Panel 18

Interests in the circulation of knowledge: science communication as dissemination of ignorance

Organizers: Jorge Escobar-Ortiz (1); Jorge Márquez-Valderrama (2)

1: Instituto Tecnológico Metropolitano, Colombia; 2: Universidad Nacional, sede Medellín, Colombia

Topics: Knowledge co-creation, citizens science, co-design processes, material publics and grassroot innovation; Technoscientific promises, imaginaries and expectations; Postcolonial technoscientific futures; Ethics, innovation and responsibility in technoscience; The value of science, technology, innovation and research practices

Keywords: Science communication, ignorance studies, circulation of knowledge, science popularization, popular science

Science communication is a hypernym for terms like science popularization, public understanding/awareness/communication of science, and public engagement with science, and terms in other languages like vulgarisation scientifique, divulgação científica, divulgazione scientifica, apropiación social de la ciencia, Wissenschaftspopularisierung, among others. It appeals to practices, processes and activities that attempt to establish a communicative relationship between two groups, the scientists and the public, about different aspects pertaining to science and technology.

What can be seen as the dominant view in science communication maintains that, through this communicative relationship, people gain knowledge or improve their knowledge about certain aspects of science and technology. Knowledge dissemination would be the main purpose of science communication. Through it, an individual may get to know or know better the contents and processes of science, including conceptual, theoretical, and experimental elements, but also the historical, philosophical, sociological, and even psychological, cultural, and religious circumstances surrounding them. Likewise, an individual may get to know or know better how she and others can make decisions about what to do with science in society, its risks, its socioeconomic implications, and other factors related to control, power, and authority over science.

For the dominant view, science communication creates responses to science, and through them, knowledge about science. However, as ignorance studies have taught us, any production of knowledge always comes hand in hand with the production of some variety of ignorance. To take Kourany and Carrier’s metaphor, the quest for knowledge operates as a searchlight, in which illuminating certain aspects of experience will inevitably leave others in the dark. The connection between knowledge and ignorance may thus be described as a bifront phenomenon―they form a unity like the Greek god Janus, whose two faces could not be meaningfully separated from each other. Or like a coin, whose obverse cannot be thought independently of its reverse, and vice versa.

In introducing these considerations, ignorance studies help us see science communication from a broader perspective, and pay more attention to its agendas and inclinations. Science communication is not a neutral way to disseminate knowledge, but an intentional strategy to disseminate certain bits of knowledge and ignorance simultaneously, according to different interests. For this panel, we want to explore how science communication, also understood as a process of ignorance dissemination, help to perpetuate certain images of science and hide others, both about science and society, and about how science is or becomes related to society.

We invite abstract proposals about (but not limited to) these areas:

  • Science communication as a means to produce and maintain ignorance about science and technology in society.
  • Typologies of ignorance in science communication.
  • Uses of ignorance in science communication.
  • Unmaking ignorance about science and technology produced by science communication.
  • Ignorance dimensions of the history and philosophy of science communication (philscicomm).
  • Science communication, ignorance and transformational HPS.
  • Science communication, ignorance and epistemologies of the south.
  • Dissemination of ignorance through forms of science communication (e.g., documentaries, books, podcasts, journalism, public talks).
  • Practices of ignorance in science communication.