We inhabit  an age in  which economic progress  in the European  Union is equalized  to more European research and better  communication of  that European research  to the public. In  strongly developed  Western democracies this implies  an important  role  for the  citizen, and  second for  the highly  democratized mass  media  acting in   a transforming  public sphere. Beyond   a  call for  more communication  and more  scientific  literacy, the  discourse has shifted to  a call for  more engagement and more participation  on behalf of the  citizen. There is a widespread sentiment however  that we  are on a  cross-road.  From   a media-sociological  perspective we  argue that scientific and technological  issues in our  contemporary democracies  which are in  essence primarily  issue driven  require detours of public-isation for their  settlement to allow  the citizen to make an informed assessment of the scientific debates in which his/her  engagement is demanded and thus  allow the informed  citizen to play  his/her ‘informed role’. Inevitably  this leads  us to problematize  the three  actors in the  debate about  science communication, i.e. ‘science  & scientists’,  ‘communication &  the  media’ and ‘the  public’.  The former  will  have  to come to terms with  the fact  that their  authority  is no  longer  a priori  given  in present  circumstances.  Second the  media  are primarily to  be considered as a feedback  channel in which public opinion is  represented and constructed.  In this perspective  science is  but  one of  the many  other knowledge  cultures  in society,  albeit  one with  considerable weight,  but also  perceived  as  an  actor  with  several  interests.  Science  has changed  from  a  unified  cause  to  a highly politicized  divisive force,  being  at best  an opinion leader. This  means science  will  need to  reckon  with trust, values, and emotion in revising its role in a highly mediatized & democratized society.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

A reconceptualization of science & technology in a highly mediatized & democratized society

Pieter A. Maeseele   Ghent University, Dept. of Communication Studies, Belgium

We inhabit  an age in  which economic progress  in the European  Union is equalized  to more European research and better  communication of  that European research  to the public. In  strongly developed  Western democracies this implies  an important  role  for the  citizen, and  second for  the highly  democratized mass  media  acting in   a transforming  public sphere. Beyond   a  call for  more communication  and more  scientific  literacy, the  discourse has shifted to  a call for  more engagement and more participation  on behalf of the  citizen. There is a widespread sentiment however  that we  are on a  cross-road.  From   a media-sociological  perspective we  argue that scientific and technological  issues in our  contemporary democracies  which are in  essence primarily  issue driven  require detours of public-isation for their  settlement to allow  the citizen to make an informed assessment of the scientific debates in which his/her  engagement is demanded and thus  allow the informed  citizen to play  his/her ‘informed role’. Inevitably  this leads  us to problematize  the three  actors in the  debate about  science communication, i.e. ‘science  & scientists’,  ‘communication &  the  media’ and ‘the  public’.  The former  will  have  to come to terms with  the fact  that their  authority  is no  longer  a priori  given  in present  circumstances.  Second the  media  are primarily to  be considered as a feedback  channel in which public opinion is  represented and constructed.  In this perspective  science is  but  one of  the many  other knowledge  cultures  in society,  albeit  one with  considerable weight,  but also  perceived  as  an  actor  with  several  interests.  Science  has changed  from  a  unified  cause  to  a highly politicized  divisive force,  being  at best  an opinion leader. This  means science  will  need to  reckon  with trust, values, and emotion in revising its role in a highly mediatized & democratized society.

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