Social inclusion

22/03/2010

In this commentary, we collected three essays from authors coming from different perspectives. They analyse the problem of power, participation and cooperation in projects of production of scientific knowledge held by users or peers: persons who do not belong to the institutionalised scientific community. These contributions are intended to give a more political and critical point of view on the themes developed and analysed in the research articles of this JCOM special issue on Peer-to-peer and user-led science. Michel Bauwens, Christopher Kelty and Mathieu O'Neil write about different aspects of P2P science. Nevertheless, the three worlds they delve into share the "aggressively active" attitude of the citizens who inhabit them. Those citizens claim to be part of the scientific process, and they use practices as heterogeneous as online peer-production of scientific knowledge, garage biology practiced with a hacker twist, or the crowdsourced creation of an encyclopedia page. All these claims and practices point to a problem in the current distribution of power. The relations between experts and non-experts are challenged by the rise of peer-to-peer science. Furthermore, the horizontal communities which live inside and outside the Net are not frictionless. Within peer-production mechanisms, the balance of power is an important issue which has to be carefully taken into account.

22/03/2010

The Makers is the latest novel of the American science fiction writer, blogger and Silicon Valley intellectual Cory Doctorow. Set in the 2010s, the novel describes the possible impact of the present trend towards the migration of modes of production and organization that have emerged online into the sphere of material production. Called New Work, this movement is indebted to a new maker culture that attracts people into a kind of neo-artisan, high tech mode of production. The question is: can a corporate-funded New Work movement be sustainable? Doctorow seems to suggest that a capitalist economy of abundance is unsustainable because it tends to restrict the reach of its value flows to a privileged managerial elite.

09/03/2010

The online world constitutes an ever-expanding store and incubator for scientific information. It is also a social space where forms of creative interaction engender new ways of approaching science. Critically, the web is not only a repository of knowledge but a means with which to experience, interact and even supplement this bank. Social Network Sites are a key feature of such activity. This paper explores the potential for Social Network Sites (SNS) as an innovative pedagogical tool that precipitate the ‘incidental learner’. I suggest that these online spaces, characterised by informality, open-access, user input and widespread popularity, offer a potentially indispensable means of furthering the public understanding of science; and significantly one that is rooted in dialogue.

02/03/2010

There is a wealth of medical information now available to the public through various sources that are not necessarily controlled by medical or healthcare professionals. In Australia there has been a strong movement in the health consumer arena of consumer-led sharing and production of medical information and in healthcare decision-making. This has led to empowerment of the public as well as increased knowledge-sharing. There are some successful initiatives and strategies on consumer- and public-led sharing of medical information, including the formation of specialised consumer groups, independent medical information organisations, consumer peer tutoring, and email lists and consumer networking events. With well-organised public initiatives and networks, there tends to be fairly balanced information being shared. However, there needs to be caution about the use of publicly available scientific information to further the agenda of special-interest groups and lobbying groups to advance often biased and unproven opinions or for scaremongering. With the adoption of more accountability of medical research, and the increased public scrutiny of private and public research, the validity and quality of medical information reaching the public is achieving higher standards.

22/02/2010

This study examines the nature of peer-to-peer interactions in public online comment spaces. From a theoretical perspective of boundary-work and expertise, the comments posted in response to three health sciences news articles from a national newspaper are explored to determine whether both scientific and personal expertise are recognized and taken up in discussion. Posts were analysed for both explicit claims to expertise and implicit claims embedded in discourse. The analysis suggests that while both scientific and personal expertise are proffered by commenters, it is scientific expertise that is privileged. Those expressing scientific expertise receive greater recognition of the value of their posts. Contributors seeking to share personal expertise are found to engage in scientisation to position themselves as worthwhile experts. Findings suggest that despite the possibilities afforded by online comments for a broader vision of what peer-to-peer interaction means, this possibility is not realized.

30/10/2009

Tokyo Institute of Technology (TokyoTech) has been developing a number of methodologies to teach graduate students the theory and practice of science communication since 2005. One of the tools used is the science café, where students are taught about the background based primarily on theoretical models developed in the UK. They then apply that knowledge and adapt it the Japanese cultural context and plan, execute and review outcomes as part of their course. In this paper we review 4 years of experience in using science cafés in this educational context; we review the background to the students’ decision-making and consensus-building process towards deciding on the style and subject to be used, and the value this has in illuminating the cultural influences on the science café design and implementation. We also review the value of the science café as an educational tool and conclude that it has contributed to a number of teaching goals related to both knowledge and the personal skills required to function effectively in an international environment.

21/09/2009

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.

20/07/2009

The present article investigates public understanding of HIV/AIDS related issues that touch the thought structure of common citizen, among the Indian public. Analysis is based on a representative sample collected from 10 states of India. The authors have also analysed the relative cultural distance at which men and women, as separate groups, could be placed. The relative cultural distance, for each of the selected issues, has been computed and it was found that men, as a group, are closer to scientific thought structure compared to women.

24/02/2009

There is a compelling need to ensure that the points of view and preferences of stakeholders are fully considered and incorporated into natural resources management strategies. Stakeholders include a diverse group of individuals in several sectors that have an interest in how natural resources are managed. Typically, stakeholders with an interest in groundwater resources include groups who could be affected by the manner in which the resource is managed (e.g., farmers who need water for irrigation; municipalities and individuals who need drinking water, agencies and organizations that want to maintain in-stream flows to support ecosystems, etc.) Refugio County in South Texas provides an interesting case study since several groups of water users in the region are working with researchers at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) to develop decision-support models that incorporate stakeholder concerns. The focus of this paper is to provide a series of arguments and approaches about the ways in which stakeholder issues have recently been incorporated into environmental models, to briefly describe some of the TAMUK efforts to develop groundwater models that incorporate stakeholder inputs, and to present and discuss a method in which communication research can be used to obtain stakeholder preferences input into modeling efforts.

19/12/2008

The knowledge deficit model with regard to the public has been severely criticized in the sociology of the public perception of science. However, when dealing with public decisions regarding scientific matters, political and scientific institutions insist on defending the deficit model. The idea that only certified experts, or those with vast experience, should have the right to participate in decisions can bring about problems for the future of democracies. Through a type of "topography of ideas", in which some concepts from the social studies of science are used in order to think about these problems, and through the case study of public participation in the elaboration of the proposal of discounts in the fees charged for rural water use in Brazil, we will try to point out an alternative to the deficit model. This alternative includes a "minimum comprehension" of the scientific matters involved in the decision on the part of the participants, using criteria judged by the public itself.

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