Science and technology, art and literature

21/09/2020

This article seeks to address the lack of sociocultural diversity in the field of science communication by broadening conceptions of citizen science to include citizen social science. Developing citizen social science as a concept and set of practices can increase the diversity of publics who engage in science communication endeavors if citizen social science explicitly aims at addressing social justice issues. First, I situate citizen social science within the histories of citizen science and participatory action research to demonstrate how the three approaches are compatible. Next, I outline the tenets of citizen social science as they are informed by citizen science and participatory action research goals. I then use these tenets as criteria to evaluate the extent to which my case study, a community-based research project called ‘Rustbelt Theater’, counts as a citizen social science project.

27/01/2020

As the digital revolution continues and our lives become increasingly governed by smart technologies, there is a rising need for reflection and critical debate about where we are, where we are headed, and where we want to be. Against this background, the paper suggests that one way to foster such discussion is by engaging with the world of fiction, with imaginative stories that explore the spaces, places, and politics of alternative realities. Hence, after a concise discussion of the concept of speculative fiction, we introduce the notion of datafictions as an umbrella term for speculative stories that deal with the datafication of society in both imaginative and imaginable ways. We then outline and briefly discuss fifteen datafictions subdivided into five main categories: surveillance; social sorting; prediction; advertising and corporate power; hubris, breakdown, and the end of Big Data. In a concluding section, we argue for the increased use of speculative fiction in education, but also as a tool to examine how specific technologies are culturally imagined and what kind of futures are considered plausible given current implementations and trajectories.

20/01/2020

What exactly is “scientific culture”? How does it relate to science communication, non-formal education or artistic interactions with the scientific world? That was the topic of the 14th International Summer School of Mind, Brain and Education (ISMBE), held 1–4 October 2019 at the Ettore Majorana Centre for Scientific Culture in Erice (Sicily), Italy. The ISMBE has a long history of bringing together researchers from diverse fields to catalyze research relating to cognitive science and neuroscience through to education, and the directors of the School, Drs. Kurt Fischer, Antonio Battro and Sebastián Lipina considered that the boundary between these fields and scientific culture was subtle enough to demand a conference on the subject and asked us to organize such a meeting.

14/10/2019

There is a renewed interest amongst science communication practitioners and scholars to explore the potential of storytelling in public communication of science, including to understand how science storytelling functions (or could fail) in different contexts. Drawing from storytelling as the core theme of the 2018 conference of the Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) Network, we present a selection of papers, essays and practice insights that offer diverse perspectives. Some contributions focus on the cultural and structural qualities of science stories and its key success factors, while others explore new formats, platforms and collaborators in science storytelling activities.

14/10/2019

The last three decades have seen extensive reflection concerning how science communication should be modelled and understood. In this essay we propose the value of a cultural approach to science communication — one that frames it primarily as a process of meaning-making. We outline the conceptual basis for this view of culture, drawing on cultural theory to suggest that it is valuable to see science communication as one aspect of (popular) culture, as storytelling or narrative, as ritual, and as collective meaning-making. We then explore four possible ways that a cultural approach might proceed: by mobilising ideas about experience; by framing science communication through identity work; by focusing on fiction; and by paying attention to emotion. We therefore present a view of science communication as always entangled within, and itself shaping, cultural stories and meanings. We close by suggesting that one benefit of this approach is to move beyond debates concerning ‘deficit or dialogue’ as the key frame for public communication of science.

22/07/2019

‘Catan’® (1995) is a multiplayer tabletop game with global sales of over 20 million copies. Presented here is an exploration of the steps that were taken in the development of the ‘Catan: Global Warming’ expansion, from prototype to final design. During the playtesting of the game the feedback that we received from a variety of playtesters indicated that the game mechanics (rather than any accompanying story) were an effective and elegant way of developing dialogue around a specific topic, in this instance global warming. We conclude that in order to develop such a game, consideration must be given to: the accessibility of the game, the game literacy of the proposed players, the playtesting of the game mechanics, the peer review of the scientific content, and the extent to which the metagame (i.e. those discussions that take place around and away from the game) is enabled.

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.

24/07/2018

World’s Fairs and scientific-technological theme parks have been
propitious places for the communication of science and technology through
modernity. This work addresses the issue of the construction of public
discourse about the future within these sites, as well as the changing role
attributed to science and technology as mediators in the relationships
between nature and society. In both fairs and parks, science and
technology play a leading role in the construction of the discourse about
the desirable and achievable future. The practices of science
communication and technology have specific forms, strategies and
objectives, depending on the purposes of the discourse enunciators at
different historical moments. This is exemplified through two cases: the
1939 New York World’s Fair and the EPCOT center in the U.S.

06/03/2018

The rise of artificial intelligence has recently led to bots writing real news stories about sports, finance and politics. As yet, bots have not turned their attention to science, and some people still mistakenly think science is too complex for bots to write about. In fact, a small number of insiders are now applying AI algorithms to summarise scientific research papers and automatically turn them into simple press releases and news stories. Could the science beat be next in line for automation, potentially making many science reporters --- and even editors --- superfluous to science communication through digital press? Meanwhile, the science journalism community remains largely unaware of these developments, and is not engaged in directing AI developments in ways that could enhance reporting.

16/01/2018

While academic interest in science comics has been growing in recent years, the creators of these materials remain understudied. This research aimed to explore the experiences and views of science comic creators through the lens of science communication. Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 science comic creators. Interviewees felt that the visual, narrative, permanent, and approachable qualities of comics made them particularly adept at explaining science and bringing it to new audiences. Science comic creators often had complex identities, occupying an ambiguous territory between `science' and `art', but were otherwise unconcerned with strict definitions. They emphasised the importance of balance between entertaining and informing, striving to create an engaging visual narrative without overcrowding it with facts or compromising scientific accuracy. This balancing act, and how they negotiate it, sheds light on what it means to be a science communicator operating in the space between entertainment and information/education.

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