This paper shows how the use of imagined, future scenarios in science communication becomes unavoidably intertwined with politics, since using an imagined future for dissemination involves coming into contact with issues of ideology, utopia, and dystopia, but also concepts of progress and decline. I therefore claim that science communication, which actively seeks to avoid normative themes, often fails. This is because it lacks references to framing tools and the sphere of human action and choice that makes the content meaningful. The first part of the paper examines the reasons why time has been out of fashion in the field of science communication. In response, it suggests how theories of narrative (Ricoeur) and framing (Entman) can be brought together to analyze specific cases of imagined futures in science communication. It thus becomes possible reveal the ideological potential in disseminating science in the media. There are many examples, which support the need for theorizing the future in science communication. Future, personal health is threatened in the dangers of nano-technology, food scares such as Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, mobile phones and cancer, or mmr vaccines and autism. The future of societies is likewise addressed in issues of resource depletion, robotics, climate change, or the challenges of GMOs. Rather than ‘the future’ and utopia being in decline, as claimed by many postmodern thinkers (Lyotard), newspaper articles are used to show that there is a veritable explosion of ideas concerning such issues. Indeed, the news seems to have overtaken science fiction as the primary location for imagining the future and science communication has become an integral part of this trend. While Irwin thus stresses the need for viewing “public expressions of cultural understandings and expectations of the future as a valuable resource...” (Holliman, et al: p.14), there is still no comprehensive theorization of time or ‘the future’ within science communication. This paper thus develops an operationalizable approach to analyzing issues of time in science communication, to overcome this deficit. In extension, ‘the future’ - as an analytical outset - may point towards greater theoretical synthesis within the field.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Promises and threats
The use of ‘the future‘ in science communication

Thomas Robinson   University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

This paper shows how the use of imagined, future scenarios in science communication becomes unavoidably intertwined with politics, since using an imagined future for dissemination involves coming into contact with issues of ideology, utopia, and dystopia, but also concepts of progress and decline. I therefore claim that science communication, which actively seeks to avoid normative themes, often fails. This is because it lacks references to framing tools and the sphere of human action and choice that makes the content meaningful. The first part of the paper examines the reasons why time has been out of fashion in the field of science communication. In response, it suggests how theories of narrative (Ricoeur) and framing (Entman) can be brought together to analyze specific cases of imagined futures in science communication. It thus becomes possible reveal the ideological potential in disseminating science in the media. There are many examples, which support the need for theorizing the future in science communication. Future, personal health is threatened in the dangers of nano-technology, food scares such as Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, mobile phones and cancer, or mmr vaccines and autism. The future of societies is likewise addressed in issues of resource depletion, robotics, climate change, or the challenges of GMOs. Rather than ‘the future’ and utopia being in decline, as claimed by many postmodern thinkers (Lyotard), newspaper articles are used to show that there is a veritable explosion of ideas concerning such issues. Indeed, the news seems to have overtaken science fiction as the primary location for imagining the future and science communication has become an integral part of this trend. While Irwin thus stresses the need for viewing “public expressions of cultural understandings and expectations of the future as a valuable resource...” (Holliman, et al: p.14), there is still no comprehensive theorization of time or ‘the future’ within science communication. This paper thus develops an operationalizable approach to analyzing issues of time in science communication, to overcome this deficit. In extension, ‘the future’ - as an analytical outset - may point towards greater theoretical synthesis within the field.

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