The Scientific Construction of Publics: Mars One, Reality TV, and Democratic Rhetoric Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Brennen, Jonathan Scott
    • Affiliation: Hussman School of Journalism and Media
  • This case study considers how Mars One, the Dutch start-up company working to use reality television to fund the first human colony on Mars, draws on democratic rhetoric in communicating with the public. It demonstrates how Mars One adopts the rhetoric of what Jeffrey Alexander calls the democratic civil sphere in order to construct publics from which it can gain legitimacy, financial support, and cultural capital. Based on these findings, I argue for consolidating and expanding the public engagement turn in science and technology studies literature by initiating a new research program around the scientific construction of publics (SCOP). Such a program would look to the ways that scientists create, convene and mobilize publics through technical, media, and rhetorical practice. A SCOP program opens space for richer and more contextualized accounts of science-public interactions by emphasizing the role of rhetoric in the strategic construction of publics. In doing so, this program would be attuned to the more general commercialization of science, recognizing the ways in which this and other macro contexts compel scientific organizations to innovate new means and strategies of accumulating resources.
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  • In Copyright
  • Kreiss, Daniel
  • Master of Arts
Graduation year
  • 2013

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