"What we are busy doing…"

8th Feb 2010

15:30 - 17:00

Seminar Room 1.06, Old Surgeons' Hall, High School Yards


Public engagement with science seems to have become a major theme in contemporary science and technology studies. Inevitably this has been problematised on a number of counts: How representative is it? Is it really a form of PR? Does it construct reductionist versions of citizenship? The present paper takes a rather different approach by contrasting public engagement techniques typical of social science to those of speculative design. Elaborating on Stengers’ notion of ‘the idiot’ and Serres’ notion of ‘the parasite’, speculative design can be understood as an ‘idiotic parasite’. Accordingly, its efforts at public engagement serve to interrogate, and supplement, social scientific assumptions about, for example, the qualities of citizenship, the place of scholarly duty, the parameters of scientific controversy and the nature of engagement.

Biographical Note:

Mike Michael is Professor of Sociology of Science and Technology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process at the Sociology Department, Goldsmiths, University of London. His interests include public understanding of science, the relation between everyday life and science and technology, and biotechnological and biomedical innovation and culture. He is currently elaborating an interest in the inter-relations between design and sociology at both substantive and methodological levels, Recent publications include Technoscience and Everyday Life (Open University Press, 2006) and(with Lynda Birke and Arnie Arluke) The Sacrifice: How Scientific Experiments Transform Animals and People ( Purdue University Press).