Understanding Popular Science

Understanding Popular Science

Understanding Popular Science

Understanding Popular Science

Synopsis

Science is a defining feature of the modern world, and popular science is where most of us make sense of that fact.Understanding Popular Science provides a framework to help understand the development of popular science and current debates about it. In a lively and accessible style, Peter Broks shows how popular science has been invented, redefined and fought over. From early-nineteenth century radical science to twenty-first century government initiatives, he examines popular science as an arena where the authority of science and the authority of the state are legitimized and challenged.The book includes clear accounts of the public perception of scientists, visions of the future, fears of an "anti-science" movement and concerns about scientific literacy. The final chapter proposes a new model for understanding the interaction between lay and expert knowledge.This book is essential reading in cultural studies, science studies, history of science and science communication.

Excerpt

This is a book about popular science. The culture we live in is saturated with science; indeed, it might be taken as a defining feature of the modern world. Popular science is where most of us make sense of that fact and this book tries to make sense of popular science.

However, part of the aim of the book is to show how that opening sentence may not be as simple as it first appears. Indeed, it has been suggested that ‘popular science’ is an ‘unworkable analytical category’ and that it would be best if it were abandoned (Topham 1998; Secord 2004). This need not trouble us unduly since an array of other possible terms and combination of terms is at hand so that, if we wish, we might prefer to examine the public, pop, common, low, plebeian, banal, indigenous, vernacular or democratic forms of science, knowledge, epistemology or world-view. Similarly, we can avoid using the term if we wish to shift our attention from the content of popular science as a body of knowledge to examine the relationship between science and the public. In this instance we might prefer to talk about lay–expert and amateur– professional dimensions, or direct our scholarly gaze at the popularization of science, the communication of science, the diffusion of knowledge, the public understanding of science, and knowledge transfer.

Even so, apart from losing a perfectly good term that is in common usage I think we would be missing a great opportunity if we studiously avoid referring to ‘popular science’. I would like to reclaim the term and, rather than see it as problematic, see it as encompassing a set of problematics. By accepting a comprehensive sense of the term not only do we avoid a myopic focus on the diffusion of science, but we are also encouraged to pay attention, amongst other things, to a whole range of participatory and indigenous forms, of . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.