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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.

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In-group rationalizations of risk and indoor tanning: A textual analysis of an online forum

Nick Carcioppolo, Elena V. Chudnovskaya, Andrea Martinez Gonzalez, Tyler Stephan

Unlike other health behaviors, there does not appear to be a strong relationship between perceived skin cancer risk and reduction or cessation of indoor tanning bed use. This study seeks to address this inconsistency by determining how indoor tanning bed users rationalize skin cancer risk with their tanning behavior. Qualitative textual analysis of indoor tanning message board posts (N = 330) revealed varied perceptions of risk, including acknowledging the risk of indoor tanning; denying or downplaying risk, often citing perceived health benefits associated with tanning; blaming outside forces for cancer, such as lotion or genetics; and fatalistic beliefs about cancer. These results highlight the nuanced relationship between perceived skin cancer risk and indoor tanning bed use.

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Deliberation of the Scientific Evidence for Breastfeeding: Online Comments as Social Representations

María E. Len-Ríos, Manu Bhandari, Yulia S. Medvedeva

This mixed-methods study examines online comments (The Atlantic online, N = 326; NYTimes.com, N = 596) generated by two widely read articles challenging the scientific basis for U.S. government breastfeeding recommendations. The analysis focuses on commenter evaluations of the scientific evidence for breastfeeding. Results demonstrate that commenters socially represented breastfeeding science as a means for manufacturing convenience and also as a process that is prone to flaws in its production and application. Online commenters discussed their personal experiences (42%) with breastfeeding more than its evidence base (16%). Personal and social experiences were used as filters to judge the merits of scientific arguments.

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‘The kind of mildly curious sort of science interested person like me’: Science bloggers’ practices relating to audience recruitment

Mathieu Ranger, Karen Bultitude

With at least 150 million professional and amateur blogs on the Internet, blogging offers a potentially powerful tool for engaging large and diverse audiences with science. This article investigates science blogging practices to uncover key trends, including bloggers’ self-perceptions of their role. Interviews with seven of the most popular science bloggers revealed them to be driven by intrinsic personal motivations. Wishing to pursue their love of writing and share their passion for science, they produce content suitable for niche audiences of science enthusiasts, although they do not assume background scientific knowledge. A content analysis of 1000 blog posts and comparison with the most popular blogs on the Internet further confirmed this result and additionally identified key factors that affect science blog popularity, including update frequency, topic diversity and the inclusion of non-text elements (especially images and video).

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