We outline a framework for studying science communication, suggesting that Stuart Hall’s parsing of a ’circuit of culture’ involving representation, identity, production, consumption and regulation may help develop tools for analysing science communication as a rich and complex ecosystem.

Long Abstract

This paper reflects on the ways in which science communication has been, and could be, modelled and studied. There is a need, we suggest, to go beyond ideas about 'deficit and dialogue' in thinking about what public science communication is and does. Amongst other lacunae, analysing science communication in these terms can lead to inattention to material and affective aspects of communication practices, an emphasis on formats rather than contexts and institutional embedding, and a focus on effects on publics rather than on science and scientists. We identify a number of aspects of science communication that have been under-studied, including its material, visual and affective dimensions; its functions in producing organisational and scientific identities; its increasing professionalisation; its role in shaping futures; and its interaction with questions of citizenship and democracy. There is thus a need for more holistic approaches to studying science communication. In closing we outline one framework for such an approach, suggesting that Stuart Hall's parsing of a 'circuit of culture' involving representation, identity, production, consumption and regulation may help develop tools for analysing science communication as a rich and complex ecosystem of practices, actors and materialities.

Celebrity Science: How Does Ancient DNA Research Inform Science Communication?

Author: Elizabeth Jones (University College London)  email

Short Abstract

I argue that the history of ancient DNA research is a history of celebrity science. Through interviews with over fifty scientists, I reveal the intricate relationship between science and the popular press to enlighten the process of science communication in a world of modern media.

Long Abstract

In this talk, I argue that the history of ancient DNA research is a history of celebrity science. The search for DNA from fossils has a short but sensational history. It started in the 1980s and evolved from an exploratory to an established technoscientific practice. I argue that ancient DNA research has developed under the influence of intense public interest and extreme media exposure as it coincided with and was accelerated by the book and movie Jurassic Park. Through original and personal interviews with over fifty scientists who work in and around the field, I use oral history to reveal the intricate relationship between science and the popular press. I combine oral history with literature in the sociology and history of science to enlighten the process of science communication in a world of modern media. This talk engages the concepts of trading zones, shared cultures, and working worlds and explains its implications for understanding the process of science communication in action. From the start, ancient DNA research was a science in the spotlight, and researchers and reporters created a dynamic dialogue as a consequence. Here, I show evidence for the role of news value in science and media and how they conflict or coincide in the development of a discipline into a celebrity science. I show how it both helps and hinders the advance of a particular science, and most importantly, how celebrity culture has influenced - and will continue to influence - the shaping of science and science communication.

Le Geek, C'est Clique? Meanings of science in online science forums

Author: Oliver Marsh (University College London)  email

Short Abstract

I examine a corpus of online conversations from science-based forums with varying levels of scientific expertise, using concepts from STS literature and studies of fan groups. I aim to relate what is counted as 'scientific' within talk to themes of personal identity and emotional relationships.

Long Abstract

An important science communication phenomenon of this decade is the growth of online forums for discussing science. Examples include the Facebook page 'I Fucking Love Science' (IFLScience), which has over 20m 'likes' and regularly tops Facebook's user engagement statistics, or Reddit threads such as r/science or r/AskScience which offer thousands of users the chance to ask and answer one another's science questions. As with many contemporary 'Web 2.0' sites, these ostensibly provide significant opportunities for mass open dialogues; however features of both communal norms and technical infrastructure shape how and which participants can involve themselves in dialogues, even when traditional offline identity cues are reduced.

My research investigates how meanings of 'science' and 'science person' are constructed on four case-study groups - IFLScience, the reddit group r/EverythingScience, and the XKCD and Skeptics' Society forums. In this paper I will present key themes from across these with reference to both Science and Technology Studies (STS) and scholarship around online fan communities. For example, debates on these groups around 'properly scientific' discussions are familiar from STS scholarship, most recognisably of Thomas Gieryn and Brian Wynne. However science-based in-jokes, meme images, and identity labels are more adequately described by drawing on Henry Jenkins' 'meaning-making' and Nancy Baym's 'informational and performative capital,' developed from studying television and science-fiction fan communities. By combining these perspectives and using them to frame my data, I consider how 'making meanings' of science can be both a definitional and emotional act.

