According  to  a  systems  theoretical  view  one  of  the  most  important  problems  today  is  the  increasing knowledge of our ,not-knowing’. On the one hand knowledge about our society is growing rapidly but on the other hand the ‘not-knowing’ about the consequences of our knowledge is growing, too. The result of this development is  a  general uncertainty and  an  increasing demand  for  scientific (and  that  means  ”true”) knowledge.  But  in  spite  of  this  popularity  of  communication  on  science,  the  idea  that  people  are  only insufficiently informed about  science keeps  appearing. The  paper  holds  the  thesis,  that  the  reason  for  this impression lies in a normative understanding of journalism. Therefore the main problem is not only a lack of  information,  but  a  ”too-little-of-the-right”  or  a  ”too-much-of-the-false”  information.  But  what  is  the right, what the wrong information?

The  paper  proposes to  abandon this discussion and  to  replace  it  with  the  ,improbability-thesis’ by  the sociologist Niklas Luhmann. Now  the  main  question  no  longer  concerns  the  improvement of  a  somehow deficit science writing but rather the pre-conditions for non-scientific communication about science.Within three steps the proposal will be developed:

First,  I  want  to  point  out,  that  communication  on  science  is  a  fundamentally  improbable  social occurrence  which  includes  the  understanding,  the  achievement  and  the  success  of  communication.  The improbability  of  communication  on  science  results  from  the  fact  that  the  production  of  scientific knowledge has developed to a highly anticipated occurrence. Therefore it is hard for journalists to draw a distinction between scientific themes and others.

Subsequently, it must be clarified why - despite the existing improbability - communication on science takes  place.  For  this  purpose  communication  on  science  will  be  characterized  as  a  ,structural  coupling’ between two ,function systems’: science and the mass media.

Finally,  I  want  to  show  how  it  is  possible  to  make  communication on  science  more  likely  to  happen. Hereby  I  use  some  examples  from  the  printing  press,  broadcasting  and  the  internet  to  emphasize  the importance of mass media selectors such as topicality, conflict and quantity.
 

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Communication on science as communication of 'not-knowing'
Some remarks on the improbability of science writing

Arne Klein  

According  to  a  systems  theoretical  view  one  of  the  most  important  problems  today  is  the  increasing knowledge of our ,not-knowing’. On the one hand knowledge about our society is growing rapidly but on the other hand the ‘not-knowing’ about the consequences of our knowledge is growing, too. The result of this development is  a  general uncertainty and  an  increasing demand  for  scientific (and  that  means  ”true”) knowledge.  But  in  spite  of  this  popularity  of  communication  on  science,  the  idea  that  people  are  only insufficiently informed about  science keeps  appearing. The  paper  holds  the  thesis,  that  the  reason  for  this impression lies in a normative understanding of journalism. Therefore the main problem is not only a lack of  information,  but  a  ”too-little-of-the-right”  or  a  ”too-much-of-the-false”  information.  But  what  is  the right, what the wrong information?

The  paper  proposes to  abandon this discussion and  to  replace  it  with  the  ,improbability-thesis’ by  the sociologist Niklas Luhmann. Now  the  main  question  no  longer  concerns  the  improvement of  a  somehow deficit science writing but rather the pre-conditions for non-scientific communication about science.Within three steps the proposal will be developed:

First,  I  want  to  point  out,  that  communication  on  science  is  a  fundamentally  improbable  social occurrence  which  includes  the  understanding,  the  achievement  and  the  success  of  communication.  The improbability  of  communication  on  science  results  from  the  fact  that  the  production  of  scientific knowledge has developed to a highly anticipated occurrence. Therefore it is hard for journalists to draw a distinction between scientific themes and others.

Subsequently, it must be clarified why - despite the existing improbability - communication on science takes  place.  For  this  purpose  communication  on  science  will  be  characterized  as  a  ,structural  coupling’ between two ,function systems’: science and the mass media.

Finally,  I  want  to  show  how  it  is  possible  to  make  communication on  science  more  likely  to  happen. Hereby  I  use  some  examples  from  the  printing  press,  broadcasting  and  the  internet  to  emphasize  the importance of mass media selectors such as topicality, conflict and quantity.
 

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

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