Sunday, February 19, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Mathilde Bessert-Nettelbeck, University of Freiburg/ Cluster of Excellence BrainLinks-BrainTools, Freiburg, Germany
The aim of our project is to develop new ways to connect scientist and the public to foster a dialogue about neurotechnologies. Developing clinical applications of bi-directional communication between the brain and technical devices raises far-reaching ethical and societal questions. Embeded in a neuroscientific research cluster BrainLinks-BrainTools, the Reaching Out project fosters public engagement by endowing the classical science communication portfolio with novel and explorative approaches: In this way in the last 5 years we worked on a model of public outreach based on the collaboration with artists, that we would like to present in this meeting. Together with diverse artistic partners (e.g. Theater Freiburg) we developed new types of participatory projects that reflect the societal and ethical implications of neurotechnology. Public attention to neurotechnology is high, but often skewed in assessing its potential, both towards the positive and the negative. Exaggerated or far-off promises for medical treatment and technological advancement stand alongside misplaced fears about its possible abuse or influence on human nature. Possibly, such public misconceptions may lead to a loss of sustained and well-founded acceptance for truly helpful achievements. We understand scientific outreach as a dialogue with the public about this research, not just as unidirectional dissemination. By necessity, this is also a dialogue about the ethics of neurotechnological research and the use of its results. It further implies an ethical assessment of public perception and requires true reaching out to the public beyond conventional public relations and science marketing. Not only the mentioned one-way communication, but also the scenario of a public that prescribes how scientists should work is undesirable. We established different levels of dialogue and exchange that help the public to better understand the sciences, and help scientists in turn to understand the public. The idea of the Reaching out project is to provide an integrated approach to public outreach – “integrated” meaning that its communication will be carried out in close cooperation with the researchers themselves. In the development of these participatory projects we draw on different art forms to deepen the involvement and reflection of the societal and ethical implications of neurotechnology. This approach allows us to sensitise both scientists and public for the narrations, metaphors and images that shape our understanding of the brain. As we see a bigger potential in our special approach of combining arts and science to foster public engagement, we aim at – next to our extensive hands-on activities – developing a theoretically substantiated framework of our concept.