The public engagement presentations at the 2012 S.NET (Society for the Study of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies) conference were exciting not so much for their content (although there was some great content) but for their range.
An artist, philosopher, and scientist, Koert Van Mensvoort described his mobile exhibition, NANO Supermarket where he speculated on and displayed nanotechnology-enabled products of the future. Featured on a Dutch news programme, when NANO Supermarket was first launched , people phoned in asking where they could purchase these ‘products’. Here’s a promotional video,
I was hoping the image of a woman’s foot where her flesh and bone heel is shaped like a high heel had been included; it was one of Van Mensvoort’s more outré NANO Supermarket speculations. You can find out more about NANO Supermarket and Van Mensvoort’s other project on his Next Nature website.
The session stands in high contrast to the public engagement exercise run at the conference by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ([OECD] specifically Craig Cormick who was mentioned in my Oct. 31, 2012 posting about this conference ran the workshop) based on its publication titled, PLANNING GUIDE FOR PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT AND OUTREACH IN NANOTECHNOLOGY; KEY POINTS FOR CONSIDERATION WHEN PLANNING PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT ACTIVITIES IN NANOTECHNOLOGY.
The OECD workshop was organized in a fairly standard fashion: there were tables where people could congregate to discuss the questions we were tasked to answer and post-it notes for answers were made abundant. Small groups chatted together for the first question/exercise we stuck our post-it notes with gay abandon on various posters, then we were asked to change tables and answer another question.
I think I’m getting jaded, while I enjoyed the interaction (particularly at my first table), the whole exercise seemed stale. I don’t think I am the only one. At my second table, we had a public engagement ‘guru’ (this individual’s papers were cited in more than one public engagement presentation at the conference) who seemed less than excited and hadn’t bothered to move tables at the end of the first exercise. The experience made me wonder if there’s a kind of ‘public engagement exhaustion’ creeping up on us.
Of course, I may be alone in my fantasies as I didn’t come across any mention at the conference or in the OECD workshop document about this possible ‘exhaustion’.
In part 5 of this series, I will tackle some of the academic analyses of public engagement, a very interesting session on China, and a card game designed to stimulate public engagement in pubs and bars.