Perspectives on Reliable Sources When Co-Producing Knowledge Online

Authors: Noriko Hara (Indiana University)  email
Emma Frieh (Indiana University - Bloomington)  email

Short Abstract

On Web 2.0 platforms, both experts and laypeople contribute to debates on contentious scientific topics, including vaccination. We content analyzed source citations users presented when making knowledge claims in three online communities. Our results reveal an emerging form of science communication.

Long Abstract

When ordinary citizens look for a concise explanation of a scientific issue, the great majority begin with a search of the World Wide Web. Indeed, Web 2.0 applications have made it easier for laypeople to participate in the co-production of knowledge. As such, the practice of producing scientific knowledge is no longer the sole province of experts. Recently, the boundary work (Gieryn, 1983) differentiating experts from non-experts has been challenged (e.g., Konig, 2013). These challenges are evident when considering scientific knowledge that is especially contentious, e.g., the human role in climate change and the alleged link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Traditionally, scientific knowledge passed from the scientist to the layperson in a linear fashion, via professional intermediaries like journalists and government agencies. However, more and more, these types of contentious topics are being debated and negotiated on Web 2.0 platforms in which experts and laypeople are both free to contribute (Liang, et al., 2014; Setala & Valiverronen, 2014). We content analyzed data from three online communities that engage in knowledge construction and collaboration about the MMR vaccination. We chose this case since the topic is publicly perceived as controversial knowledge because of claims made and spread by a vocal minority, who argue that the MMR vaccine links autism. We examined which sources both pro- and anti-vaccination knowledge co-producers cite when making knowledge claims. The results of the study shed light on a new form of science communication and the process of knowledge co-production online.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using YouTube for Science Communication Purposes

Author: Joachim Allgaier (Alpen-Adria-University Klagenfurt )  email

Short Abstract

Many people are using YouTube for getting informed about science, health and technology. Various pros and cons of using YouTube as a tool for science communication are discussed and illustrated with results of a study that investigates climate science and climate manipulation topics on YouTube.

Long Abstract

Online video-sharing sites such as YouTube are very popular and used by many people to get informed about science, health and technology. Technically they could be valuable tools for the public communication of science and technology, but the users of YouTube are also confronted with conspiracy theories and erroneous and misleading information that strongly deviate from scientific consensus views. However, YouTube is not necessarily a one way communication channel; users can comment on previous contributions or respond with own videos, or create entirely new content altogether, i.e. qualities which can be extremely useful for the public engagement with science.

This contribution critically discusses various pros and cons of using YouTube as a tool for science communication and illustrates both with results of a study that investigates what kind of information users find when they are searching for climate science and climate manipulation topics. These results indicate that YouTube can be a very valuable tool for informing citizens about science for some key issues. However, more specific search terms lead to videos that often confront the users with positions that challenge mainstream scientific positions on climate change, or to outspoken conspiracy theories about science and technology - an issue which poses a major challenge to the public communication of science and technology. The study also introduces an innovative methodological approach using the anonymization network Tor for drawing randomized samples of YouTube videos. This approach was used to select and examine a sample of 180 YouTube videos on climate topics.

Science@YouTube Platform Infrastructures and Production Processes

Author: Andrea Geipel (Technical University of Munich)  email

Short Abstract

Science webvideos on YouTube add a new dialogic format of science communication and illustrate the increasing importance of visualized communication for the popularization of science. In contrast to the often claimed importance of ‘authenticity’ this project supposes a more professional production process.

Long Abstract

During the last years replacing 'public understanding of science' (PUS) models by more dialogic approaches is a highly discussed topic. Published on YouTube, videos are no longer a one-way but rather a two-way communication tool by using the comments section and visual references. In addition, the importance of visualized communication increases and YouTube producers may add new models of communication, like edutainment and 'curiosity'. The number of videos with scientific content increased dramatically and is one example for the popularization of science and technology. Just a query for "science" on the leading social video platform YouTube reveals that more than one million distinct channels exist (15.02.2016). Despite this great presence of science and technology on YouTube we still lack empirical studies.

My dissertation project aims to give answer to the question why, how and by whom science webvideos on YouTube are made. Therefore, this project focusses on two main aspects: the production process and the platform infrastructures of YouTube. In reference to the production process I argue that hidden behind the terms 'authenticity' and 'freedom' we find a high professionalism with cooperate identities and marketing strategies which is supported by YouTube's infrastructure. A mix of several qualitative methods is adapted in order to answer these questions and to examine the project topic from various perspectives. Qualitative interviews as well as qualitative video analysis and ethnographic methods will give insights into the patterns of practice on the producer's side on the one hand and the production process on the other.

