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Speaking at the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota

I do sometimes get out and spend some time with the little branch campuses of my university. On 5 February, at 3:30 in 335 Borlaug Hall, I’ll be talking about…

How can you change the culture if you won’t join the conversation? Science and social media

The values of scientists often poorly align with some of the values of the wider culture, and even within science, we often see generational clashes, where established scientists conflict with a younger cohort. The battleground where ideas are fighting it out right now is on the internet. I’ll be discussing both intra-scientific concerns, such as the struggle against sexism, and the external concerns we ought to be having over the public perception of science and the concerted efforts to provide a welcoming environment for creationists, climate change denialists, and fear of GMOs in the public and in the halls of power.

It’s all about putting science in a wider social context, and how the tools we use to do that are social media. I won’t be telling everyone that they must use them, but that they shouldn’t fear them and that they need to have some respect for even seemingly trivial media, like Twitter. The conversation changes how we think and what we are aware of, and is far more influential than we realize.

Comments

  1. barp says

    Bluh, did it have to be on the St. Paul campus? I guess the GMO part may resonate more with the folks studying ag science, but it’s certainly less convenient for me personally…

    Seriously though, this seems like it would be more suited to the East Bank crowd (though to be fair I’m saying this as a strictly East Bank dweller who has never actually even set food on the St. Paul campus before). I’m doubt you had anything to do with the choice of location, but it is kind of unfortunate, given that most of the science students are in Minneapolis, as far as I know. The campus connector bus is an option though, I suppose.

  2. barp says

    I should also mention that in addition to never having set food on the St. Paul campus before (since I am a selfish snacker), I also have never set FOOT there before. Derp.

  3. =8)-DX says

    It’s all about putting science in a wider social context, and how the tools we use to do that are social media. I won’t be telling everyone that they must use them, but that they shouldn’t fear them and that they need to have some respect for even seemingly trivial media, like Twitter.[emph. mine]

    And facebook? And YouTube? And instragram?

    I think that it’s important to point that out – people have widely conflicting opinions on how “trivial” different types of internet social media are. Lots of things end up as dung-flinging contests because one person’s “just a tweet” or “only YT comments” is another person’s harassment or “attacking my community”. Don’t like it, don’t use it – but realise it’s quite possibly important for someone somewhere..

  4. David Wilford says

    … the external concerns we ought to be having over the public perception of science and the concerted efforts to provide a welcoming environment for creationists, climate change denialists, and fear of GMOs in the public and in the halls of power.

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at here. My guess is that you’re wanting to counter the influence of creationists, denialists, and purveyors of woo on the public and those who make policy, because they’re all certainly a part of the current conversation, welcome or not.

  5. krubozumo says

    I really don’t have any concern for the future of science. What works, works. The larger human population that is for all intents totally ignorant of science except in the context of having some fancy toys
    to play with, well… who can say? I tend to think that rational materialsm will win the day because it actually works. But who can say? We are still ignorant of so much.

  6. Maureen Brian says

    Well in the meantime, krubozumo, that larger human population whom you so despise has the money, has the votes, has the imperfect understanding and an infinite supply of both quasi-religious notions and more cash from those who have a vested interest in their not understanding, not understanding anything at all.

    For instance, I am absolutely confident that our growing understanding of weather systems – based as it is on bog standard physics – will prove to be spot on. Score one for us on the great blackboard in the sky! It won’t be a lot of help, though, if we’ve all either drowned or frozen to death because representatives of that larger human population cut science budgets with their old-fashioned pirate cutlasses and actively subvert the work of agencies and departments whose efficacy depends totally on a firm underpinning of science.

    Or perhaps you think that the best way to sort this is to have two armies, one ignorant of science and the other ignorant of politics, engage in battlefield displays of machismo – on a last man standing basis? Will that sort it? NO!