Jargon & Blarney

Being surrounded by social media aficionados brought out the Luddite in me, with constant reminders of how little I know about tweeting, blogging and modern conversations in the virtual world.

I needed a field guide to navigate the ScienceOnline2012 conference in Raleigh while learning a whole new vocabulary.

I’ll be the first to admit that academics are the worst offenders of jargon-talk. We mean something very specific when we talk about literature (not Toni Morrison) and conceptualization (not sex) in social science.

And in the humanities, jargon is laden with goop-speak. Some terms are so abstruse they sound like blarney. It’s “blargon,” when …
… Scholars interrogate the meaning of a text
… A pastiche is hollow
… Media create the hyperreal
… Identity is a postmodern inflection

In blogosphere-speak I learned brand new words, although some translations still elude me. I learned that a vestibule doesn’t refer to Grandma’s home and that a hash tag has nothing to do with my time as a teenager living in The Netherlands.

Once I was able to slog through the molasses of the blargon I came to the conclusion that the core of our concerns is the same in 2012 as in 1912: how do we enfold science into daily discourse, and how can science inform democracy?


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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1 Response to Jargon & Blarney

  1. mervtano says:

    From a recent proposal for a roundtable on the native scientist as nation-builder:

    The fourth set of dynamics establishes the processes by which the native scientist persuades mainstream science that a restructuring of its canon to include not only the elements of a tribe’s traditional knowledge, but also the process by which that knowledge was produced, communicated, and operationalized. The native scientist should understand how decisions about what passes as scientific knowledge are settled, how it should be acquired, and the means by which claims are warranted. To be more effective in persuading mainstream science to restructure its canon it is increasingly necessary that the native scientist affiliate with a bureaucratic power-structure in business or government. What are the hegemonic influences of such affiliations and how does the native scientist negotiate these influences? How does knowledge move from the particularities of its site of production to universal acceptance? And how does the native scientist leverage these activities to help restore the tribal “national” consciousness? As it was in the third set of dynamics it may be necessary for the native scientist to work with senior scientist to learn how the traditions of science evolve and design approaches consistent with such processes to engage scientific institutions.


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