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Discourse communities as catalysts for science and technology communication

Date: 3 May 2011 Time: 13:00 - 14:30

Venue: Bowland North Seminar Room 25

Professor Hedwig te Molder, a noted resesarcher in science studies and in communication at the Universities of Twente and Wageningen in the Netherlands, will speak on her work on communication and public knowledge of medical and scientific issues. The talk should be of interest to people in discourse analysis, discursive psychology, and science studies and ehalth studies. An absttract is below:

Current practices of science communication - even if aimed at interaction - start from the assumption that the 'publics' need or desire the communication offered. However, many communities talk science and technology themselves, or at least discuss the fields to which these insights apply. Our deliberative society not only 'talks back' (cf. Nowotny 2001) - it is already talking. To take this discourse into account I propose a discursive psychological perspective (cf. Potter 1996; te Molder & Potter 2005; Veen et al. 2010), focusing on the social-interactional goals performed by the arguments of what I call discourse communities.

Two illustrative cases are discussed. The first case concerns celiac disease ('gluten intolerance') patients who were found to reject the future pill that was promised to replace their life-long gluten free diet. An analysis of online interactions shows that this 'rejection' was targeted not so much at the pill itself, but at the experts' suggestion that the pill would fix everything. The second case focuses on the exclusion of particular citizen voices from the public debate on future foods. While many experts consider it their task to take health, environment or safety issues, or the 'hard' impacts, into account, there is much less readiness to discuss technology's cultural, moral and political, or 'soft' impacts (Swierstra & te Molder 2009, frth). It is shown how 'naturalness' and 'taste' are both placed outside the scope of public debate, but in different ways, and with different implications.


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Linguistics and English Language


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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