Cyberscience and Social Boundaries: the Implications of Laboratory Talk on the Internet
This paper examines the use of an online forum for the discussion of laboratory science. It is argued that such forums are significant in the light of claims made for the impact of information and communications technologies (ICTs) on scientific research, and of broader debates about the role of ICTs in reconfiguring social boundaries. It appears that the impacts of ICTs on scientific research are likely to be diverse and unpredictable, in line with emerging findings in other application domains. In particular, the potential to break down the boundaries between science and lay persons, and between different areas of scientific research, is likely to be limited by the ways in which particular forums are preserved as bounded spaces for specific specialisms. In the case of the forum studied in this paper, discursive practices function to re-establish laboratory boundaries in the online setting. Laboratory talk on the Internet may help to break down barriers between individual laboratories, but is not, in itself, any more accessible to lay people than talk in the private spaces of the laboratory..