In recent years, UK government, research funders, learned socie es and industry have sponsored numerous dedicated ini a ves to engage publics around so-called emerging technologies. These include various “top-down” a empts to communicate basic scien c knowledge, convey enthusiasm about research and possibili es for future technological applica ons (especially common in the biomedical domain) and increasingly, communicate science related to emerging collec ve problems (climate change especially). They also include ostensibly more interac ve e orts, such as public dialogues on topics such as GM crops, stem cells and nanoscience.

These e orts have been widely studied as a empts to create or cons tute publics around science and technology in speci c ways that are open to ques on (e.g. Irwin 2001, Irwin 2006, Mar n 2008, Michael 2009, Mohr 2011). By contrast, the ‘self-crea on’ or emergence of ac ve publics has tradi onally not been considered in the public engagement literature, though it has been studied under the rubric of social movement studies, or la erly, ci zenship (e.g. Elam & Ber lsson 2003, Hess 2010, Walker et.al. 2007). Ac ve publics have, however, begun to impact on discussions of public engagement since 2003’s GM Na on? where self-selected, highly mo vated individuals armed with various cri ques of GM crops a ended open events organised to discuss the possibility of commercialising GM, and overturned all ‘normal’ expecta ons of how such public dialogues should be run. In light of cri ques by policy-makers and dialogue evaluators that these ‘uninvited’ publics were unrepresenta ve of the general public, policy expecta ons of public dialogue as a space meant only for ‘innocent ci zens’ have in turn been cri cally examined (Lezaun and Soneryd 2007, Wynne 2007).

We ask here, rstly, how can we account for di erent ways in which publics are cons tuted around science and technology? We suggest that examining the socio-technical network around an imagined or exis ng technology can illuminate the crea on or emergence of publics (including those of the kind ‘unwanted’ or ‘uninvited’ by science policy-makers or engagement prac oners). Secondly, we ask which publics are made visible through these networks, sugges ng that networks are bounded by the actors within. 

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Making technologies and their publics visible in science communication
The case of low-carbon technology

Beverley Gibbs   Institute for Science in Society, University of Nottingham, UK

Sujatha Raman   Institute for Science in Society, University of Nottingham, UK

In recent years, UK government, research funders, learned socie es and industry have sponsored numerous dedicated ini a ves to engage publics around so-called emerging technologies. These include various “top-down” a empts to communicate basic scien c knowledge, convey enthusiasm about research and possibili es for future technological applica ons (especially common in the biomedical domain) and increasingly, communicate science related to emerging collec ve problems (climate change especially). They also include ostensibly more interac ve e orts, such as public dialogues on topics such as GM crops, stem cells and nanoscience.

These e orts have been widely studied as a empts to create or cons tute publics around science and technology in speci c ways that are open to ques on (e.g. Irwin 2001, Irwin 2006, Mar n 2008, Michael 2009, Mohr 2011). By contrast, the ‘self-crea on’ or emergence of ac ve publics has tradi onally not been considered in the public engagement literature, though it has been studied under the rubric of social movement studies, or la erly, ci zenship (e.g. Elam & Ber lsson 2003, Hess 2010, Walker et.al. 2007). Ac ve publics have, however, begun to impact on discussions of public engagement since 2003’s GM Na on? where self-selected, highly mo vated individuals armed with various cri ques of GM crops a ended open events organised to discuss the possibility of commercialising GM, and overturned all ‘normal’ expecta ons of how such public dialogues should be run. In light of cri ques by policy-makers and dialogue evaluators that these ‘uninvited’ publics were unrepresenta ve of the general public, policy expecta ons of public dialogue as a space meant only for ‘innocent ci zens’ have in turn been cri cally examined (Lezaun and Soneryd 2007, Wynne 2007).

We ask here, rstly, how can we account for di erent ways in which publics are cons tuted around science and technology? We suggest that examining the socio-technical network around an imagined or exis ng technology can illuminate the crea on or emergence of publics (including those of the kind ‘unwanted’ or ‘uninvited’ by science policy-makers or engagement prac oners). Secondly, we ask which publics are made visible through these networks, sugges ng that networks are bounded by the actors within. 

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