Participatory processes are necessary for a more democratic involvement of the public. Previous studies on public engagement with science (PES) have identified various difficulties in the encounters between experts, citizens and other stakeholders. However, relatively little focus has been put on the explicit analysis of social interaction within actual PES-events, especially where experts discuss matters with young people. We argue that Goffmanian microsociological analysis might be useful to better understand the interactive aspects of informal PES-events. Based on a case study involving a climate change panel discussion and a simultaneous online chat, both aimed at young people, we discuss the multiplicity of the interactive frames which emerge, intertwine and conflict in a PES-event. These different framings are not always intentionally exploited by the participants, and also reflect institutional and material arrangements, the staging of the event. We identified four different frames used during the panel and the online chat: participation, theatre, education and play. In the participatory frame the hosts, panelists and the public were encouraged to engage in a mutual exercise: to discuss the implications of climate change in everyday life. The second theatrical frame worked in a quite opposite way. Instead of a participatory dialogue, it evoked mainly monological performances from the experts to the audience. In the education frame, knowledge was transmitted from the experts to the audience. Those with more (abstract) knowledge educated those with less knowledge. Finally, the play frame was only evoked in the online chat. It was a consequence of the provocation by some of the participants who “misbehaved” by joking and challenging the whole event. Different frames entail different interaction structures and modes of communication. Further, we will look for “misbehaviors” and “overspillings” which challenge the rationality and norms of a typical engagement. By identifying the forms of misbehavior, it is possible to explore the normative assumptions and underlying expectations of different actors participating in the event. Our findings also indicate that the frame of deliberative participation is very fragile, and other ‒ perhaps more intuitive ‒ frames easily override the ideal of egalitarian discussion.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Frames of engagement
Expert-youth interaction in a climate change discussion event

Sampsa Saikkonen   University of Helsinki, Finland

Esa Väliverronen   University of Helsinki, Finland

Participatory processes are necessary for a more democratic involvement of the public. Previous studies on public engagement with science (PES) have identified various difficulties in the encounters between experts, citizens and other stakeholders. However, relatively little focus has been put on the explicit analysis of social interaction within actual PES-events, especially where experts discuss matters with young people. We argue that Goffmanian microsociological analysis might be useful to better understand the interactive aspects of informal PES-events. Based on a case study involving a climate change panel discussion and a simultaneous online chat, both aimed at young people, we discuss the multiplicity of the interactive frames which emerge, intertwine and conflict in a PES-event. These different framings are not always intentionally exploited by the participants, and also reflect institutional and material arrangements, the staging of the event. We identified four different frames used during the panel and the online chat: participation, theatre, education and play. In the participatory frame the hosts, panelists and the public were encouraged to engage in a mutual exercise: to discuss the implications of climate change in everyday life. The second theatrical frame worked in a quite opposite way. Instead of a participatory dialogue, it evoked mainly monological performances from the experts to the audience. In the education frame, knowledge was transmitted from the experts to the audience. Those with more (abstract) knowledge educated those with less knowledge. Finally, the play frame was only evoked in the online chat. It was a consequence of the provocation by some of the participants who “misbehaved” by joking and challenging the whole event. Different frames entail different interaction structures and modes of communication. Further, we will look for “misbehaviors” and “overspillings” which challenge the rationality and norms of a typical engagement. By identifying the forms of misbehavior, it is possible to explore the normative assumptions and underlying expectations of different actors participating in the event. Our findings also indicate that the frame of deliberative participation is very fragile, and other ‒ perhaps more intuitive ‒ frames easily override the ideal of egalitarian discussion.

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

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