Sounds of science: Translating Science and Technology Projects with TED

Authors: Heidi Gautschi (EPFL -École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne)  email
Gianluigi Viscusi (EPFL)  email

Short Abstract

TED has become a powerful vector for disseminating information. This paper focuses on the TED talk’s ability to translate complex research related to science and technology (S&T) projects to a large, non-specialized audience and its influence on traditional institutional structures and functions.

Long Abstract

TED has become a powerful vector for disseminating information and consequently influencing public opinion on a broad range of subjects. While TED talks are immensely popular (Sugimoto et al., 2013), there has not been much scholarly research on this form of public speaking and its impact. This paper seeks to begin to fill this gap by focusing on two areas: the TED talk's ability to translate complex research related to science and technology (S&T) projects to a large, non-specialized audience; its influence on traditional institutional structures and functions.

The purpose of this paper is, therefore, twofold. On the one hand, we aim to analyze the scope and mechanisms of the TED organization. We argue that TED is a type of public sphere (Breese, 2011; Habermas, 2003) thus creating, through public participation, a new venue for the circulation of public opinion. In order to determine the boundaries of the TED talk sphere, it is necessary to map the organization as a whole. On the other hand, we seek to elucidate how the basic currency of the organization, the TED talk, can be considered to be a valuation device. In this case, our analysis uses the concepts of cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1979) and recognition (Honneth, 2012) as interpretative lenses for analyzing the dynamics enforced by or emerging from the TED organization, questioning their relationship to speaker selection and post-TED talk speaker reputation.

Science as Religion? Representations of Science in British Science Television Programmes

Author: Will Mason-Wilkes (Cardiff University)  email

Short Abstract

Science television plays a role in shaping public understandings of, attitudes towards and engagement with science. Some BBC science programmes present science using the language and iconography of religion. The portrayal of science as religion perpetuates a misleading, asocial view of science.

Long Abstract

Television is one of the most ubiquitous, far-reaching and trusted mediums for the communication of science. Television science communication is, however, unidirectional, allowing for limited dialogue between communicator and audience. The way in which science is represented on television has important implications for public understanding of, attitudes towards and engagement with science.

Within the medium of television, science can be represented in various ways. I will focus on what I will call 'religious' and 'secular' portrayals of science on British television. I will identify these in two specialist factual science programmes first aired on the BBC in 2013.The religious portrayal of science presents science as providing a creation narrative, as being immutable, as easy to accomplish and as a source of meaning. The secular portrayal represents science as provisional, changeable, requiring skill to accomplish and providing both positive and negative impacts on society. These contrasting portrayals are not dependent on the particular scientific topic that is being presented, but are a consequence of the kind of language and iconography used to describe science, in concert with visual and audio elements.

I will focus on the religious portrayal of science and its problematic consequences. I will argue that it could engender understandings within audiences which compromise their ability to engage with science in a well-informed and constructive way.

Defending Research by Doing Masculinities: Is Autonomous Driving the 'emasculation of the German car-driver'?

Author: Goede Both (University of Cologne)  email

Short Abstract

In my paper, I analyze two disparate strategies of a group of scientists in legitimizing their commitment to fully automated driving.

Long Abstract

Journalists, scientists and engineers claim that the 'revolution' of autonomous/ fully automated driving is just around the corner. In Germany, a controversy has started over the implications of self-driving cars. Last year, Winfried Hermann, Minister of Transport of Baden- Württemberg, publicly questioned the benefits of fully automated driving by framing it as the "emasculation of the German car-driver". Hermann's statement adds up to Berscheid's analysis (2014) of German media coverage of research in autonomous driving. Her research indicates that self-driving cars are viewed as a challenge to 'masculine' pleasures and practices, such as mastering a car and feeling the speed. Faced with criticism, German scientists and engineers in self-driving car research develop strategies in defending their research projects.

In my paper, I analyze two disparate strategies of a group of scientists in legitimizing their commitment to fully automated driving. The first strategy uses video demonstrations to tell heroic stories of robots and their masters. The second strategy draws on the fantasies of the service economy by rehabilitating passengering as a privileged practice. I argue that both strategies are gendered in different ways.

