In recent years new trends in presenting science to the public have emerged. Scientific novels (The State of Fear or Prey by Michael Crichton or L ’ile du jour d’avant by Umberto Ecco), science fiction movies (The day after or Welcome to Gattaca), drama based on science (Copenhagen by Michael Frayn) have been great international successes. The extent to and the modalities through which science is integrated within fictional narratives may vary from one piece to the other.

The ways science has been, and still is, usually unsuccessfully presented to the public is largely inspired by a top/down approach of knowledge transmission (deficit model). Such an approach put the emphasis on factual results which are supposed to provide the lay audience with a new representation of the real world. The consequence of this approach is the spreading of a “seientistic ideology” which prevents people to be reflexive about such representations of the world. As a matter of fact, the authority of science makes impossible the questioning of the relation between the world and what science tells them about it.

The use of fiction which only pretends to entertain us by appealing to our imagination and our ability to dream for presenting science to the public allows us to integrate more concretely the human dimension of scientific activity. It permits us to put an emphasis not so much on the results of science than on its procedures. It aims at picturing“science in the making”rather than “ready made science”.

The important point here is to go from an ideology which conveys tacit representations and values, which are difficult to change, to what could now genuinely be named“culture”, which gives back to people the capacity to formulate their own questions about science. This is the necessary condition to the establishment of a truly democratic dialogue about science.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

The use of fiction for presenting science to the public

Baudouin Jurdant   University Paris 7 - Denis Diderot

Elsa Poupardin   University Paris 7 - Denis Diderot

In recent years new trends in presenting science to the public have emerged. Scientific novels (The State of Fear or Prey by Michael Crichton or L ’ile du jour d’avant by Umberto Ecco), science fiction movies (The day after or Welcome to Gattaca), drama based on science (Copenhagen by Michael Frayn) have been great international successes. The extent to and the modalities through which science is integrated within fictional narratives may vary from one piece to the other.

The ways science has been, and still is, usually unsuccessfully presented to the public is largely inspired by a top/down approach of knowledge transmission (deficit model). Such an approach put the emphasis on factual results which are supposed to provide the lay audience with a new representation of the real world. The consequence of this approach is the spreading of a “seientistic ideology” which prevents people to be reflexive about such representations of the world. As a matter of fact, the authority of science makes impossible the questioning of the relation between the world and what science tells them about it.

The use of fiction which only pretends to entertain us by appealing to our imagination and our ability to dream for presenting science to the public allows us to integrate more concretely the human dimension of scientific activity. It permits us to put an emphasis not so much on the results of science than on its procedures. It aims at picturing“science in the making”rather than “ready made science”.

The important point here is to go from an ideology which conveys tacit representations and values, which are difficult to change, to what could now genuinely be named“culture”, which gives back to people the capacity to formulate their own questions about science. This is the necessary condition to the establishment of a truly democratic dialogue about science.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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