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Über dieses Buch

Communicating Popular Science addresses the role of science popularization and explains how science writing works can do better at promoting public discussions about science-related issues.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Foundations

Frontmatter

1. Popular Science Writing: Problems and Potential

Abstract
In studying science communication, especially popular science writing, I have found that two cultures exist on either side of a divide. I speak not of the two-cultures gap between science and literature that C. P. Snow lamented in 1959, but of a gap within the ranks of those who write about scientific issues for nonspecialist readers.
Sarah Tinker Perrault

2. Theoretical and Analytical Framework

Abstract
The previous chapter talked about the importance of promoting civic engagement with science-related issues and described different perspectives on what popular science writing should do. These perspectives are rooted in different understandings of what science is, how it works, and what its relationships with society should be like. This chapter expands on those differences, explaining their social and philosophical underpinnings, moving from the general to the specific. It begins by talking about philosophy of science;1 creating socially robust knowledge requires an understanding of science that accounts for its connections to and roles in society, an understanding provided by a social constructionist view of science that Bauer et al. have dubbed ‘Realist—Skepticism’ (Bauer et al., ‘Public’). Next it discusses rhetorical genre theory as a way to understand texts as discursive objects, then it describes the specific analytic framework I use to identify relevant characteristics of popular science writing in specific texts. Finally, it explains my text selections.
Sarah Tinker Perrault

3. A Brief History of Science Popularization

Abstract
This chapter looks at the origins of science popularization and how it has changed as the scientific and social contexts have changed. Understood in terms of the rhetorical situation, the history of science popularization is a history of a changing set of rhetors, exigences, and audiences. Understood in terms of kinds of knowledge, it is a history of shifting relationships between episteme (scientific or specialist knowledge) and doxa (public knowledge). In general, the trend over the last four-and-a-half centuries has been a movement from episteme and doxa being inseparable, to their being balanced, to a relatively recent elevation of episteme to special status.
Sarah Tinker Perrault

4. Practitioner Perspectives on their Craft

Abstract
Chapter 3 ends with a conundrum. On the one hand, there are positive recent developments, such as the development of Science and Technology Studies (STS) in academic circles, the call for a new social contract from within science, and the call for a new model of communication from within the world of science popularization. These many sources agree with Nicholas Russell that the public ‘must be able to critique science as well as support it’ and that popular science writing ‘therefore has twin duties, to inform and educate the public about science on the one hand, but also to probe and criticize it on the other’ (p. xiii). Like Russell, they see the science writer as a ‘watchdog’ with a threefold role: ‘to check on government and business investments and responses to science, correct misrepresentations of science by nonscientific pressure groups, and expose over-enthusiastic manipulation of the media and other unethical behaviours by scientists themselves’ (p. xvi).
Sarah Tinker Perrault

Applications

Frontmatter

5. Boundary Work: Presenting Science in Context

Abstract
The preface and introduction said this book would talk about how popular science writing can do a better job of fostering critical conversations about science, especially science that affects, or is of interest to, civil society. After pausing for few chapters to talk about rhetorical theory (Chapter 2), the history of scientific writing (Chapter 3), and what popular science writers say about their craft (Chapter 4), I am turning my attention to that promised topic with these five ‘application’ chapters. The first four chapters in this part look at relationships—the relationships between the sciences and the other parts of civil society (this chapter), between different kinds of expertise (Chapter 6), between writers and readers (Chapter 7), and between readers and science (Chapter 8). The final application chapter draws together strands from Chapters 5–8 in a discussion of applying CUSP (Critical Understanding of Science in Public) principles to controversial areas of science and questions of risk.
Sarah Tinker Perrault

6. Expertise: Broadening the Scope of Participation

Abstract
The science—society relationships described in Chapter 5 are echoed in miniature in how texts treat expertise. Just as demarcation work at the societal level depicts science as separate from (and nearly always superior to) other forms of knowledge-making, demarcation work at the individual level determines who does and doesn’t have authority to talk about a particular issue. Often this determination is based on claims of expertise, with categorization of knowledge as ‘expert’ setting the ‘scope of participation’ (Nisbet, p. 44). Thus, representations of expertise in popular science texts signal readers about what ‘systems of knowledge and ways of knowing are relevant (or irrelevant)’ (Gee, p. 112) in science-related conversations.
Sarah Tinker Perrault

7. Ethos: Establishing Relationships with Readers

Abstract
So far the chapters in Part II have addressed relatively impersonal aspects of popular science writing; Chapter 5 dealt with the relationship between science and others arenas in civil society, and Chapter 6 looked at how individual expertise is constructed as a social category. While both have important implications for how texts invite readers to engage with science neither explicitly addressed the roles of the writer and the reader. This chapter and the next do so. Chapter 8 will examine the kinds of relationships popular science texts invite readers to take toward scientific issues, but first this chapter looks at how writers create ethos and construct personas in popular science texts.
Sarah Tinker Perrault

8. Rhetorical Orientations: Inviting Reader Engagement

Abstract
Chapter 7 talked about how popular science writers position themselves in texts and about some of the consequences for reader engagement. This chapter looks at the ways that texts signal readers directly about how to engage with science-related issues by presenting, or not presenting, certain kinds of information and arguments. Depending on how texts pose problems, they may invite readers to be passive recipients of knowledge, or to be engaged coparticipants in figuring out what the knowledge means, or (usually) in some middle ground between these poles.
Sarah Tinker Perrault

9. Technocracy and Democracy: Talking about Risk

Abstract
Chapter 8 talked about the importance of shifting popular science writing from an epideictic orientation that invites readers to admire science to a deliberative orientation that invites thoughtful engagement. Nowhere is such deliberation more crucial—and nowhere are the booster and critical approaches more at odds—than in discussions of risk. The opposition between these approaches is reflected in the way that risk discourse tends to divide between technocratic and democratic views of how risk should be managed.
Sarah Tinker Perrault

Final Words

Frontmatter

10. Conclusion: Toward a New Social Contract

Abstract
In the final chapter of Understanding Popular Science, Peter Broks proposes that we move the locus of discussion from science per se to sciencein-society. Communicating Popular Science can be seen, in many ways, as an extended proof-of-concept for Broks’ proposal, an attempt to articulate what a shift to his ‘third generation model’ (p. 143) of popular science—i.e., CUSP (Critical Understanding of Science in Public)—looks like in action. It has also sought to integrate a perspective often left out of critiques of popular science writing, that of popular science writers themselves.
Sarah Tinker Perrault

Backmatter

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