Open Science

Kicking on with the main theme of ARTS3091 course for 2012, this weeks focus is on the beauty of the transversal in the way that it has allowed for us to cross the boundaries of traditional disciplines. Different fields of knowledge are becoming intertwined leading to new ecologies of practice and also leading us to question if we are in a  “Scientific-Technologic” revolution (?).

Scientific knowledge can now be published online, giving credibility to previously questionable sources of information through creating order amongst the chaos of data. John Wilbanks believes that scientific publication is making for a kind of “open-science”, where science is easily palatable for the masses, allowing us to use it to its full potential. “This is how we maximize our societal investment in science: by making sure it can be read, understood, and used by the network culture[1].”

Aside from publishing, science has also expanded into other streams of communication such as advertising and marketing. In doing so, a slew of new ethical considerations have been also created.

The success of Neuro-marketing (brain science meets marketing-fun!) has recently been confirmed through studies in the Psychological Scientist. Researchers have found through analysing responses to anti-smoking ads, that activity occurring in one specific area of the brain predicted the effectiveness of the ad as it resulted in more calls to quit-smoking hotlines[2].

Not everyone is stoked about these findings though. “It sounds like something that could have happened in the former Soviet Union for the purposes of behaviour control,” says Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert on the practice of Neuro-marketing[3].  Jeff Chester, the executive director of the Centre for Digital Democracy, makes the claim that the process is “having an effect on individuals that individuals are not informed about[4].”

The issues of combining disciplines become apparent when we consider that each fills an ethical role within society. As Seed magazine puts it, “Science is the centre, and academia, industry, and government all must work together to strengthen and stabilize it. It was science that brought us here, through careful and systematic investigation—and exploitation—of phenomena in the natural world. And it is the endeavour of science that holds the greatest promise for ensuring the continued and widespread positive growth of our civilisation.[5]” Surely Neuro-marketing is not encouraging widespread positive growth of society?

At the end of the day, however, these new avenues exposed by “open-science”  have always been there. Scientific data has always been published and marketers have always tried to figure out what makes people want to buy a product- it’s not revolutionary. The collaboration of science and technology has just made it easier for them to do so.


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