Rhetoric of Science: Science and Citizenship per Beck, Bennett, and Bauer


Click here for my mind-map of “Science and Citizenship: What do we mean when we say that “science is the management of uncertainty“?

I use Ulrich Beck’s Risk Society, Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter, and Martin Bauer’s “The Evolution of the Public Understanding of Science – Discourse and Comparative Evidence” in Science, Technology & Society in my attempt to work through what we have been discussing in Dr. Herndl’s “Rhetoric of Science” at USF primary concerns of rhetoricians of science: the challenges of engaging research (risks) and the sciences (uncertainties), asking questions like:

  • Beck’s ultimate question (from chapter seven of Risk Society): How do the (calculable; fixed; closed) qualities of the Sciences  (Beck’s chapter seven focuses on 1. symptoms, 2. fallibility, and 3. *hyper-specialized Science) affect how actors are participating from within/with-out the discipline?
  • Beck frames uncertainties as “ruptures”: “The Demonopolization of Science” allows for SPACE in which more (non-experts) can participate … but to what extent? and with what reception from Scientists? with what reception from scientists?
  • Bennett’s ultimate question (from chapter seven of Vibrant Matter) is framed within the distinctions she makes between methods of evaluating, demystifying and critiquing (what I emphasize as“big-S” Science, alluding to Latour’s distinctions between Science and the sciences (research))  versus  critique with positive formulations of alternatives (with subsequent critique and reform) (Bennett xv)
  • Bennett’s ultimate question: How does a vital materialist theory affect participation in an (ecosystem-like) political system?
  • Bennett frames uncertainties as “disruptions,” asking: How does a vital materialist theory affect participation in an (ecosystem-like) political system?
  • Bauer’s “The Evolution of the Public Understanding of Science – Discourse and Comparative Evidence” distinguishes the (old) deficit-model (knowledge-attitude) of Science versus post-industrial model of PUS (core-periphery model of the sciences) (229)
  • Bauer’s ultimate question frames uncertainties as “variables”: the public understanding of the sciences is variable -  flexible, changeable, not constant, ranging in VALUES … in that it is an “activity of outreach” (235) and a type of “social science research [that is] full of common sense speculations” (235)


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About klangbehn

Doctoral Candidate: Rhetoric of Science University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Avenue Tampa, FL 33620-5550 View all posts by klangbehn

One response to “Rhetoric of Science: Science and Citizenship per Beck, Bennett, and Bauer

  • Adam Robbert

    Thanks for this. I’m very interested to hear what people think about Bennett’s comparisons between ecosystems and political systems, it is a central (vexing!) question of mine. Do you have an opinion on the pros/cons of using ecological metaphors as descriptors of political or social systems?

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