Representations of science and technology

08/06/2020

The years of the protests marked a period of social turmoil in Italy. The critical impulses that developed within worker and student groups had political effects even on science. This paper aims to offer a historiographical description of some stages of the relationship between scientists and protesting movements, going back over the developments in science communication in Italy between the late sixties and the seventies, focusing on the case of Lucio Lombardo Radice and his work as a TV populariser. The reinterpretation of the recent past could be useful to better understand the contemporary developments in science communication from a historical perspective.

04/05/2020

The popularity of the anti-vax movement in the United States and elsewhere is the cause of new lethal epidemics of diseases that are fully preventable by modern medicine [Benecke and DeYoung, 2019]. Creationism creeps into science classrooms with the aim of undermining the teaching of evolution through legal obligations or school boards’ decisions to present both sides of a debate largely foreign to the scientific community [Taylor, 2017]. And one simply has to turn on the TV and watch so-called science channels to be bombarded with aliens, ghosts, cryptids and miracles as though they are undisputable facts [Prothero, 2012]. Deprecated by its detractors, scientific proof is assimilated to become one opinion among others, if not a mere speculation. Worse, scientific data that challenge partisan positions or economic interests are dismissed as ‘junk science’ and their proponents as ‘shills’ [Oreskes and Conway, 2010]. By echoing such statements, some members of the media, often willing accomplices in conflating denial and scepticism, amplify manufactured controversies and cast growing doubt upon scientific credibility.

14/10/2019

Can we really say what type of story has impact on us, and what type of story does not? Evidence suggests that we can. But we need to better understand the way that stories work on us, at a neural and empathetic level, and better understand the ways that the elements of stories, such as structure and metaphor work. By combining scientific research with the deeper wisdom of traditional storytelling we have both a deep knowledge married to scientific evidence — which can be very powerful tools for science communicators.

14/10/2019

Public confidence in research is important for scientific results to achieve societal impact. Swedish surveys suggest consistent but differing levels of confidence in different research areas. Thus, certain research-related factors can be assumed to have a decisive influence on confidence levels. This focus-group study explores the role of different narratives in shaping public confidence in research. Findings include four themes with potential to increase or decrease public confidence: Person, Process, Product and Presentation. The results offer insights as to how public confidence in research is formed and may give researchers agency in promoting confidence through their communication activities.

23/09/2019

Science and technology have become tools to legitimize messages that affect the world in terms of society, politics and economy. This paper presents part of the results of a study that analyzed the symbolic construction of the future in the scientific-technological discourse at EPCOT theme park in Orlando, Florida. The sociohistorical conditions and narrative strategies are analyzed based on the theoretical and methodological approach by John B. Thompson. The results highlighted that the construction of the notion of progress is strongly influenced by the commercial and political interests of the sponsors. In particular, the ‘Test Track’ ride totally lacks any discussion about the impact of cars on society and the environment. The future is presented as a utopian one without any possible disruption, a perception that permeated the development of the United States over the 20th century and is promoted even in the 21st century despite the evidence provided by multiple wars and crises.

02/09/2019

Fiction is often credited with shaping public attitudes to science, but little science communication research has studied fans' deep engagement with a science-themed fiction text. This study used a survey to investigate the impacts of television series ‘Doctor Who’ (1963–89; 2005–present) on its viewers' attitudes to science, including their education and career choices and ideas about science ethics and the science-society relationship. The program's reported impacts ranged from causing participants to fact-check ‘Doctor Who’'s science to inspiring them to pursue a science career, or, more commonly, prompting viewers to think broadly and deeply about science's social position in diverse ways.

15/07/2019

Knowing how specific publics understand and experience science is crucial for both researchers and practitioners. As learning and meaning-making develop over time, depending on a combination of factors, creative possibilities to analyze those processes are needed to improve evaluation of science communication practices. We examine how first grade children's drawings expressed their perceptions of the Sun and explore their views of a major astronomical body within their social, cultural and personal worlds. We then examine how the observation of the Sun through a telescope led to changes in graphical representations, and how learning and meaning evolved after several months.

14/06/2019

Currently in Spain, there is a political and social debate over the use and sale of homeopathic products, which is promoted mainly by the skeptical movement. For the first time, this issue has become significant in political discourse. This study analyzes the role that homeopathy-related stories are playing in that political debate. We analyzed the viewpoints of headlines between 2015 and 2017 in eight digital dailies (n = 1,683), which published over 30 stories on homeopathy during the three-year study period. The results indicated that the stance on therapy's lack of scientific evidence gained ground during the period studied.

14/06/2019

In 2010 both India and Europe launched new strategies focused on innovation, for economic growth and for addressing societal challenges: the Decade of Innovation from the Indian Government and the Innovation Union from the European Union. This piqued our interest in investigating how these two political entities have envisioned the concept of innovation, particularly in studying and comparing how they have focused on people, both as final beneficiaries (and thus principal legitimisers) of policy actions, and as actors themselves in the innovation process. Per contra we found, in institutional documents, very different descriptions of how to adequately realise citizens' involvement, spanning from the abiding reference to people's inclusion in the Indian case to the varied discourses on public engagement in EU, down to the passive role accorded to citizens in some Expert Groups reports. The comparison between the understandings of innovation (and innovators) in the two contexts can enlarge and refine the argumentative and metaphoric repertoire of science communicators. Further, it can form the basis of a mature and shared debate on the role that knowledge production and innovation policies can and should play in the public governance of science and technology.

20/05/2019

We used content analysis to analyse the representation of female scientists in animated short films on gender and science, selected from the Anima Mundi Festival, over 21 annual editions. In these films, female scientists are featured as ‘intelligent’, ‘dominant’ and ‘well respected’, adult, white, wearing a lab coat or uniform and working in laboratories and fieldwork. We identified a reconfiguration of the gender stereotype in films in which the female character is about to gain space and visibility. We also analysed films whose sexist foundations in the relationship between scientists and their interlocutors reinforce the reproduction of sexist and heteronormative stereotypes.

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