Science and technology, art and literature


This study investigated the potential for comics to promote skepticism about the paranormal. Participants rated their interest in comics, read a skeptical account of alleged paranormal phenomena in one of three mediums (text, comic, and comic containing an interactive magic trick), and then rated their engagement, skepticism and recall. The text was rated as more interesting and entertaining than the comics, and participants' prior interest in comics positively correlated with engagement and shift in skepticism. This suggests that for certain cohorts, comics may be an effective way to promote engagement and attitude change. The implications for future work are considered.


Science and theatre have a long history of interactions, which usually promote collaborations between artists and scientists. Focussing on the theatre performed in the context of science communication, this article aims to analyse the collaboration between artists and scientists in the production of the play ‘Life of Galileo’, by Bertolt Brecht, at the Museu da Vida. Based on the interviews with 12 people involved in the production, we identified a strong involvement in the project, which provided a rich exchange and knowledge acquisition, in addition to raising relevant questions about the theatre performed in the specific context of science communication.


This article employs quantitative and qualitative approaches to examine images of neurobiology published in a science news database, sampled across a two-year interval. Upon comparing the images to article headlines, the author argues that identifiable digital effects — such as blobs of bright colour, sparks of light, superimposed lines — correlate with articles reporting on new observations of neuronal action. A qualitative semiotic analysis of characteristic examples forwards the idea of a “blurry image”, denoting how audiences must cognitively blur the line between objectivity and subjectivity, between the “real” and the enhanced performative action evident in digital images tingling with vibrant life. The conclusion suggests that digital image making can increase aesthetic pleasability even as it serves as a partner in the cognitive task and, accordingly, the argumentation of the neuroscientist. Future research can investigate whether or not digital overlays and image features identified as obvious and attractive impact assessments of scientific research or alter evaluations of objectivity.


This study explores how South African newspaper cartoonists portrayed the novel coronavirus during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic. We show how these cartoons respond to the socio-economic and cultural contexts in the country. Our analysis of how cartoonists represent the novel coronavirus explain how they create meaning (and may influence public sentiments) using colour, morphological characteristics and anthropomorphism as visual rhetorical tools. From a total population of 497 COVID-19-related cartoons published in 15 print and online newspapers from 1 January to 31 May 2020, almost a quarter (24%; n=120) included an illustration of the coronavirus. Viruses were typically coloured green or red and attributed with human characteristics (most often evil-looking facial expressions) and with exaggerated, spikey stalks surrounding the virus body. Anthropomorphism was present in more than half of the 120 cartoons where the virus was illustrated (58%; n=70), while fear was the dominant emotional tone of the cartoons. Based on our analysis, we argue that editorial cartoons provide a useful source to help us understand the broader discursive context within which public communication of science operates during a pandemic.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


‘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.


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