Democratizing Nanotechnology: The Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network And The Meaning Of Civic Education

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This dissertation explores how informal science educators create scientific knowledge rather than merely reformulating or reorganizing it, using research based on an ethnographic study of the first five years of the Nanoscale Informal Science Education (NISE) Network, which began in 2005. The Network was the first largescale informal science education network of science museums and centers funded by the National Science Foundation to focus on an emerging technology. I demonstrate how informal science educators occupy as powerful a position as scientists in defining emerging science and technology and the implications of that position for civic education and learning. The NISE Network and its relationship with the National Science Foundation play significant roles in defining the type of learning and educational approaches to emerging technologies that are trusted by the field of informal science education at large. This dissertation demonstrates how the challenge of an unfamiliar subject (nanotechnologies) and unfamiliar methods (networking, distribution, and evaluation) shaped the Network's approaches to education and learning. The three case studies of this dissertation, which were also the three primary programming efforts of the NISE Network in those first five years, demonstrate the compromises and negotiations the Network made in order to fulfill its obligations to NSF. Chapter 2 concludes that although informal science education (ISE) as a whole has an interest in and a use for art methodologies applied to science education, ISE as defined by the NSF has not yet settled on the best way to incorporate such methods and knowledges into its practices. Chapter 3 demonstrates the constraints of spreading knowledge through a diversified, but professionalized network of informal science educators. The historical legacy of the field of ISE situates it within specific expectations and practices which shaped individual interpretations and assumptions about the best methods for the NISE Network to use in presenting nanotechnologies. Chapter 4 further identifies that which is currently being negotiated in the field of informal science education by looking at how professional practices and civic epistemologies help define the role of the science museum and the ISE field in civic education and democratic society.

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informal science education; NISE; democracy; nanotechnology; emerging tech; public engagement; civic education
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Lewenstein, Bruce Voss
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Lynch, Michael E.
Kline, Ronald R
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Science and Technology Studies
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Ph. D., Science and Technology Studies
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Doctor of Philosophy
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