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Monthly Archives

March 2008

Medical Museion on Swedish TV

By Biomedicine in museums

As we announced in an earlier post, a crew from Swedish Television visited Medical Museion in mid February. The first five minute program on the history of medicine was sent tonight—you can see it here (click “Fråga doktorn 080331″ and run the clip forward until about 8’40”). Not much contemporary biomedicine though, I’m afraid — mostly 18th century stuff.

The second five minute episode will be sent next Monday at 6.15 (or after 8 PM) and will contain somewhat more recent history.

The MYBrain lamp — a sort of 'translational medicine'

By Biomedicine in museums

‘Translational medicine’ is usually understood as the transmission of knowledge and data from bench to bedside. But there are also other kinds of ‘translations’ involving medical knowledge and data. For example, the whole biomed-art field—and like in this example—biomed-design:









MYBrain (2007) is a table lamp designed by Alexander Lervik (Lervik Design, Stockholm) in the form of a model of the designer’s own brain, in turn based on an MR scan made at Karolinska Institutet. From Lervik’s own website, mediated by Boing Boing.

A critical approach to the public communication of science, technology and medicine

By Biomedicine in museums

There are meetings on the public engagement with science, technology and medicine all over the place, with different scopes and in different formats. The big international meeting PCST-10 in Malmö in late June has an official science policy-making ring about it, although some of the individual papers and seminars (like this humble one) make their best to avoid the meainstream promotional approach that still dominates much of the science communication field.

For a more critical approach to the study of the public communication of technology and/or medicine, the third annual UK conference on ‘Science and the Public’ to be held in Manchester 21-22 June is probably a better choice. The conference topics include:

Patients and publics in health services
Notions of expertise in the public
Public science and science policy
Technological development and the public
Science communication theory in practice
News and entertainment media
Science on the internet
Science, technology and medicine in museums
Public interest and ‘the public interest’

Unfortunately the deadline for submissions is overdue (14 March), but it will probably be possible to attend without a paper — see more on the conference website.

European Association of Museums of the History of Medical Sciences's meeting — time to send in paper proposals, etc.

By Biomedicine in museums

As we’ve announced before, the 14th meeting of the European Association of Museums of the History of Medical Sciences will be held in Edinburgh, 17-21 September. Now the website is up for paper proposals and registration. This year’s meeting will be devoted particularly to aspects of “the use, culture, history, art and manufacture of models, prosthetics and surgical interventions” and to work towards a European-wide electronic database of body part models and prosthetics held in medical collections. So activate your prosthetic brain and produce an abstract before 15 April!

Museums and blogging

By Biomedicine in museums

Lynn Bethke‘s MA thesis—‘Constructing Connections: A Museological Approach to Blogging’—from the Museology graduate program at University of Washington in Seattle (downloadable here) contains some interesting analyses of the benefits (and sometimes obstacles) of blogging for museums. “Museums and blogs have a future together”, she concludes her survey, “although the path is not yet clear”, and continues:

The potential and versatility of blogging is an excellent option for museums, which are often slow to respond to current events in their primary format of exhibits, to become a more relevant presence online. A blog can act as a supplement to an exhibit, an informational byline, or an announcement board. All options have both benefits and costs, and it will be up to each institution to determine if blogging is an appropriate course of action for it (p. 74).

A nice and carefully referenced study which gives food for thought for everyone engaged in museum blogging. Cf. also Jim Spadaccini’s Ideum-post last October on the rapid growth and diversification of museum blogging.

One question that Lynn Bethke does not address, however, is that which Camilla raised in an earlier post on this blog, namely what an exhibition would look like if it was organised as a blog? I haven’t found this question raised (or answered) anywhere. Maybe a topic for a PhD in museology somewhere? 

Museums and the web: conflict or synergy?

By Biomedicine in museums

Is the web taking visitors away from museums? Apparently not, if we shall believe a recent study from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (US) which concludes that “the amount of use of the Internet is positively correlated with the number of in-person visits to museums and has a positive effect on in-person visits to public libraries.” For an overview of the study we are referred to this powerpoint (it didn’t load when I tried, however; added 23 March: one has to save the file to one’s harddrive first …).
(thanks to Im in ur museum blogz by Lynn Bethke, also author of ‘Constructing Connections: A Museological Approach to Blogging’, her Masters’ thesis, which should in principle be is downloadable here but unfortunately wasn’t available today).

Another question is what the two genres can learn from each other—see our earlier posts here and here.

