Geert JACOBS, University of Ghent, Belgium
Seppe GODDAERT, University of Ghent, Belgium
Sofie VERKEST, University of Ghent, Belgium
One of the endless ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our lives is that it has put the uneasy relationship between science and politics at the centre of public scrutiny. Although the global health crisis appears to intensify the relations between these social fields, there is, however, nothing new about scientific expertise playing a key role in politicized debates (Collins & Evans, 2002; Nisbet & Markowitz, 2015), nor is the use of scientific expertise to legitimate political decision-making (Collins & Evans, 2002). This is also not a simple one-way interaction as researchers and research institutions often take on the role of advocates for scientifically grounded policymaking and attempt to raise awareness through science communication involving – to name but a few essential partners – wide-ranging news media and educational organizations.
In this presentation, we report on the linguistic ethnographic study of two recent large-scale citizen science projects in a Western European country concerning air quality. Essentially, we set out to focus on “the real historical actors, their interests, their allegiances, their practices, and where they come from, in relation to the discourses they produce’’(Blommaert, 1999:7). Taking a field-based, interaction-oriented approach, our aim is to explore how a discourse-sensitive analysis of a broad data-set, including video-recordings of interviews, training sessions and meetings, can help shed light on the complex, sometimes messy collaborations between journalists, researchers, educators, policy makers and the general public. In doing so we align with emerging postfoundational perspectives that see collaboration, along with participation and engagement, as the new baseline for everyday sensemaking practices (see Declercq et al forthcoming). Tying in with the conference subtheme of reflexive practice, we zoom in on the metapragmatic struggles (Peterson 2015) between the various parties involved as they revisit common grounds, negotiate professional boundaries, and eventually define the projects’ scope.
Blommaert, J. (1999). The debate is open. In: Blommaert, J. (Ed.), Language Ideological Debates. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, 1–38.
Declercq, J., Macgilchrist, F., Vandendaele, A. & G. Jacobs (forthcoming). Painting the Postfoundational Picture: Participation, engagement and collaboration as a new foundation for newsmaking. In Jacobs, G. et al (Eds.). Untitled volume for the DAPSAC series. Benjamins, Amsterdam.
Peterson, M. A. (2015). “Speaking of news: Press, democracy, and metapragmatics in a changing India.” American Ethnologist 42 (4): 673–687.
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