Exploring Epistemic Boundaries Between Scientific and Popular Cultures

Marina Levina

Abstract


Science studies have long been concerned with the complex interrelationship between scienti?c research and popular culture’s interpretations and reconstructions of scienti?c ?ndings (Kember 2003; Lancaster 2003; Penley 1997, among others). Disparities between the two are often presented as popular culture’s misinterpretation or misrepresentation of scienti?c facts; however, in this essay I argue that a more theoretically lucrative approach understands these con?icts as complex social and cultural negotiations over epistemological boundaries between scienti?c and popular cultures. Understanding such differences is tremendously important in mediated societies where scienti?c research is mostly understood through its representation in the popular culture. In this paper, I examine what is at stake in popular representations of scienti?c research and how the popular culture is often seen as threatening to the epistemic boundaries of scienti?c culture. Using the recent controversy over The Oprah Winfrey Show’ s presentation of controversial medical practices as a case study, this essay examines how distinctions between scienti?c and popular ways of knowing are constructed, represented and managed. I argue that scienti?c knowledge should be viewed as a complex and often con?icted cultural discursive practice that signi?es boundary negotiations between scienti?c and popular cultures.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4245/sponge.v3i1.6569