1062   Insight talk

Acts of expression and Expressive Objects: Practicing Science as Experience

Author: Megan Halpern
Michigan State University, United States

In this paper, I introduce a model of science communication as experience using examples from my work facilitating collaborations among artists and scientists and developing public engagement events and workshops. These examples illustrate three principles for practicing science as experience: experience is cumulative, context matters, and audiences have agency. I investigate the ways approaching science as experience might inform or transform how scientists and science communicators develop projects. Using Dewey’s theory of aesthetic experience, I discuss what it means to express, rather than explain scientific ideas, and how such expressions lead to meaning-making, rather than information retention. The results of these expressions, which Dewey calls expressive objects, invite audiences reflect and interpret meanings. I focus on how to use the experience model in practice, suggesting a process designed to help practitioners explore science communication as an expressive act. Beginning with what Dewey calls impulsions, deep rooted needs to express something that is personally meaningful, the process builds expression iteratively, through interaction with the world and reflection. By focusing on impulsions and expression, the process reorients the act of communicating science from focusing on what audiences need to know or understand to what we, not as scientists or communicators, but as humans, need to say. This reorientation opens space for the ways audiences interpret science communication messages, and for meanings to emerge from the relationship between the expression and the ways it is experienced.

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