This paper seeks to contribute to current discussions in STS-inspired analyses of science communication (e.g. Davies/Horst 2015) and feminist studies of gender-technology relations (e.g. Mellström 2012). My analysis is grounded in empirical material generated by original ethnographic research among members of a research group based at a German university. My research is guided by Suchman's notion of human-machine (re-)configurations (2007) and Czarniawska's narrative approach (2004).

Bearing witness to climate change. The creation of an icon for climate change communication in popular science magazines.

Author: Dorothea Born (University of Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

Within climate change communication, polar bears serve as icons to stir emotions and raise awareness. In this paper, I trace the process of the iconization of polar bears within popular science magazines, comparing German GEO and US National Geographic.

Long Abstract

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges for humanity in the 21st century. It is also an issue notoriously hard to communicate and it remains an open question how best to construct affected publics within climate change communication. In this context, images and visualizations provide powerful tools to illustrate this abstract and global topic, addressing emotions unmediated by verbal arguments. One example of a visual communication strategy is the use of the highly emotionalized icon of the polar bear. Images of polar bears apparently lost on melting ice floe have become the poster child for climate change communication and several organizations and companies, from Greenpeace to Coca Cola, use polar bears in their climate change campaigns.

This study examines the central role of popular science magazines in establishing the iconic meaning of polar bears. Popular science magazines constitute spaces where scientific knowledge is selected, transformed and recontextualized in order to pursue specific communication goals and raise public awareness, thus lending themselves as excellent spaces to study climate change communication. Comparing US National Geographic and German GEO I trace the process of iconization of these large mammals, looking at how polar bears were established as icons for climate change and what creates their effectiveness. I thereby compare the different political cultures of the two magazines' countries of issue, highlighting how national contexts shape and impact climate change communication strategies. My study thus opens up further questions on how visual communication strategies influence public awareness within different cultural contexts.

An Analysis of Public Engagement in Sustainability within the Built Environment

Authors: Amy Gray  email
Erik Stengler (University of the West of England, Bristol)  email

Short Abstract

This investigation into the communication of sustainability in the built environment, finds a clear need for improved communication within the sector, which currently appears fragmented, with an unbalanced perception of sustainability.

Long Abstract

The transition of the built environment towards an embodiment of sustainable development in common practice has seen some important but still marginal advances, with only a small proportion of the industry being currently classified as green. This study is interested in the role communication plays in this on-going transition. Green issues have a tendency to be perceived as a niche area within the sector of the built environment itself. They are then communicated with a niche audience in minds thus reinforcing its niche status in society.

The objectives of this research are twofold: to observe common practice in eleven UK based exhibitions, exploring their broad range of communicative styles and themes through ethnographic field observation and light quantification of thematic content analysis, and the collection of further qualitative data via interviews and heuristic analysis.

Results include a predominance of a structure using actual built environment as the exhibition. The most frequent theme was marketing a green economy, moving away from scaremongering messages about impending doom. At the same time we detected that in most cases the target audience was not specific and that the exhibitions did not share a clear common aim. With a background of a fragmented sector where expertise and proactive interest is not shared by all actors and sustainability is often associated with the intervention of third parties, this reveals that cross-disciplinary communication within the sector is still in need for improvement before communication to the public can reflect a cohesive community behind a shared goal.

Environmental communication in coast wetland communities: The case of Taiwan

Author: Ming-Ying Lee (Providence University)  email

Short Abstract

In Taiwan, one of intensively debated was the settlement of Kuokuang petrochemical plant in the western coast wetland. This study argued that local communities were now showcasing the tradition as distinctive tourist attractions. This reproduced local knowledge and promoted citizen science.

Long Abstract

Techno-science industries were intensely future-oriented public policies with emphasis on the creation of new job opportunities yet accompany environmental controversies. Understanding the ways of integrating human, cultural, historical, social and industrial features into local communities and developing grassroots, bottom-up actions of environmental communication have been widely discussed.

The aim of this study was to discuss the application of environmental communication to the production of local knowledge in communities. In Taiwan, one of intensively debated of techno-science issues in recent years was the settlement of Kuokuang petrochemical plant in the western coast wetland communities. The settlement project once faced the dilemma between local economy and ecological conservation. This study drew such a case and paid attention to the developments of local communities after the termination of project in 2011. Research question was asked: How did local communities develop diverse forms of environmental communication? Research methods employed included: secondary analysis of publicity materials and in-depth interview with different 20 local people.

