Staging High-Visibility Science: Media Orientation in Genome Research
THE SCIENCES' MEDIA CONNECTION - PUBLIC COMMUNICATION AND ITS REPERCUSSIONS: SOCIOLOGY OF THE SCIENCES YEARBOOK, pp. 152-175, S. Rödder, M. Franzen, P. Weingart, eds., Springer, 2011
Posted: 25 Apr 2011
Date Written: October 28, 2010
The medialization concept was developed using differentiation theory and has been applied analytically at the level of systems. This paper develops a complementary perspective for considering medialization that focuses on media orientation as it is expressed in interaction. How do individual scientists or science-intensive organizations manifest an orientation to the media? In what ways, and how intensely, does the media fit into their activities? To address these questions, the paper develops a framework that conceptualizes media orientation as a specific form of what Erving Goffman calls “theatrical self-consciousness.” The tools of dramaturgical analysis are brought to the staging of science, providing a vocabulary for exploring science-media coupling not as connections between abstract systems but as strategic interaction. The focus on theatrical self-consciousness casts a spotlight on questions about precisely what actors seek to make visible to whom and when. An ethnographic study of genome research during the Human Genome Project provides data. The paper examines interactions surrounding a specific episode: the announcement that a private firm, Celera Genomics, intended to sequence the human genome before the public project could. The analysis provides a look at the specific and varied ways in which members of a particular research community related to the media. The conclusion distinguishes among four facets of media orientation (the actor as performer, as audience, as commentator, and as builder of media relations infrastructure). Finally, it notes some possible methodological implications.
Keywords: science communication, media, genomics, dramaturgical analysis, Goffman, medialization
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