Science and technology, art and literature

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.

24/10/2017

Marked by the diversity of initiatives linking science and art and by new presentation formats, the 15th Congress of the Network for Popularisation of Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean (RedPOP) saw heated debates on science, culture, politics and society. Between 21st and 25th August, it brought together in Buenos Aires (Argentina) about 400 participants from 14 countries in order to share new visions, initiatives and research work in science communication. During the event, which included a vast cultural programme, a series of challenges were raised for the future development of the field.

16/12/2016

Much of science communication is peer-to-peer communication in collaborative networks for innovation from the fuzzy front-end of innovation until the marketing back-end. Scientists and engineers at meetings tables talking about new developments. Or scientists and engineers in collaboration with industry and policy makers, discussing various scenarios for implementation of e.g. health care services. However, this focus on science communication 'within the action' of uncertain development of science and technology and its attached academic domains such as innovation studies, high-tech marketing and branding, is not often discussed in the science communication literature. Lacking these considerations at this micro-level communication, means we have an incomplete picture of the ways that discourses develop and are shaped by actors, particularly during the upstream phases of innovation.

15/12/2015

A hybrid combination of art and science is used to communicate science in a primary school setting. The purpose of the work is to enhance student awareness of the science behind understanding the global climate system with a focus on the cryosphere. An experiment in communicating science is conducted by taking the collaborative experiences of a professional artist and scientist, which are then combined and projected onto an ostensibly everyday primary school classroom project. The tangible end result is a stand-alone contemporary art work that then is the focal point of community-based promotion of the science and creativity involved. A range of qualitative evaluation elements suggest that the approach does improve student engagement with the scientific approach and reduces the student's uncertainty about ``what science is''.

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