This study argued that local communities were now developing eco-tour in the wetland, which showcasing the tradition of oyster farming as distinctive tourist attractions to keep them alive. This not only reproduced local knowledge of oyster farming but also disseminated community-based conservation knowledge. More importantly, local people transformed themselves into citizen scientists, paying much attention to ecological monitoring and environmental education in communities. Therefore, although ecotourism was economy-driven activity, citizen science was promoted in local communities.

COP21 and Koko the Gorilla: how do YouTube and Twitter shape topical issue spaces?

Authors: Warren Pearce (University of Sheffield)  email
Nicolas Baya Laffite (Université Paris-Est)  email

Short Abstract

Using the case of COP21, we show how social media platforms effect issue presentation and issue exploration. We use the example of Koko the Gorilla to demonstrate dynamics of issue climatisation and issue drift, and consider how the curation practices of users and algorithms shape these phenomena.

Long Abstract

COP21 provided an important communication opportunity for NGOs to gain attention for certain issues by strategically cross-framing them with climate change; a process known as 'issue climatisation' (Aykut, Foyer and Morena, forthcoming). Online platforms provide space for climatisation dynamics to unfold. We illustrate these dynamics on Twitter and YouTube, and how they co-exist with separate platform effects of issue drift, using the case of Koko the Gorilla. We show the contrasting effects on hashtag content of user-curation and algorithmic-curation across different platforms. We conclude by considering a potential intervention to counter unwelcome and concealed platform effects on issue exploration.

Opening Up Media Accounts of Climate Change

Author: Stephen Zehr (University of Southern Indiana)  email

Short Abstract

Three forms of plurality in newspaper accounts of climate change across four nations from 2000-2015 are considered.

Long Abstract

As perhaps a means to block skeptical voices and create momentum for international and national policy, scientific and environmental NGO communities increasingly emphasize a scientific consensus around global climate change and the need for global climate change policy. STS scholars, on the other hand, often emphasize the need to open up environmental & sustainability problems inviting development of a plurality of values, expertise, and innovations (e.g., Leach, Scoones, & Stirling 2010). This presentation asks how opening up may be applied to analyses of mass media accounts of climate change and its potential clash with calls for consensus and the formation of what Habermas refers to as the abstract public. I suggest that plurality in media accounts may be read in at least three ways: 1) representation of different opinions across the ideological divide on climate change - journalistic balancing; 2) representation of diverse frames; 3) representation of what I call hybrid frames that bring together two or more common news frames (drawing here from Max Boykoff's work), adding both depth and range to accounts. Empirical results are provided from a content analysis of climate change articles in major national newspapers in four nations from 2000-2015 and personal interviews with several climate change journalists. Has there been change over this time period in these forms of plurality? What are key differences across nations?

Informal science communication: researchers and citizens travelling through ecosystems and biodiversity

Authors: Alessandra Pugnetti (Institute of Marine Sciences - Italy)  email
Alba L'Astorina (CNR Italian National Research Council)  email

Short Abstract

A group of Italian ecologists in 2015 undertook a itinerant tour along three naturalistic trails, aiming to transfer and share the research results among citizens. We report results of this informal science communication that generated change in participants, stimulating critical considerations

Long Abstract

The Authors describe and discuss a case study of informal public science communication, focussing on the relevance for and impact on the researchers that conceived and practically realized it. In 2015 Italian ecologists, active in long-term ecological research (LTER-Italy) and in biodiversity study (LifeWatch-Italy) started a process of informal public science communication, through walking and cycling together with citizens along itineraries connecting a number of LTER-Italy sites. The trails represented a sort of "Via Francigena" of ecological research and aimed at offering citizens an opportunity to familiarize with the components and conditions of Italian ecosystems, from the sea to alpine tundra.

This experience was conceived as a tool to transfer and share the research results among a large public, by creating a physical and visible movement of researchers towards and with citizens, relying as well on the slow times of walking that allow to create an intimate link with people and nature.

Actually the trails produced unexpected and unforeseen effects on the scientists, evidencing the need of a cultural shift: they generated mutual learning by public and scientists and induced profound changes, vivid debates and critical considerations among researchers themselves, about some relevant aspects and needs of science communication. Qualitative evaluations and perspectives of this experience are reported here, also through short video interviews to the scientists involved, evidencing their critical considerations about this experience.

Communicating and Displaying Complicated Objects: Imaginative Methods from STS

Author: Alan Richardson (The University of British Columbia)  email

Short Abstract

Taking UBC’s Beaty Biodiversity Museum as its topic, this talk discusses the complicated object the museum is and the one that it seeks to display (biodiversity). It argues that STS can offer science communication more than critique or assistance; it van offer imaginative rethinking.

