Learning from discomfort - Science communication experiments between diffusion, dialogue and emergence
Learning from discomfort
-Science communication experiments between
diffusion, dialogue and emergence
Developing Capacity in Multimodal Research, Community
Engagement and Energy Demand Reduction
Cardiff 4-5 July 2013
University of Copenhagen
• Installations as experiments in dialogical and
spatial research communication:
• How do STS researchers take their own medicine about
dialogue and engagement?
• Collaboration with designer Birte Dalsgaard
Making dialogue in practice?
Model of Diffusion Model of Emergence
Model of Dialogue
• Research communication which
• Is dialogical and interactive rather than monological
and based on ideas of diffusion
• Communicates spatially to the senses
rather than using only language
• Combines cognitive and emotional influences
• Communicates research based problems rather
ready-made packages of knowledge
• Is integrated-in-research rather than add-on-to-
• Makes different reactions from the audience
possible and respect these reactions as equal
contributions to the communication
• Questions that arose
• How to combine the roles of researcher and
• What is the relationship between the act of
designing an installation and the aim of dialogue?
• What does it mean to enact dialogue?
• How to interpret contributions from the audience?
• In what way are the partners in dialogue equal?
• Answers are pragmatic, context-specific and
practical rather than abstract and theoretical
• A three dimensional gaming board,
where the visitor became her own
gaming piece (walking her choices)
• 12 small rooms where stem cell
research was contextualised in
• Each room confronting the visitor with
dilemmas that they had to respond to in
a physical way
The first experiment
The stem cell network: A social science lab
The second experiment:
Landscape of Expectations
fall from the sky.
They are created
shaped by social
you have the
- from spectator to participant
Write arguments and see
what others have written
Seek additional knowledge
The conceptual content
• Technology and research are shaped in social processes
• Resources and legitimacy influences what becomes possible
• People can participate if they choose to
• Public opinion formation takes place in a context
• Restrictions on what it is possible to say
• Each intervention shapes the context for the next
• diffusion vs dialogue
• Deliberately designing the installation to convey
particular stories (encoding)
• Letting audiences interact and create sense of the
installation in their own way (decoding)
Closing down Opening up
• To what and whom should this installation
• How to document outcome or ‘effect’, when
the audience are intended to ‘experience’
rather than ‘understand’?
• What is the genre of this installation?
• What counts as a contribution?
• How do we handle the wish to sanitize?
• How are the contributions from the
• What if visitors don’t follow the rules?
• Whose interpretation counts?
• How to treat contributions from visitors
• How to deal with a wish for more knowledge?
• How does the objectives of the researcher
differ from those of the audiences?
• It is not a question of choosing between diffusion
and dialogue – in the practice of science
communication they are intimately linked
• It is necessary to reflect about the uses of the
audience – are they co-constructers of meaning or
objects of our analysis?
• Irritation, discomfort or fragility can be a very
strong indication that there is something at stake
• Doing engagement demands Care
• Care for the audiences
• Care for our own discomfort