Science on stage

By Biomedicine in museums

At the occasion of the 60th birthday of Svante Lindqvist, Director of the Nobel Museum in Stockholm (and member of our Advisory Board), a one-day celebration seminar will be held on Friday 25 April. Under the heading “Science on Stage”, John HeilbronTore Frängsmyr, Paolo Galuzzi, Sven Widmalm, Jim Bennett, and Kjell Espmark will raise questions about the role of science in public life and the relation between science, theatre and music, and their talks will be interspersed by music and theatre performances. Access is restricted to registered participants—contact Ulf Larsson,, before April 14. Full program (in Swedish) below:
Read More

An immersive museum and theatre project

By Biomedicine in museums

Here’s an interesting public-engagement-with-medicine project: Over the last couple of years the award winning Triangle theatre company in Coventry has developed a concept called the Immersive Museum Theatre. Now the Centre for the History of Medicine in Warwick is working with the company to use “museum collections – archives and artefacts – and historic locations as springboards for the development of character, and in the creation of an environment in which to become ‘immersed’ in the material”:

Action is devised by participants engaging with the material, and also drawing from their own experience, by playing out and maintaining roles in group dynamics. This devising process is further enhanced by the input of specialists supplying information – specialists who become participants in the process. While projects usually focus on historical moments to provide themes, they also provide scope for the exploration of contemporary issues.

Sounds like an excellent idea (read more here) for a medical museum—more exciting than most so called ‘science theatres’.

(thanks to Molly Rogers for the tip)

Science blogging, participatory computing, and the public engagement in science

By Biomedicine in museums

Swedish scholarly blogging pioneer Gustav Holmberg (Det Perfekta Tomrummet), popular science blogger Malin Sandström (Vetenskapsnytt) and myself (part of the Biomedicine on Display blog team) have just got our session proposal titled “The Public Engagement of Science and Web 2.0” accepted as a seminar at the 10th conference of The International Network on Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST-10) in Malmö-Lund, 23-27 June 2008.

Here’s the session abstract and our individual abstracts:

Session abstract: “The Public Engagement of Science and Web 2.0”

In parallel with calls for more public and democratic involvement with science and technology, the theoretical and in some cases empirical basis for studies of science communication has changed. Earlier studies focused on how the cognitive content of science is being communicated to nonexperts. Studies of the mutual interaction between scientists and the larger population (‘public engagement with science’), have shown examples of the co-production of cultural understandings of science. Another recent development has been seen on the web, where new technologies facilitating easier engagement (‘web2.0’, ‘social media’) have enjoyed a wide popularity for years. These technologies are an integrated part of a new landscape of communication, hitherto quite understudied in the literature. This session consists of a three studies that look at the intersection of science and the public on the web.

Gustav Holmberg (Research Policy Institute, University of Lund): “A study of the distributed computing community Folding@home“.

Computer simulation and large-scale data analysis used to be the province of scientists proper. Distributed computing is a kind of public engagement with science that involves large numbers of participants. The worldwide user-base of citizens interested in donating computer power to proteomics and bioastronomy are modern examples of the mutual interaction between scientists and nonscientists. This paper will look into questions such as why people decide to collaborate in the distributed computing projects and analyze the discourse surrounding bioastronomy and proteomics. It will look at how ideas about protein dynamics and bioastronomy are articulated through various participatory platforms: weblogs, computer fora, wikis, YouTube videos and the Folding@home software. The paper also analyses the flow of skills from subsets of the user pool into the core of the distributed computing project, suggesting that a group of users have knowledge about the intricacies of software technologies that have been useful in the evolution of the Folding@home project.

Malin Sandström (Computational Biology and Neurocomputing, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm): “Beyond the “cool stuff”: science blogging as a democratic tool”.

Traditionally, media’s reporting of non-medical science rests on small numbers of articles published in a few major journals; with a heavy emphasis on the “cool stuff” and framed in ways that are poorly adapted to science reporting. The common use of the scientist as an impersonal expert does little to foster interaction between science and the public. In contrast, blogging leaves the choice in the hands of the bloggers, who can decide for themselves what to say, how and when. Blogs are by their nature personal and interactive, making the medium an attractive platform for contact between scientists and laymen. Outside of the scientific world, access to published research is very limited: few people can afford expensive journal subscriptions and don’t have the language skills required. Scientists blogging in their native language can do much to alleviate this gap. Furthermore, science blogging – especially interactions between bloggers – can incorporate and spread other underreported fundamentals of the research process, such as patterns of reasoning.

Thomas Söderqvist (Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen): “Science blogging between Empire and Multitude”.

Within a few years, science blogging has emerged as a new genre for science communication. But is science blogging really best understood in terms of ‘science’ and ‘the public’? Or does the phenomenon of science blogging suggest other dichotomies? This paper argues that ‘science communication’ is better conceptualized in terms of ‘Empire’ and ‘Multitude’. Science is financed and managed by a network of national and transnational state organisations and corporations, while the overwhelming number of laboratory and field workers constitute a global knowledge proletariat. These different positions in the global ‘scientific field’ entail two different domains of communication practices which correspond, roughly, to the cultures of ‘Empire’ and ‘Multitude’, respectively.

Ours will be one of 25 seminars in all; in addition there will be a number of parallell sessions with individual papers. So we are looking forward to three very busy days about publication communication with science and technology in late June. I’m glad there is a bridge over the Øresund now; it’s only an hour’s train ride from Valby to the conference venue in Malmö.

PS: For some peculiar reason my paper above in the individual abstract file has been assigned to a Zhimin Zhang — alas this is not my Chinese avatar but a mistake from the side of the organisers 🙂