Long Abstract

UBC's Beaty Biodiversity Museum is a complicated object: its vision ("a world where biodiversity is better understood, valued, and protected") straddles the normative/descriptive border beloved by STS. Moreover, its principle object of communication and display—biodiversity itself—is a complicated object. This talk, based on a graduate seminar at UBC and a Making and Doing project at 4S 2015 that came out of it, looks at ways STS can help science communicators display and speak about complicated objects of study, such as biodiversity. I will look at choices the Beaty Museum has made and suggest other ways in which they might go about exhibiting biodiversity itself. Of particular interest is the Beaty's choice, constrained by its research mission, to present its collection according to taxonomic, rather than ecological, principles. I will also look at how the Beaty has chosen to present biodiversity as valuable and suggest ways in which STS can help make value claims in science more robust and transparent. Here the most important topic is the Beaty's choice of aesthetic value rather than moral or political value as its principal focus. My main goal is to locate the value of STS for science communication neither in critique nor in providing tools to allow science communicators to do better what they already do; I wish to find in STS resources for opening up curiosity about science communication and to imagine new ways to engage in it.

Museums and the challenge of promoting skeptical attitudes toward science

Author: Belen Laspra (University of Oviedo)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores boundaries and challenges of Science Museums and Centers, specifically in Spain, in promoting more skeptical attitudes in public understanding of science, where this kind of attitudes seems more suitable to achieve a better dialogue among science and society.

Long Abstract

How Science Museums and Centers (SMCs) acknowledge science, how these portrayals of science are shaped to public and how public is conceived, may be better understood if we look at the paradigms of Public Understanding of Science (PUS) research proposed by Martin Bauer and colleges, with regards to attribution problems and proposals research.

A part far from negligible of STS research focuses on public understanding of science. The mainstreams understand PUS in terms of scientific knowledge plus positive attitudes. Instead of this, recent researches claim that deficit should become dialogue, and links PUS to critical attitudes; where 'criticism' does not mean rejection of science but skepticism, and can also fit with support attitudes towards science.

SMCs are a major informal mechanism for effecting PUS. They are environments where both scientific knowledge acquisition and development of certain attitudes about science are promoted. But their compromise to science communication has been affected by the well-known axiom of PUS 'the more you know the more you love it'. To move towards dialogue, SMCs should engage activities oriented to promote skeptical attitudes. To this end, this contribution reviews the concept of 'museum', 'science', 'public', and the relationships among them in the Spanish context; it also explores how these elements can be arranged in order to promote critical attitudes to science.

Research on science communication focused on SMCs has increasing, but in almost every publication concerning this issue, authors claim that more research is needed. In some way, this contribution aims to fulfill this gap.

Science as a Shield: The Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade

Author: Mirjana Uzelac (University of Alberta )  email

Short Abstract

The paper examines science communication in the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade and the way it reflects politics in post-socialist Serbia. The paper demonstrates how perceived objectivity of science can be used as a shield against controversy and opposing political views.

Long Abstract

Nikola Tesla is a significant figure of national pride in post-socialist Serbia, which influences the ways his scientific contributions are contextualized. The paper uses ethnographic method to examine science communication in Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade.

Serbian public is mainly interested in two key topics about Tesla: his ethnic origin, the importance of his inventions for the world, and the role of Tesla as a figure of national pride. However, these issues are considered to be controversial and politically charged, so the Museum's staff chooses to ignore them. Instead, the staff focuses on topics deemed safe, such as basic engineering principles and science behind Tesla's inventions. I argue that the Museum's staff uses science and technology as a shield against controversy and as a way to keep authority and respectability. This emphasis on scientific authority and assumed objectivity of scientific facts allows the Museum to avoid controversies and remain "neutral" and "apolitical" in the eyes of the public.

The paper will offer a better understanding of communication between science museums and public in the post-Yugoslav Serbia. This is particularly important in the context of the rise of nationalism and Serbia's perceived place between the East and the West. The topic relates directly to issues of science communication in museums and examines the role of science in nationalism and anti-nationalism. The case of Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade demonstrates how scientific contributions and perceived objectivity of science can be used as a shield against controversy and opposing political views.

The trial of visibility: Academic communicative device in an artistic-commercial context.

