PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Teenage pregnancy in a Museum Exhibit
A space where dialogue meets participation and action

Ana Maria Navas Iannini  

Critical exhibitions represent a new trend in museum practices (Pedretti & Dubek, 2015). Those displays, often issues-based, tend to approach complex and sensitive issues in the intersection between science, technology, society and environment (e.g. genetically modified foods), call for different responses and point of view and present or generate controversy (Pedretti, 2002).

In this paper, using (and merging) the dimension of science communication described and summarized by Bucchi (2008) - deficit, dialogue and participation - and the dimensions of democratic participation in science and technology elaborated by Levinson (2010) - deficit, deliberative, science education as praxis and dissent and conflict - we look at critical exhibitions.

Through a naturalistic approach and a multiple case study methodology, we focus on the individual case/exhibit Preventing Youth Pregnancy, displayed by the Catavento museum in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This exhibit approaches highly sensitive socioscientific issues such as sexual practices, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Through drama, role play and narratives, the exhibit allows visitors to enact fictional situations, to make choices about them and to participate in a conversation mediated by a sexual educator. Interviews with young visitors and museum staff, observations of visitors' interactions in the space, field notes and collection of documents revealed dimensions of dialogue, participation and action prompted by the exhibit. Our analyses identified dialogue and participation in a trusting and comfortable environment, where connections with youth culture and youth emotional investment are established, as central to planting seeds for societal change.

Also, we observed conditions for action (i.e. learning about action, in Hodson's [2014] sense) when visitors experience dissent and conflict in situations where their own beliefs and preconceptions are exposed and challenged.

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