Open Conference Systems, RUC Sunrise Triple C Conference: Climate – Change – Communication

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Symmetrical approaches to (often implicit) knowledge asymmetries in public communication of science and technology: learning from the case of climate change
Kristian Hvidtfelt Nielsen

Last modified: 2010-04-16


Most theories about science communication seem to take for granted asymmetries of knowledge and epistemology between science and its non-scientific audiences. Even though the level of detail of contemporary models of how public communication of science and technology works is impressive, it still remains the case that science is viewed as the source or producer of knowledge while various publics are being construed as receivers or consumers of knowledge. With reference to some of the complexities involved in communications about climate change, this paper aims at developing symmetrical approaches to public communication of science and technology. Three (symmetrical) approaches to science, communication and change developed by historians and sociologists of science will be presented. It will be suggested that understanding (asymmetrical) disagreements and inactions with respect to climate change in terms of communication symmetries might pave the way for new opportunities of change in scientific, democratic, and climate systems. Finally, the paper discusses whether symmetrical approaches to the communicative relations between science and society can be generalized beyond highly political issues such as climate change.

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