In the last issue of Nordisk Museologi (Journal of Nordic Museums and Museology), Kristian Hvidtfeldt Nielsen from the Steno Institute in Aarhus argues that science museums today are caught in a paradox.

On the one hand museums wish to establish two-way interactions with the public about science and its relations with culture and society in a mode-2 fashion, á la Gibbons et al. (1994) On the other hand, he says, science museums are often based on a mode-1 understanding of science, i.e., as academic, investigator-initiated and discipline-based knowledge production.

Nielsen finds this problematic, and — since he is apparently a supporter of mode-2 knowledge production — suggests that science museums ought to be recreated “in interaction with similar transformation processes in the mode-2 society” (p. 40, my transl.) to emphasise the close interaction between science and society.

Apart from the un-historical and politically contested character of Gibbons et al.’s popular mode-1/mode-2 distinction, Nielsen’s suggestion is quite interesting. What would a mode-2 science museum actually look like? And more importantly: Who would be the owner and thus basically set the agenda? Can a mode-2 science museum be owned and administered by a university that (still) operates under mode-1 conditions?

Or is Nielsen actually suggesting that science museums should be transferred to business corporations or government organisations to enhance their focus on mode-2 knowledge production?

Share →