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Mundane design vs. fine sci-art as two realms of aesthetic practice in science communication

By August 31, 2011 No Comments

Here’s my abstract for a panel on the role of the humanities in science communication that Joan Leach in the Science Communication programme, U Queensland, is putting together for the PCST-12 meeting in Florence next spring:

Mundane Design vs. Fine Sci-Art: Two Realms of Aesthetic Practice in Science Communication
Sci-art has become an increasingly important dimension of science communication through printed media, museums, science centers and the web. Ranging from beautiful images on scientific journal covers to tissue-engineered wet-art installations, sci-art has become a recognised subgenre of the contemporary fine arts; it has entered art schools and caught the interest of gallery owners and art reviewers. It has also drawn the attention of major funding agencies, like the Wellcome Trust, as a means for strengthening public engagement with science. However, the popularity of fine sci-art risks eclipsing another, and perhaps even more important, realm of aesthetic practice in science and science communication, viz., mundane design (everyday aesthetics). In this presentation, I shall reclaim everyday aesthetics and the sensory qualities of research as a central aspect of science and, as a consequence, of science communication.

The full title of the proposed panel is ‘The Role of Humanities in Science Communication: Axiology, Epistemology, Aesthetics’, which connects nicely to the theme of the conference: ‘quality, honesty and beauty in science and technology communication’. It’s a great theme, very anti-mainstream-STS’ish! Besides me and Joan, Steve Fuller (Warwick) and Alice Bell (Imperial) are taking part. But, you never know if the programme committee likes this kind of approach or not. Let’s see. That said, the deadline for proposals is 30 September, and the final programme will be announced in January 2012.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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