The Microbiome as TED Knows It: Popular Science Communication and Neoliberal Subject

Penelope Ironstone

Abstract


Background  Although criticized for a variety of reasons, TED platforms and conventions have been engaged, often uncritically, as tools for popular science communication. This article critically examines four TED Talks that engage the relatively recent biomedical concept of the human microbiome. 

Analysis  Neoliberal values underpin both the TED universe and the marketization of science. TED conventions produce a discursive regularity that brings together neoliberal subjectivity and bioeconomic imperatives of contemporary scientific research. This neoliberalization is supported by uncritically championing citizen science and the so-called democratization of science alongside crowdsourcing and crowdfunding appeals.

Conclusions and implications  Uncritically embracing TED Talks can implicate science communication in the reproduction of problematic ideological positions that favour economic interests over the social good or even individual health.

Contexte  Les plateformes et conférences TED ont contribué à rendre la science accessible, même si elles souvent manqué de discernement en le faisant. Cet article effectue un examen critique de quatre TED Talks portant sur le concept relativement récent de microbiome humain. 

Analyse Des valeurs néolibérales sous-tendent l’univers TED et la marchandisation de la science. Les conférences TED associent ordinairement une subjectivité néolibérale aux impératifs bioéconomiques de la recherche savante contemporaine. Elles appuient le néolibéralisme en vantant de manière parfois irréfléchie la prétendue démocratisation de la science, les sciences participatives, la production participative et les appels au sociofinancement.  

Conclusions et implications  Accepter sans réserve les TED Talks peut entraîner la communication de la science à reproduire des partis pris idéologiques problématiques, favorisant des intérêts économiques au détriment du bien commun ou même de la santé personnelle.


Keywords


Science communication; Human microbiome; TED Talks; Neoliberalization of science; Neoliberal subjectivity; Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing; Cultural studies of science / Communication de la science; Microbiome humain; Conférences TED; Néolibéral-isation

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22230/cjc.2019v44n2a3339

License URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/ca/
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We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

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