those spaces in between life, thinking, the physical world, and humanity
The Hybrid Laboratory: Informal Spaces for Public-Science Interaction
Whitney Ann Ferrin-Rodriguez, Loyola University Chicago
While growing trends in participatory science and public outreach have made science more accessible to publics, science communities and publics have long interpreted science and laboratories as private domains, perpetuating the idea that science is reserved for “experts” and locations for science are deemed “private.” Many studies that examine public-science interaction, however, seldom consider the role of space and place. I argue that material spaces shape public-science interactions. My analysis takes place at an institutionalized informal education platform: a hybrid laboratory: a space used by “expert” astronomers to create new visual knowledge and “lay” publics to actively participate in astronomy. Though, at first, publics confront competing ideas of “private” laboratories as “real” places for science, the hybridity of the space deconstructs the idea that science communities are reclusive and sites of knowledge production are inaccessible. In this informal environment, conversations are fluid; they shift to cover an array of topics the public is interested in and inquire about. But, in order for these interactions to take place and thrive, machines and visual images are required and used by both groups to facilitate the interaction and outcomes: to show and tell (astronomers) and to see and know (publics). As a result, the materials and physical characteristics of a space can be used in ways that suggest boundaries are still negotiated and exercised during public-science interactions.