Theme: Narrating Human Evolution.
Replayed TED Talks:
Spencer Wells: A family tree for humanity
Svante Pääbo: DNA clues to our inner neanderthal
Event page on facebook
Mattis Karlsson is a PhD candidate at the Department for studies of Culture and Social Change (ISAK) at Linköping University. His coming dissertation "Discovering Denisova" concerns the mediation of the recently discovered prehistoric human species Denisova Hominin.
I am interested in the roles that science plays in society. I am especially interested in how the history of human evolution creates and relies on meaning and values. There is a lot to learn from how discoveries in evolutionary anthropology and the sequencing ancient DNA is being reported on by media. A particularly interesting case in that regard is the discovery of the Denisova human.
It was in 2010 that a group of scientists (including the Swedish professor Svante Pääbo) published the results of an mtDNA analysis of a very old fossil. This fossil proved to be the remains of a previously unknown human species. A species closely related to Neanderthals and modern humans. The discovery is one of several recent major contributions to the field of evolutionary anthropology.
Since scientists first managed to sequence the human genome in the early 2000s, new techniques have been developed in order to sequence not only living things but even ancient remains like fossils. This partly explains why so much is happening in the field of evolutionary anthropology.
Just recently, in august this year news emerged that scientists have successfully sequenced the genome of a fossil proving to have belonged to a hybrid human. Meaning an individual that had a mother of one human species and a father of a separate species. The news of this hybrid discovery was published in media outlets all over the world.
This is a field that enjoys significant media attention, and when media outlets report on these discoveries they are negotiating the public conception on human evolution. You could say that they are literally rewriting the history of humans. To me, that is an extremely interesting example of how knowledge production comes together in a lot of different fields at the same time: scientists, journalists, bloggers, social media users and of course readers of all sorts of texts all take part in making a new narrative of human evolution.