Silence is often construed negatively, as a lack, an absence. Yet silences carry meaning. They can be strategic and directed at particular audiences; they can be fiercely contested or completely overlooked. Silence is not only oppressive but also generative, playing a key role in creative and intellectual processes. Conversely, speech, whilst seeming to facilitate open communication, can serve to mask important silences or can replace the quietude necessary for insightful thought with thoughtless babble.
Despite a currently dominant rhetoric that assumes that openness in science is an inherent good, science – and its communication – depends as much on discontinuities, on barriers and lacunae, as it does on the free flow of information. This conference will bring together STS scholars and Science Communication Studies scholars to explore both the positive and negative features of silence in scientific practice and the communication of science.
Keynote: ‘The Sounds of Silencing’ by Professor Brian Rappert, Exeter University, author of Experimental Secrets.
This conference is organised as part of the AHRC Science in Culture Research Network: The Silences of Science.