Boundary Vision is written by Marie-Claire Shanahan, an Associate Professor of Science Education & Science Communication at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. When not writing here or hanging out with her students, Marie-Claire is a regular guest host on the science radio program Skeptically Speaking. She also writes about two of her favourite things, science and music, as DJ at the online science pub The Finch & Pea, where she squeezes in as much Canadian independent music as she thinks she can get away with. She tweets as @mcshanahan, can be found on Google+, and reached at mcshanahan at gmail.com.
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I am a science education and communication researcher interested in the social parts of science. Why does the social part matter? It’s important because the choices that people make to engage with science or turn away from it are often social decisions.
I have been interested in science as long as I can remember but the same isn’t true for everyone. My interest brought me to Queen’s University to study physics and mechanical engineering as an undergrad, where I got involved in doing science outreach for kids in local and Northern communities. After finishing my degree, I realized that I was really interested in why and how people choose to do science. I returned to university to train as a physics and math teacher, and it was as a science teacher that I realized how complicated those decisions are for many people. Even students that I thought showed real promise in science would often say things to me like “Oh miss, I’d never study science after high school. I’m just not a science person.”
Inspired by those students I returned to graduate school to do research in the sociology of science and science education. After completing an MA and PhD at the University of Toronto, I am now a faculty member at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. I do research into language, communication and identity in science both in education settings and in public communication, such as on blogs and in comment spaces. This blog is a place for me to share some of my own work and that of my colleagues and also to write about the social spaces of science that are all around us.
Why is the blog called Boundary Vision?
As an MA student, one of the papers that I most vividly remember changing my understanding of science was Thomas Gieryn’s (1983) Boundary-Work and the Demarcation of Science from Non-Science. In it and his later work he creates a very striking analogy of cartography as a way of thinking about science. Nothing is as simple as science vs. not-science or science people vs. non-science people. Instead it’s a complex terrain with boundaries that are negotiated and fought over but also very real. The topics that I cover here take this view. I’m interested in shining a light on the places where science and education and culture overlap and have to share and negotiate territory. To reflect that aim, my brother Vancouver musician and artist Tony Dubroy created Boundary Vision’s beautiful light bulb header image.