Within the context of increasingly globalized and media-saturated societies, it is becoming essential to develop complex frameworks for understanding the challenges and opportunities presented by media coverage, public debate, and activism. Many scientists and engineers interact with activists and journalists on a regular basis, and the rise of new media has exponentially increased the reach, profile, and interests of those concerned with the impact of scientific and technological research and its relationship to broader societal issues. In addition, new media channels have also given scientists and engineers an opportunity online to voice their own concerns, directly, to a general public. The everyday reality then is that scientific and technological research comes to be translated through polymorphous media channels in ways that have profound environmental, ethical, and policy implications as well as direct effects on research funding and levels of public engagement.

Disruptive Environments: Academics, Activists, and Journalists in Conversation seeks to deal with these issues in a two-day conference, scheduled for April 10-11, 2008 at the MIT Museum. The conference will focus on creating conversations among journalists, activists, and scholars from the sciences, humanities, and social sciences on interrelated environmental themes: climate change, environmental justice and health, ecological restoration and remediation. Conceived primarily by graduate students and faculty in the doctoral program of History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, this conference aims to engage MIT faculty and students, colleagues from other Boston-based institutions and beyond, and members of the general public. The goal of the conference is to create new avenues of interaction, develop better tools to conceptualize environmental questions, and inspire novel forms of action.

The conference schedule will include four panels, beginning with one on the evening of April 10, 2008, followed by three panels during the day of April 11, 2008. The schedule has been arranged to allow ample time for presentations and in-depth discussions with audience members, leading towards assembling a cross-cutting set of issues that define public debates about the environment as well as potential solutions. The conference will also include an opening reception, allowing participants, faculty, students, and members of the general public to network and interact informally with one another.