Accepted Paper:

Communicating and Displaying Complicated Objects: Imaginative Methods from STS  


Alan Richardson (The University of British Columbia)

Paper short abstract:

Taking UBC’s Beaty Biodiversity Museum as its topic, this talk discusses the complicated object the museum is and the one that it seeks to display (biodiversity). It argues that STS can offer science communication more than critique or assistance; it van offer imaginative rethinking.

Paper long abstract:

UBC's Beaty Biodiversity Museum is a complicated object: its vision ("a world where biodiversity is better understood, valued, and protected") straddles the normative/descriptive border beloved by STS. Moreover, its principle object of communication and display—biodiversity itself—is a complicated object. This talk, based on a graduate seminar at UBC and a Making and Doing project at 4S 2015 that came out of it, looks at ways STS can help science communicators display and speak about complicated objects of study, such as biodiversity. I will look at choices the Beaty Museum has made and suggest other ways in which they might go about exhibiting biodiversity itself. Of particular interest is the Beaty's choice, constrained by its research mission, to present its collection according to taxonomic, rather than ecological, principles. I will also look at how the Beaty has chosen to present biodiversity as valuable and suggest ways in which STS can help make value claims in science more robust and transparent. Here the most important topic is the Beaty's choice of aesthetic value rather than moral or political value as its principal focus. My main goal is to locate the value of STS for science communication neither in critique nor in providing tools to allow science communicators to do better what they already do; I wish to find in STS resources for opening up curiosity about science communication and to imagine new ways to engage in it.

Panel T032
Science Communication