Enacting acts of authentication in a robotics competition: An interpretivist study

Geeta Verma, Anton Puvirajah and Horace Webb

While the science classroom primarily remains a site for knowledge acquisition through teacher directed experiences, other sites exist outside of the classroom that allow for student generation of scientific knowledge. These sites provide opportunities for linguistic and social interactions to play a powerful role in situating students’ science learning experiences. Augmenting students’ formal school science experiences with informal experiences outside of the classroom enables them to intersect their personal knowledge with canonical disciplinary knowledge. This allows for conditions of practice that are more relevant to the students. In this study we introduce the notion of acts of authentication to examine the nature of students’ linguistic and social activities in an informal setting—a regional robotics competition. These acts of authentication are a) participating in talk (including everyday); b) participating in productive disciplinary engagement (by co-constructing and critiquing knowledge); and c) being a member of a community of practice. We used Critical Discourse Analysis to examine students’ and mentor’s dialogic language to gain insights into the nature of their robotics experiences. Our findings indicate that the robotics experience offered rich opportunities for students to engage in acts of authentication. Our study offers conceptual insights into how the culture of the robotics activities both constructs and is constructed by the linguistic and social experiences of the students and their mentors.



The social construction of competence: Conceptions of science and expertise among proponents of the low-carbohydrate high-fat diet in Finland

Mikko Jauho

The article looks at conceptions of science and expertise among lay proponents of the low-carbohydrate high-fat diet in Finland. The research data consist of comments on a webpage related to a debate on the health dangers of animal fats screened in Finnish national television in autumn 2010. The article shows that contrary to the prevailing image advocated by the national nutritional establishment, which is based on the deficit model of public understanding of science, the low-carbohydrate high-fat proponents are neither ignorant about scientific facts nor anti-science. Rather, they express nuanced viewpoints about the nature of science, the place of individual experience in nutritional recommendations and the reliability of experts. Inspired by discussions on the social construction of ignorance, the article argues that the low-carbohydrate high-fat proponents are engaged in what it calls the social construction of competence when they present their position as grounded in science and stylize themselves as lay experts.


Does the Sun revolve around the Earth? A comparison between the general public and online survey respondents in basic scientific knowledge

Emily A. Cooper and Hany Farid

We conducted an online survey using a set of factual science questions that are commonly administered to assess fact-based scientific literacy. We report that the online population performed substantially better on this standard assessment than the traditional survey population. For example, it has been widely reported that 1 in 4 Americans does not know that the Earth revolves around the Sun, whereas among the online population, this ratio is reduced to 1 in 25. While new online platforms provide researchers with unprecedented ease of access to a large sample population for studying trends in public knowledge and attitudes, generalizing from online population samples to the US population at large poses a considerable challenge. We discuss the potential reasons for this discrepancy and the implications for conducting research online.


The magic of social thought

Nikos Kalampalikis

Studying social thinking provides a promising field of investigation for the constitution of common knowledge in communication and action of historically and culturally situated groups. Its genealogy helps the understanding of the symbolic efficacy of social practices and their own operating collective logic. The English translation of a short version of Serge Moscovici’s article on the new magical thinking allows a wider audience to gain access, for the first time, to a text that perfectly illustrates the currentness and relevance of the social psychology of knowledge.