NUPISDA 2024 : Networks of Understanding: Public Image(s) of Science(s) in the Digital Age
Call For Papers
Networks of Understanding: Public Image(s) of Science(s) in the Digital Age
Special Issue of Sociological Problems / Summer 2024
The year 1985 seems to be memorable in the movement to better understand the relationship between science and its public. The Royal Society issued a report, a.k.a Bodmer Report that claimed a new paradigm in the field the so-called Public Understanding of Science. The analysis set a critical tone in the attitude towards science communication. It draws significant attention to the need to develop key competencies among the public – what is fact and what is opinion, how to read statistics, what are scientific methods, what are their limitations, and the practical implications of science-making.
Two other books Shinn & Whitley’s Expository Science (Shinn & Whitley, 1985) and Shapin & Schaffer’s Leviathan and the air pump (Shapin & Schaffer, 1985) went further, both claiming that the public is playing not a passive but an active role in the knowledge production. Thus, two main hypotheses arose from those publications for the next years. The Bodmer Report postulates the so-called deficit model – the science is developing in its own sphere separated from the public one. The communication is linear and similar to the mainstream model from the communication studies – producer-text-receiver, i.e., scientists-mediators-audience. Therefore, the science literacy level seems to be the quantifiable and measurable indicator to propose misunderstanding of science among lay people.
The other one – is about the role of “the witness” in scientific experiments, both scientists and the public are essential to the process of knowledge creation. Notably, this gave birth to laboratory studies in the next years with the works of Michel Callon, Brunot Latour, John Law, etc., thus opening the black box of science-making and becoming a constitutional element of the public sphere itself. The process of “translation” from the laboratory to the outside world is as central as the scientific discovery itself. Not only the process of communication with the public, as Latour would say, but also the process of aligning the humans and non-humans in the web of interrelations and interdependencies is crucial for knowledge production and shaping the social collective.
In addition, Whitley (1985) argues against the fallacy of seeing the audience in science communication as one ‘large, diffuse, undifferentiated and passive’ entity (Whitley, 1985:4). On the contrary, there is no one science, and respectively one public. The audiences are thus pursuing their own goals in the use of scientific knowledge. It seems that not science literacy, but the balance of power between non-scientists (laypersons) and scientists is central.
Despite the seemingly new ideas, Martin Bauer remains sceptical of progress in understanding the issue. The so-called third wave of the PUS movement – “Science-in-society” (1990), manifested the thesis of a serious deficiency of scientists and scientific institutions, which led to a loss of public trust in them. However, Bauer sees populism and a return to the original ideas of literacy, attitudes, interests, media attention, without actual transformation and building of the so-dreamed-of bridge.
Meanwhile, in the digital age, when radio and television lost their dominant place in the public sphere, these processes are becoming more complex and accelerating in speed, scale, and scope. With the rise of internet mediation, the scientist has to fight for a place under the spotlight on equal footing with the audience and many other actors who claim to be an authority in speaking on behalf of the facts. The information and data access and volumes are unprecedented. The active role of the audience is much more visible and traceable.
Nevertheless, the digital imprints that every user is leaving on the Internet are revealing new ways of connections between science and society, which provide new opportunities to study the public understanding of science in its fragmentation. Concepts like Open Science are partly revealing that and trying to overcome it. On the other hand, the fragmentation is not just a media effect, science and technologies reached every corner of our globalized world and formed very distinctive hybrid networks between local culture, infrastructure, politics, and so on. The boundaries between facts and fiction are blurring, and the researchers are no more in a leading role. There are even more cultural differences visible and the quite different understanding of science(s) across the globe is raising the questions about the various images of science(s) in the digital age.
It seems that the challenges require flexible research strategies to attempt a better understanding and explanation of the processes. Such a task raises the following but not exclusive questions:
How is scientific knowledge translated and transformed as it moves through various actors and nodes in digital networks? What role do intermediaries, such as science communicators and online influencers, play in this process?
Power Dynamics and Agency
How are power dynamics distributed among different actors in the digital era, and how does this influence the public understanding of science? To what extent do non-human actors, such as algorithms and data analytics, exert agency in shaping public perceptions of scientific information?
What are the boundary objects that facilitate communication between scientists and the public in the digital realm? How do digital artifacts, such as infographics, videos, and interactive simulations, function as boundary objects in the actor-networks of public understanding of science?
Actor-Network Stability and Change
How do actor-networks stabilize or change over time in the digital era, and what factors contribute to these dynamics? What are the challenges and opportunities posed by the fluidity of actor-networks in the digital space for the public understanding of science?
What ethical considerations arise in the context of actor-networks shaping public understanding of science in the digital era? How do issues such as misinformation, privacy, and digital inequalities impact the ethical dimensions of actor-networks in science communication?
Deadlines for application with an abstract: 31st of January ‘24
Acceptance announcement: 15th of February‘24
Full text of papers: 30th of April ‘24
Reviewing and final papers: 30th of June ‘24
About the abstracts
Abstracts should be up to 1000 words, three key words including and a short bio of the authors.
About the papers
Manuscripts should fit into 25 standard pages (1800 characters with space), notes and references included. Manuscripts should contain the following elements: title of the paper; names of the authors; abstract in size not exceeding 200 words; 3-6 key words; full text; acknowledgments; appendixes (as appropriate); notes; references; short biographical note of the authors (addresses of all authors academic positions, affiliations, research interests, email addresses, up to three main previous publications).
Full Guideline for authors: https://www.sp-bg.eu/en/site/guide4author
The journal is indexed in the ERIH PLUS (www.erihplus.com)
The hosts are grateful to all participants for adhering to deadlines and the guide of the journal.
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin J. Ivanov, PhD)
Institute of Philosophy and Sociology
BULGARIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
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