Author: Alexandre Camus (University of Lausanne)  email

Short Abstract

A research project unfolds during a jazz festival with a communicative device designed to demonstrate the university new expertise in Digital Humanities. The paper focuses on the articulation of this academic device into the ecology of the festival where academic content is prone to be reformulated.

Long Abstract

This communication examines how a top engineering university endeavours to publicly demonstrate its expertise in the recently invested field of Digital Humanities, in the context of a jazz festival. One of the leading projects of this strategic move towards DH aims to digitize the concert recordings archive of this festival. The university aims to benefit from the potential visibility of the worldwide renown and media coverage of the festival. Thus, the project unfolds during the event through academic posters, technology demonstrators and team members. What happens to a communicative device designed with academic aesthetics (technical words, lots of text, prototypes and "homemade" posters) when it is embedded in a commercial communicative ecology such as that of the festival (few words, use of everyday language, professionally designed visual objects and marketed artefacts)?

Relying on two years' ethnography within the project, including in the role of project presenter during the festival, my analysis focuses on the sociotechnical mediations of visibility, in other words, on the ensemble of humans and objects that need to be aligned in order to support the visibility of the project in this situation.

Despite serious preparation and real expertise, the communicative device designed by the research team is put to test. In fact, rather than benefiting from a branding window, the research project hardly fits into the communicative ecology of the festival. The public demonstration of expertise turns into a trial where academic content is prone to be reformulated by the commercial situation.

The role of Women Magazines in the Healthy LIfestyle revolution

Author: Erela Ben Shachar (Bar Ilan University)  email

Short Abstract

Understanding the role of women's magazine in the formulation of the medical concept: Healthy Lifestyle – as a result of the similarity between it's ideologies.

Long Abstract

Healthy Lifestyle is an example of a medical concept that was not only covered by popular magazines but, my thesis will show, was actually developed and formulated on their pages. Healthy Lifestyle is a prevalent concept in the medical discourse, and has been used in policy papers, scientific publications and clinical guidelines. Still, one of the main sources of information regarding Healthy Lifestyle are popular Women Magazines and not the medical establishment.

By examining the rise of the concept in the Israeli women magazines during the 70's-80's of the 20th century, this paper will present a hypothesis as to why that has happened. The explanation will show that the ideologies that are being produced by women's magazines are very similar to the ideologies that underlie the concept of Healthy Lifestyle. Ideas such as individuality; personal responsibility; consumerism; seeing daily life as a subject of knowledge; redefining expertise and more ideas are essential to both women's magazine genre and to the lifestyle concept.

On Science and Fiction: The Case of Population Genetics and Belonging

Author: Venla Oikkonen (University of Helsinki)  email

Short Abstract

My paper explores how fiction can shed light on key theoretical questions in feminist STS. I show how a novel that invokes ancient DNA provides insights into the gendered and racialized dynamics of temporality and belonging that underlie the materiality of population genetic practices.

Long Abstract

Feminist science studies scholars have long been interested in the ways in which literature and film can shake and enrich our understanding of science. In this presentation, I want to readdress the role of fiction, and especially fictional narrative, as a site of potentially transformative engagement with scientific knowledge and technologies. While scholars have previously explored fiction as indicative of the cultural imaginaries, expectations and values surrounding science, and the ways in which scientific projects take shape through cultural narratives and imaginaries, I ask how fiction can shed light on the materiality of scientific practices, especially those of population genetics.

From this viewpoint, I provide a reading of Margaret Drabble's novel The Peppered Moth, which explores the idea of conceptualizing trajectories of belonging through mitochondrial DNA collected from ancient human remains. I suggest that examining population genetic techniques of analysis through and against a work of fiction enables us to understand the gendered, sexualized and racialized dynamics of temporality and belonging that underlie population genetic technologies. I conclude with some theoretical notions on how this kind of engagement with fiction contributes to feminist STS debates on the connections between the materiality of scientific practices and the cultural dynamics within which science emerges as a meaningful project.

How GM issue has been told at Chinese newspapers? Comparative Analysis of National and Local Newspaper Coverage of GM issue in China, 2000--2014

Author: Xiao Zhang (The University of Tokyo)  email

Short Abstract

This study examined news coverage of GM issue published at 718 newspapers from 2000 to 2014 in China. Our results showed interesting differences between national and local newspaper coverage and implied possibilities for future of science communication practices for developing countries.

