Unruly Democracy (and me!)


FYI: I’ll be appearing next Friday on a panel as part of the “Unruly Democracy: Science Blogs and the Public Sphere” workshop sponsored by the Program on Science, Technology and Society at the Harvard Kennedy School, the Shorenstein Center at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Knight Science Journalism program at MIT. I’ll be appearing with Chris Mooney of the Intersection/Discover on a panel called “Science and the Web.”

Now, if you’ve read the blog for a while, you’ll know I’m not a new media cheerleader. I do love new media, but I also have many concerns about its evolving mores. So in my talk, I’m planning to be pretty blunt about the limitations of blogging, both for science blogs generally, and for interdisciplinary blogs specifically. (I can only hope my panel ends up more, uh, civil than the SciOnline civility panel, but yes, I do believe we will touch on civility and discourse – maybe even more so in the afternoon panels . . .)

The conference is Friday, April 30, 2010, 9:30am-4pm, Harvard Kennedy School. Attendance is free but space is limited and open to registered participants only. More info here.

The blogosphere represents a new kind of deliberative space that is both enlarging and constraining public discourse in unprecedented ways. The key factor about this space, the issue this workshop seeks to explore, is its lack of norms. It is an unruly space in the sense that there are no rules of entry, access, or conduct, except for extreme forms of behavior that are positively illegal. The consequences of this unruliness have been specially severe for scientific communication, which depends on common standards of truth-telling and civility for its progress. In turn, the erosion of scientific standards destabilizes the foundations of democratic deliberation. Can norms of discourse be inserted into the blogosphere that would advance science and democracy? Can blogs induce deliberation or must they encourage extremism and rage to the detriment of public reason? Is science helped or hurt by the new media? What particular distorting factors enter the picture as blogging becomes a business?

Poster art: “Christ in Limbo,” 16th century Flemish follower of Bosch, Indianapolis Museum of Art. design: Alex Wellerstein.


  1. #1 Adrian Morgan
    April 24, 2010

    So, you get credit for your own blog, but Isis gets credit for the entirity of Scienceblogs? Something is wrong there . . .

  2. #2 Jessica Palmer
    April 24, 2010

    I just don’t think they could fit the name of her blog on the poster. 🙂

  3. #3 Comrade PhysioProf
    April 24, 2010

    Make sure you get unruly on the fucking dais!

  4. #4 Isabel
    April 25, 2010

    “I just don’t think they could fit the name of her blog on the poster. :)”

    Well they didn’t try to fit it in on the link either. What a joke!

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