All author's publications are listed below.
Thanks, on the one hand, to the extraordinary availability of colossal textual archives and, on the other hand, to advances in computational possibilities, today the social scientist has at their disposal an extraordinary laboratory, made of millions of interacting subjects and billions of texts. An unprecedented, yet challenging, opportunity for science. How to test, corroborate models? How to control, interpret and validate Big Data? What is the role of theory in the universe of patterns and statistical correlations? In this article, we will show some general characteristics of the use of computational tools for the analysis of texts, and some applications in the areas of public communication of S&T and Science and Technology Studies (STS), also showing some of their limitations and pitfalls.
We analysed the representations of science and of scientists at Jornal Nacional, the main Brazilian TV news. We carried out content and frames analysis, besides the lexical and semantic analysis of the transcriptions of the science and technology stories. Our results show a narrative that highlights the novelties and the epopee of the scientific advance, mainly in the health field. But to the emotional palette feelings of combat, anxiety and triumph were added. The face of the scientist presented by the TV news is mainly masculine, suggesting a stereotyped role of the male and female scientist: meanwhile men go out to literally explore other worlds, women take care of health and of the body.
Research systems are increasingly required to be more practically oriented and to address issues which appear more promising in economic and social results, with special reference to trans-disciplinary research fields, such as nanotechnology or ICTs; policy makers show a sharp tendency to establish research priorities and to drive research systems; universities and research institutions are asked to be more transparent and open to dialogue with social actors on contents, impacts, ethical implications and practical applications of scientific and technological research. These transformations affecting both the ways in which science and technology are produced and their relationships with society pose new challenges to European research. All the aspects of research activities are concerned, including the life of the research groups, the approaches to scientific evaluation, the development of European research policies and the interaction between researchers with their social environment. Continuing a reflection started in the last issue of JCOM, Luisa Prista, Evanthia Kalpazidou-Schmidt, Brigida Blasi, Sandra Romagnosi and Miguel Martínez López offered their contribution in identifying some of the key implications and risks which these changes are bringing about, mainly in the perspective of the construction of the European Research Area.
In a brief text written in 1990, Gilles Deleuze took his friend Michel Foucault’s work as a starting point and spoke of new forces at work in society. The great systems masterfully described by Foucault as being related to “discipline” (family, factory, psychiatric hospital, prison, school), were all going through a crisis. On the other hand, the reforms advocated by ministers throughout the world (labour, welfare, education and health reforms) were nothing but ways to protract their anguish. Deleuze named “control society” the emerging configuration.
In the last decades, production of science and technology as well as science-society relationships started changing rapidly. Research is asked to be more effective, fast, accountable, trans-disciplinary, result-oriented, policy-driven and able to generate benefits for people and firms in the short and middle run. While a strong intensification of science-society relationships is occurring, an increasing number of actors and stakeholders are involved in research production. At the same time, pervasiveness of technology is rendering users an active part in technological development; economic and social interests on science and technology are growing on a global scale; new democratic and ethical issues emerge. Despite the European institutions’ efforts, all those trends and phenomena are occurring in an extremely fragmented way. In this scenario, a fairly balanced and consistent co-evolution between science and society can no longer be taken for granted. This is just the starting point of the following comment section that, through the Luciano d’Andrea, Sally Wyatt, Erik Aarden, Jos Lejten and Peter Sekloča’s writings, aims to analyse the different aspects and questions around the socialisation of science and technology’s matter.
The recent events related to the spread of the influenza virus A (H1N1) have drawn again the attention of science communication experts to old issues, including a couple of issues we deem particularly important: risk communication and the role of scientific journalists in the society of knowledge.
A recent article published in Science Communication addresses the training issue in issue in our discipline. Henk Mulder and his colleagues discuss the shared features that university curricula should or could have to favour the full admission of science communication into the academic circle. Having analysed analogies and differences in the curricula that a number of schools provide all over the world, the authors reached the conclusion that much remains to be done. Science communication seems far from having found shared fundamental references, lessons that cannot be missed in the practical-theoretical education of future professionals or researchers in this discipline. What should one study to become a good science communicator? And to make innovative research?
Do we have to drag in the thought of Michel Foucault to show the political (and not neutral), partial and local (and not universal and non-historic), active (and not merely transmissive) face of science communication? Do we need the work of the controversial French intellectual to dispute the anxious search – almost a quest like that for the Holy Grail – for the “best practices” in the dissemination of scientific culture? If we read over the pages that Foucault dedicated to words and things, to the archaeology and genealogy of knowledge, to biopolitics, we have few doubts. Two elements, on the one hand the central nature of discourse and “regimes of truth”, on the other the concept of biopower (a “power over bodies”), enable us to reflect both on the important specific features of modern science in comparison with other forms of production and organisation of knowledge, and on the central role of its communication.
The people of Val di Susa (Italy) blocked the construction of the new high-speed railway line that should connect Turin with Lyons (France). This project is regarded as a strategic achievement for the economic development of the European Union, but local communities have a different concept of development and are asserting their rights through ad hoc experts’ reports and the production “from the bottom” of new specialised knowledge. We shall describe these events as a case study to put ecological democracy to the test of facts, also through a comparison with the experimental actions taken in some Southern countries of the world. From Europe to Brazil, the debate on health and environmental risks resulting from modernisation is upsetting democratic societies and urging new forms of participation in the decision-making process. There is a clash between different “concepts of the world”, in which communication strategies play a crucial role and from whose outcome the society in which we wish to live in will emerge.
The historian Marshall Berman wrote that living in modern times means "to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation [...] and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know".