Long Abstract

Proper newspaper coverage of GM food issue is important in terms of the current GM industry dilemma in China. This study examined news coverage of GM issue published at 718 newspapers, one wire services and one news website from 2000 to 2014 in China. News articles at newspapers that public could access daily and easily could highlight the salience of GM issue in China and influence public perception. We examined GM articles in local and national newspapers in mainland China by applying content analyses methods, both quantitatively and qualitatively, including language aspects. Our data verified events-orientation trend again and we identified as many as 70 GM events since 2009. Furthermore, qualitative content analyses on unilateral (national or local coverage on the first day only) coverage of events indeed showed differences in terms of subjects, attitudes, and information sources. By comparing the number of GM articles in national and local newspapers, we found that in terms of volume, growth rate, frequency and improvement of frequency, local newspapers performed much better. The results of this study lead to the conclusion that GM issue has been a growing salient issue in Chinese newspaper coverage especially at local level. Although national newspapers still play an important leading and agenda-setting role in GM coverage, diverse information source and narrative forms and great potential indeed exist at local level. We were also able to observe interaction cycle consist of different national and local coverage which promoted development of coverage of event.

Cultural Practice and Lay Knowledge: Communicating GMOs in International Contexts

Author: John Lunsford (Cornell University)  email

Short Abstract

I examine international lay practitioners’ interaction with science communication practices with respect to GMOs. I find lay practitioners’ knowledge of cultural and situational nuance could facilitate adaptation and application of broad approaches to science communication for use in local contexts.

Long Abstract

The 1980's and 1990's bore witness to a movement from public understanding of science, concerned with science literacy, to public engagement models arguing for dialogic approaches. Many works in the 2014 special issue of Public Understanding of Science suggest these models reflect needs of academics or policymakers but not the nuanced needs of different publics. Other evidence indicates science communication practitioners hold valuable lay knowledge that can facilitate deeper understanding of situational complexity. I present how cultural perspectives interact with scientific knowledge of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), drawing on interviews and observations with international lay communication practitioners participating in a program on agricultural biotechnology advocacy. I explore participants' interaction with a narrowly-defined view of science and science communication practices and the challenges they faced in adapting these practices to their specific contexts. For example, criticism of GMOs in high-income countries focus on what to eat, while my interlocutors work in low-income settings with fundamental concerns of food security and access - whether one will eat. Many underpinnings of literacy and dialogue models are situated within science communication concerns of European and North American culture. These models offer much to the field of science communication, but overlook the unique contexts that cultural practices and experiences impose on ways of knowing amongst diverse publics. Combining nuances of lay expertise with awareness of cultural practices can leverage the successes of literacy and dialogic approaches by tuning them to the needs of diverse international publics, potentially generating a more robust understanding of science communication practices.

Defining public expertise: scientists and field experts on public dietetic expertise

Authors: Sampsa Saikkonen (University of Helsinki)  email
Janne Huovila (University of Helsinki)  email

Short Abstract

Presents how scientists and field experts come to construct public expertise in healthy eating, and its boundaries. The performativity of drawing on the concept of experience in defining expertise is demonstrated, and an argument is made for the notion of public expertise as a form of expertise.

Long Abstract

Many contemporary science-intensive public debates are permeated by competing claims to expertise. Public debates over healthy eating are a case in point. STS-analyses of expertise in public contexts typically focus on negotiation and contestation of scientific expertise, or on relations between lay and expert knowledge. What has remained less investigated is how scientists, and especially other experts, actually define, and come to construct, public expertise. In this paper, based on sixteen (16) in-depth interviews with eight researchers doing nutrition and food related research and eight experts engaged in practical dietetic counselling, we investigated how these experts, all with experience of acting as experts in the public domain, account for public expertise in the context of healthy eating. We draw on Thomas Gieryn's concept of boundary-work as an analytical tool to investigate how, and what kind of, symbolical boundaries are constructed around public expertise by the interviewees. We demonstrate that the experts produce differing normative definitions of public expertise, and what is the role of experts when discussing healthy eating in the public domain. Furthermore, we especially point out that while experience is a quintessential characteristic of any kind of expertise, it is also a contingent concept which can be flexibly utilized in defining, and constructing boundaries around, public expertise. Finally, based on our empirical analysis we argue for the importance of a more explicit notion of public expertise as a context-sensitive form of expertise in STS, which necessitates experiential competence, but is also subject to symbolical struggle.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.