Anette, Louise and myself are giving papers at a shared session at the upcoming Danish Association of Science and Technology Studies (DASTS) conference (conference website and full program here), with Thomas as convener and Karin as commentator. The session is Thursday the 31st at 10.30-12.00. We are very much looking forward to it and hope to see some of you there! Below is the panel description and the paper abstracts.

 

Materializing Science Communication: Embodiment and Aesthetics

This track will consider the practices and materialities of communicating the sensing, knowing and intervening in medical science. Most science communication models focus on individuals involved in conscious, reasoned discourse. This conception of the individual is challenged by theoretical movements that insist that humans are also embodied actors that inhabit and enfold their material environment through their senses (aisthesis). The three papers of the panel are rooted in a new Science Communication research programme at Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen that explores the consequences of an aesthetic approach to public engagement with science. We take an interdisciplinary stance, drawing on philosophy, science studies, and museology.

Convener: Thomas Söderqvist

 

Aesthetics

Adam Bencard

In the past 3 decades, several models have come and gone in science communication. Roughly sketched, the development has been from dissemination through dialogue to participation, with various national differences. But these models for science communication all share a similar bias in how they understand the practice of science communication. They all emphasize the exchange of verbal arguments and, as such, primarily focus on individuals as involved in discourse, using their reason and manifesting a conscious appropriation of the world. But this seems to be a narrow conception of the individual, a conception that has increasingly been challenged in the past decade. As has been pointed out in a variety of different theoretical movements – presence theory, post-phenomenology, non-representational theory, ANT, affect theory and object-oriented ontology and more – humans are, first and foremost, embodied actors that inhabit and enfold their material environment through their senses. These movements point to a shift in our understanding of communication itself, and they suggest that our understanding of how ideas, emotions and affects are spread, is morphing. In this paper, I will argue that such a reworking can be furthered by engaging with the philosophy of aesthetics. I will use an argument from the philosophy of aesthetics, specifically the aesthetic philosophy of Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, and it to argue for the need of a material re-writing of science communication.

 

Phenomenology and Olfaction

Anette Stenslund

This presentation stresses the importance of phenomenology for understanding how humans, as sensuous-beings-in-the-world, experience scientific environments. It is crucial to recognize that humans are not only equipped with eyes, ears and hands. The chemical senses of smell and taste exert a huge influence on us, which is often over-‟looked‟. Focusing on olfaction illuminates the importance, and difficulty, of communicating non-verbal experiences.

 

Process and Ethics

Louise Whiteley

In recent years, science communication scholars have argued that we should stop trying to disseminate information to a supposedly ignorant public, and should instead focus on engaging democratic actors in reasoned debates about the implications of science. However, both of these frameworks tend to embody a traditional conception of scientific knowledge, and imagine purely rational, linguistic participants. In this paper I suggest that this misses something vital about science; the embodied practices and experiences of all those involved in its creation, communication, and critique. This missing puzzle piece resonates with an STS perspective, and I argue that focusing on the material process of research should turn the communicator‟s gaze toward the embodied experiences of scientists, doctors, technicians, research subjects, communicators, and diverse publics. Finally, I suggest that a focus on process can help to overcome some of the difficulties with using rational „debate‟ to engage people in considering what biomedical research might mean for them and their social worlds. I illustrate my arguments with examples from the communication of functional neuroimaging. I report on media research showing that process figures significantly in developing public critique of what a brain scan can tell us, and share experiences of science communication practice grounded in the experience of the brain-scanning subject.

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