Visual communication

21/02/2022

This essay examines a highly popular comic series published in Spain between 1969 and 1970 which focused on Felix Rodríguez de la Fuente (1928–1980), a prominent and influential naturalist and media icon, as main character. These comics constitute a remarkably illustrative example of the use of popular media in processes of construction of natural history knowledge. Situated in the complex final years of Franco's regime, they allow us to probe the combined role of science, media, and celebrity in the construction of a visual environmental culture through storytelling strategies designed to engage young audiences in naturalist-like practices.

09/08/2021

This paper studies how science centers and museums around the world have used mobile apps with museum guide characteristics and tries to identify the best interface design principles to improve their use as a tool for interaction with the public. For this purpose, we mapped mobile apps from science centers and museums and applied an evaluation tool for each one to identify good practices. This allowed us to produce guidelines for identifying good practices in the development of apps as a way of expanding visitors' experience in these institutions through these devices.

27/04/2021

In this essay, we explore what happens when science meets comic art and how such meeting offers an opportunity to rethink science communication. We base our discussion on our own experience, as research scholars, of engaging in a collaboration with a comic artist. Three key reflections are developed: how comic art may help to (1) conceptualize ideas in an early research phase, (2) clarify the main argument by making the (un)written word visible; and (3) communicate science with an open end. These aspects contribute to an increased understanding of science communication in both research and society.

18/01/2021

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.

14/12/2020

On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced the name of a new disease, COVID-19. As the virus that causes the disease spread across the globe, the world went into crisis mode. The various actors of the COVID-19 crisis include, in part, politicians, scientists, health experts, citizens, journalists, front line workers, first responders, organizations, and so on. Their voices and their related communicative processes play out in the rhetorical arena that emerges from the crisis. Crisis memes are a particularly intriguing and salient part of the COVID-19 public discourse. Combining the theoretical implications of rhetorical arena theory (RAT) with multimodality and its close ties to social semiotics, this paper will analyze the unique nature of memes created during the cycle of a crisis.

14/12/2020

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.

14/12/2020

This article is about manga-based messaging for risk communication on COVID-19, describing the practice of collaboration between a group of experts and a popular manga artist. Collaborative storytelling through popular manga provides an effective discussion platform for diverse experts in various specialties, ages, and genders to discuss a topic in a short time. These “stories” can integrate social meaning, legitimacy, and a local context into scientific messages. They also provide the public with a deeper understanding of the messages through the characters and their “real-life” situations, as long as the messages remain consistent with the worldview of the original work.

30/09/2020

A global crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic that started in early 2020 poses significant challenges for how research is conducted and communicated. We present four case studies from the perspective of an interdisciplinary research institution that switched to “corona-mode” during the first two months of the crisis, focussing all its capacities on COVID-19-related issues, communicating to the public directly and via media, as well as actively advising the national government. The case studies highlight the challenges posed by the increased time pressure, high demand for transparency, and communication of complexity and uncertainty. The article gives insights into how these challenges were addressed in our research institution and how science communication in general can be managed during a crisis.

14/10/2019

This research develops a conceptual framework for telling visual stories about science using short-format videos, termed SciCommercial videos, that draw upon marketing communication. The framework is illustrated by an exemplar, the Good Whale Watching video, which is explained using a visual rhetoric keyframe analysis. Finally, the effectiveness of the video is evaluated as a science communication tool using an empirical online survey with 1698 respondents. The results highlight the benefits of using video for storytelling about science by using our framework formula, modified from marketing practices, to produce videos that are Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Science Storytelling (SUCCESS).

14/10/2019

Student engagement is an important predictor of choosing science-related careers and establishing a scientifically literate society: and, worryingly, it is on the decline internationally. Conceptions of science are strongly affected by school experience, so one strategy is to bring successful science communication strategies to the classroom. Through a project creating short science films on mobile devices, students' engagement greatly increased through collaborative learning and the storytelling process. Teachers were also able to achieve cross-curricular goals between science, technology, and literacy. We argue that empowering adolescents as storytellers, rather than storylisteners, is an effective method to increase engagement with science.

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