Lectures and Workshop Lectures and Workshop

Is the "golden age" of popular science over?





School of Creativity and Art, E408


Xincheng Shen, a scholar in the history of science and technology, and a young writer. Taught at the Institute of Science History and Science Culture, School of Marxism, Shanghai Jiaotong University, engaged in the research of technological social history and museology. He has a PhD in History of Science and Technology from Georgia Institute of Technology, a Master of Anthropology from Columbia University, a Master of Archaeology from Fudan University, and a Bachelor of History from Peking University. He has participated in research and curatorial work such as the American Museum of Nature, the 9/11 Memorial, and the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. He has published more than ten articles in 人民日报, 史林, 文汇学人 and so on. The book 纽约无人是客 was selected into the 2017 Douban Annual List, with a Douban score of 8.6.

We often think that science popularization is to use plain and simple language to make difficult and sophisticated scientific knowledge easy to understand. This model has dominated the mainstream for a long time in the past, and it has been effective. It has achieved success in both education and business. Effectiveness. But this golden age of popular science has passed. The development of science and technology has become more and more detailed, making it impossible for most people to understand science and technology knowledge in a common sense; the increasing application of science and technology has made it impossible for most people to use value-free benchmarks to judge the motivation of scientific researchers.

Therefore, the focus of popular science work in the next stage must be historical interpretation:Tell the process of scientific research into a story, and bring the general public into the process of scientific research.

A well-known collection of Exploratorium

A dynamic San Francisco landscape sculpture made with toothpicks

Rolling Through the Bay


The so-called historical perspective can be seen from the connotation and emphasis of western science and technology museums.

When mechanical craftsmanship prevailed, European museums emphasized technology rather than science, because the former was more concrete and closer to art; when European powers competed to create basic education, they emphasized science and technology, because the former is abstract and can be copied and easily promoted; inventors’ drawings promote class When it flows, technology equals engineering; once scientists start to provide leapfrog solutions, technology equates to basic research. The museum and the enterprise on the application side set up a stage and sing together to tide over the difficulties. Because of this, large western museums can both run volume and focus, and gradually establish excellent brands.

Steam locomotive at the Henry Ford Museum (Detroit)

For China, modern science is an imported product, industrial technology is an imported product, and it is also an imported product for the popularization and presentation of science and technology. After the reform and opening up, Western academia and industry have completed the separation of science and technology, and basic scientific research has become the only content on display that is eligible to be included in the museum. then, when accepting the concept of the science and technology museum, we entered the limitation of thinking about focusing on science but not on technology, which severely restricted the imagination of the practitioners of the connotation of the science and technology museum. As a science and technology museum where the three intersect, we can say that we have only learned the surface, but not the essence.

London Science Museum 

History is not far away from us. Just like Europe at the beginning of the last century, the current multilateralist order hangs on a thread, and technological competition is becoming increasingly fierce. We are in the torrent of history. We must not only maintain the fine tradition of focusing on science and education, but also not look at the function and value of science and science museums with a static perspective. Instead, we should use a dynamic perspective and thinking to better capture the rapidly changing nature of our country Economic and technological landscape.

Boston Museum of Science

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