Jeanne Fahnestock’s Accommodating Science: the Rhetorical Life of Scientific Facts (1998) Summary

Topics: Science, Theory, Scientific method Pages: 2 (468 words) Published: November 23, 2012
Jeanne Fahnestock’s Accommodating Science: The Rhetorical Life of Scientific Facts (1998) is a comparative study which describes the changes in genre and information that take place when accommodating scientific texts to lay audiences. Fahnestock identifies three main ideas that affect the changes of genre and information, they are: The change of genre between the original text and a public article, changes in information when a larger audience is addressed and lastly the usefulness of classical stasis theory when explaining scientific texts.

When an expert scientific article is first written, it is intended for one audience. That audience being other experts. Therefore once the article is deemed “important” the knowledge that it holds must be relayed to the general public. This task is given to “science accommodators” (Fahnestock, 334). Fahnestock states that the accommodators must not rely on lay audiences to pick up on the significance of a scientific article. Thus they must be able to relay the new knowledge in a way for all to comprehend. The main ways this is done is as follows: Articles must establish their main point in the introductory paragraph, “celebrate rather than validate” (Fahnestock, 333), display physical evidence of discoveries in the means of “tables, figures, and photographs” (Fahnestock, 333), and lastly show “the wonder and application” appeals (Fahnestock, 334). If the accommodated texts do not “wonder and awe” the public they will not gain popularity.

Accommodating texts is exactly like playing the elementary school game “telephone”. As Fahnestock states it is very surprising that more information is not lost. Some of this information however is left out on purpose. Sometimes this lack of information causes distortion in the public’s ability to comprehend the article. The accommodator’s job not only involves translating technical vocabulary, but to distinguish the lay audience’s points of interest in a particular subject matter....
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