Presentation Title

Weird Science: Investigating the Shift in Science Engagement in late 1800s America

Advisor Information

Tammie Kennedy

Location

UNO Criss Library, Room 232

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Start Date

6-3-2015 11:15 AM

End Date

6-3-2015 11:30 AM

Abstract

According a1988 study, only 10% of American adults “had sufficient understanding of basic scientific ideas to be able to read the Tuesday Science section of The New York Times” (Swanbrow). However, American scientific literacy has seen gains in recent decades. A similar study conducted in 2011 saw a jump to 28% comprehension. With science literacy gaining, it is important to understand how the American public interacts with science – and how that interaction changes over time. As part of a larger project, tracing the rise and fall of American scientific literacy, this research is situated over 100 years ago. Using critical discourse and rhetorical analysis techniques, the project focuses on how scientific literacy was constructed in Scientific American from 1860-1890, locating shifts in science production and consumption by the general public. This research points a core change happening at that time: the rise of the university in late 1800s America. With universities came the rapid specialization of science. Within the pages of Scientific American, there is a distinct shift in how the articles are presented. Not only are they focused on university scientists rather than inventors in homes, there is a tonal shift as well. There are fewer invitations for the reader to be an active participant. Instead, the reader becomes a passive recipient of knowledge. In these early issues of Scientific American, one can see the start of the general public’s separation from science and the start of the decline in scientific literacy in America.

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Mar 6th, 11:15 AM Mar 6th, 11:30 AM

Weird Science: Investigating the Shift in Science Engagement in late 1800s America

UNO Criss Library, Room 232

According a1988 study, only 10% of American adults “had sufficient understanding of basic scientific ideas to be able to read the Tuesday Science section of The New York Times” (Swanbrow). However, American scientific literacy has seen gains in recent decades. A similar study conducted in 2011 saw a jump to 28% comprehension. With science literacy gaining, it is important to understand how the American public interacts with science – and how that interaction changes over time. As part of a larger project, tracing the rise and fall of American scientific literacy, this research is situated over 100 years ago. Using critical discourse and rhetorical analysis techniques, the project focuses on how scientific literacy was constructed in Scientific American from 1860-1890, locating shifts in science production and consumption by the general public. This research points a core change happening at that time: the rise of the university in late 1800s America. With universities came the rapid specialization of science. Within the pages of Scientific American, there is a distinct shift in how the articles are presented. Not only are they focused on university scientists rather than inventors in homes, there is a tonal shift as well. There are fewer invitations for the reader to be an active participant. Instead, the reader becomes a passive recipient of knowledge. In these early issues of Scientific American, one can see the start of the general public’s separation from science and the start of the decline in scientific literacy in America.