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Science and the Public 2007

The second and very worthwhile Science and the Public conference was held yesterday at Imperial College. Like last year, the day was an opportunity to hear and mix with a great diversity of people. thanks Alice and Sarah!

Some talks of note included Justin Dillon's presentation of a project (by Materials Library/Kings College London/Goldsmiths/Tate Modern) to promote public engagement with materials via art: a series of hands-on science-themed activities set within the Tate Modern. These contributed to a later Tate Modern ipod tour which I am looking forward to taking myself.

The Art and Science session as a whole spurred some thoughtful debate about roles and interactions amongst people in fine art, technology and the sciences. Next talk of note, though of course I am biased, was Annegrete's always interesting proposition to improve the graphic design of generic textbook diagrams of closed-loop cycles such as those of carbon and nitrogen. Nicely done AG!

I also enjoyed James Sumner's somewhat bombastic and lively exposition of the fallacies of the 'digital divide', and look forward to hearing more about that work. Alice's engaging talk was part of another session that brought us into the realm of science in popular culture. Describing the contemporary diversity of narrative structures in children's scifi/fantasy literature and other media, her discussion of different shades of pre- an post-industrial tech/nostalgia will bring me to decipher these like a real cultural critic the next time I go see a children's film (yes, I do enjoy the odd animated feature!) I won't spill too many beans about Alice's theories here as she may be happier doing this herself.

My only gripe about the day was that the simultaneous tracks inevitably meant having to miss quite a lot of appealing stuff. Otherwise it was well worth it, and I do hope this event can happen again next year!


I liked James' paper too, I have heard Justin talk about his work before but I was annoyed about missing Annegrete's, and some of the other art and science ones. (I wish I'd been able to find better themes across them, it was one of those cases of trying to link disperate papers anyway, and it being hard to tell from a short abstract how well they'd go together)

Ideally, it'd have been two days, but Sarah and I didn't have the time to organise something that large. Another suggestion was to have it more focussed to just one topic, but I'm not sure the research community is defined enough yet for that.

I would really have liked to see the politics session and the one with an epistemological slant running later in the day. Did you see any of those?
I suspect that if you mapped out who attended which sessions, you'd get some general tendencies suggesting more specific topics; eg I attended all the art/design/cultural criticism type of sessions (and would have been happy with the politics and philosphy ones too) -- this suggests a possible theme…

Well, I did map them into (roughly) culture and politics and variations on those themes - I think science communication research (very roughly) divides this way

It was designed so there'd be as little clash of papers people wanted to see as possible. But it was too crowded, it'd have been lovely to make it longer. But as I'm still recovering from the experience, I'm glad we didn't!