Staying with Speculation – Papers in the Making

Here is a selection of abstracts that were co-created out of the writing workshop held during Staying with Speculation symposium. The papers will be published in a special issue of Global Discourse, published by Bristol University Press:

Typology of Orchestrated Conflict – Classic and Emerging

Matt Smith & Serena Pollastri

Keywords: Conflict Typology, Methods, Productive conflict, Speculative Design, Controversy

Throughout history, conflict and its creation has been powerful instigators for change. Conflict takes many forms, whether it is with creative practices that produce pieces that cause debate surrounding interpretation and meaning, journalistic activities that present new, pressing or (at times) hidden/secret information to the general public, organised or ad-hoc congregations of disagreeing people or groups that debate a topic or even the most dire and destructive form of conflict, violent conflicts such as war. The ways in which conflict can be created is ever evolving with recent additions such as social media, controversy mapping and speculative design representing some contemporary ways in which conflict is generated, hosted and disseminated. This paper builds on a diverse range of writing surround conflict and its formation and uses it to propose a typology that integrates classical and emerging forms of conflict, how they can be created/manipulated and ways in which they can be conducive of progress or change. The paper breaks down conflict into X different categories, providing examples of each and discusses how each one can be orchestrated or used to generate useful information for specific means, such as problem solving and research. What is apparent from our work is that novel forms of conflict generation are becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, physical and accessible.

Ethics of Communication in Science Outreach: Integrity vs. Performance

Luke Moffat and Ian Bailey

Keywords: ethics of translation, scaffolding, impact, public science

Robert Frost wrote that ‘poetry is what is lost in translation’. Heidegger has also remarked about the difficulty – perhaps impossibility – of translating poetry, both between and within languages. And yet, poetry is translated. The question is over how accurately or faithfully it is translated. The same question can be asked of scientific works, and in our case, physicist Ian Bailey’s research into a hypothetical dark matter constituent (the hidden sector photon) using resonant microwave cavities.

There are a range of motivations for translating scientific research into a form with which others can engage. There are also potential problems. How can one be faithful to the original work and its articulation within its own field, while communicating the same work effectively to non-specialists? How can scientists enact this process of translation without sacrificing academic integrity? We argue that there is an innate requirement for employing performative strategies in successfully communicating scientific research to a larger audience, especially for outreach and engagement purposes. This performative aspect brings with it an ambiguity which can be potentially misleading.

In this paper we explore the ethical dimensions of translating a piece of physics research for a range of audiences, focussing primarily on public outreach. In order to examine this process, we draw upon several theoretical frameworks. First, we relate science outreach to the problem of translation raised by, among others, Heidegger, Druggan & Tipton. We take from these perspectives the notion that translation is inescapably an act of concealment. From here we discuss the pedagogical concept of scaffolding, as the construction of simplified or incomplete images to communicate complex ideas in a simple manner. While this scaffolding can be instructive in non-academic contexts, it does require constructing a narrative, involving psychological and personal motivations for pursuing a particular model. We explore how this is balanced with the individual and institution motivations for communicating and promoting science research.

The questions over communication, translation and the construction of scaffolding around scientific research have particular resonance in today’s’ cultural and political context, in which expertise is often treated with suspicion or hostility, by non-academic bodies, sections of the media, and the general public. In this paper, we aim to make visible the otherwise invisible process of translation and communication of science, and extract the most pertinent ethical issues raised by this process.