Mittwoch, 22. April 2015, 18:00 - 20:00 iCal

Vienna STS Talk

presented by Hedwig te MOLDER (University of Twente & Wageningen University)

The Hidden Moralities of Knowledge. Communicating Science and Technology in the Life Science Context

Department of Science and Technology Studies / Seminar Room / Staircase II / 6th floor (NIG)
Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Wien


The Dutch documentary Raw (2008) shows a child who has only eaten raw food since he was five. The mother is accused of not feeding her child well and ultimately even of child abuse. While some may suspect the mother of being anti-scientific, she constantly refers to the evidence that underpins her actions. However extreme this situation may be, in some important respects it resembles other recurrent societal conflicts about particular (life) science domains.

In this lecture, I will argue that these conflicts should not be understood as a collision between two worlds apart, namely that of scientific truth and that of lay concerns. Nor should the key question be formulated as ‘how to convince people who persist in believing things that just aren’t true’.

For this to understand, we need to shift our attention to the hidden moralities of knowledge. Rather than being neutral, knowledge and technology are mediators of human relations and practices, in short, of morality. If we want to conduct a more fruitful discussion, uncovering this moral dimension is crucial. Conversation analysis can be used to reveal these everyday moralities. Knowledge claims are used to attribute or deny responsibilities and negotiate one’s identity. These concealed moralities should be articulated and become part of the public debate in order to make a real conversation possible.

Conversation analysis and discursive psychology offer unique perspectives for doing so, as they view knowledge as both mundane and deeply moral. They reveal how people in their communication indirectly refer to what is normal or proper, thereby making sense of their own and other people’s actions. Using topical examples from debates about healthy nutrition and ADHD, I will argue that the dialogue should (also) be on who we want to be rather than (only) about what we believe to be true.

Hedwig te Molder is full professor Science Communication at the University of Twente where she is based at the Philosophy Department. She also has a personal chair at the Strategic Communication group (Section Communication, Philosophy and Technology) at Wageningen University. Her work focuses on how people communicate issues of science and technology in their everyday lives, using discursive psychology and conversation analysis. She published more than 80 scientific articles and book chapters. In 2007 she received the Distinguished Book Award from the American Sociological Association for Conversation and Cognition (Cambridge University Press, 2005, with Jonathan Potter). In the same year she received an award from Wageningen University for excellent teaching. In 2009 she was a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) at the invitation of Professor Geoffrey Raymond, Department of Sociology.

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Department of Science and Technology Studies


Mag. Marion Kogler
Institut für Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung
+43-1-4277-496 01