This is more or less the title of a workshop proposal I submitted for the “Public in Science” conference happening in London next July. The goal of the workshop is to align contemporary research agendas in public science communication, including ways in which Cyberlab can serve as forum for visitors as conscious active participants in the task of improving science communication efforts.
Over the past couple of years, we have written many blog posts about Cyberlab, what it is, what it does, and how we have been progressing in the task of creating a research infrastructure, which is centered on the use of emergent digital technologies to aid in the capture and study of visitor interactions within the exhibits, and to provide a platform of adaptable content to fit visitor’s needs through cyberlearning. It has been a huge challenge and we will continue to work hard to improve our tools and resources.
However, I think it is time for us to start strategizing a component of the project that is also very important, the idea of visitors as co-constructors and taking important roles in the feedback loop to inform the research and science communication effort. We want them to see themselves as contributors in the attempt to bridge their concepts and ideas about science with the actual scientific effort taking place within the lab and the resulting ways we see effective science communication. It means not only providing a remote social laboratory for those interested in this kind of research but also an inviting place for the public to take active roles within their own scientific learning. In that sense, the goal is for visitors to start moving along with us as we learn and move through paradigmatic shifts on what counts as science, how science is developed and how it is communicated across publics and through contemporary learning arenas.
But what would such a challenging attempt actually look like? How can such a cultural shift from the ways people see and use research be facilitated? How can we define these new cultural tools we want visitors to incorporate in their experience when they come to the visitor center? And most importantly, how do we define those cultural tools to ourselves and to the broader informal learning research community as important tools?
I guess this workshop, if it happens, can serve as a source of data in support of answering these questions by offering a start into solid conversations with professionals in the field towards establishing grounds for this shift in thinking about the development and promotion of science communication efforts in museum like settings. Bring the publics truly in… after all the communication is designed for them.