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Science Storytelling - #SciCommLSU Lecture 4

Science Storytelling - #SciCommLSU Lecture 4

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Science Storytelling - #SciCommLSU Lecture 4

  1. 1. Science Storytelling Lecture 4 – Paige Brown #SciCommLSU Conflict Narrative. N.C. Wyeth The Boy’s King Arthur (Wikimedia, Public Domain)
  2. 2. Telling Stories about Science We can tell stories about the scientific discovery or the scientific process. We can tell stories about the scientist’s life, struggles, etc. We can tell stories about the implications of the scientific discoveries for everyday life, or for the future. What other stories can we tell?
  3. 3. Elements of Story  Plot  Strong characters  Who are your characters? The scientists? The people affected by scientific issues / decisions? The reader? Non-human characters?  Action / Climax  Setting  Transportation: Imagery, Affect (emotion), Attention-grabbing devices.  “description of a steady state of the world, followed by a description of an event that puts the world into chaotic state, followed by a description of the world in a new steady state.” – Telling Science Stories
  4. 4. “It is our stories that make us human.” – Read & Miller https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP3c1h8v2ZQ
  5. 5. http://www.bradhuebert.com/the-heros-journey/
  6. 6. Importance of Narrative  Narratives are important means “to convey information in an accurate, attractive, imaginative and memorable way.” – Negrete & Lartigue  Narratives, or stories, are easier to comprehend and more memorable than scientific facts. – Negrete & Lartigue
  7. 7. What Common Narratives Can You Think of that Surround Science?
  8. 8. Narrative structures that have been proposed to enhance popular interest in science:  History – the history of a field, of a scientific discovery, etc.  The (often eccentric) scientist biography  Drama – a problem that science can or has solved  The “hard-fought” discovery  The (solved or unsolved) mystery  The untold story
  9. 9. Narratives Used by Science Communicators: http://f1000research.com/articles/3-128/v1  “People like the underdog” – the narrative of unlikely astronaut, of the scientist “fighting” against the deadly disease, etc.  Overcoming obstacles; the scientist as “hero”  Science-fiction fantasies  Science used as a tool to solve problems  The history of the scientist – why did he / she get into this work? What are his / her motivations?  The patient story  See anything common in these narratives? The narrative almost always brings in a human element. Humans are included in the story. In some cases, though, the science (animals, molecules, etc.) are anthropomorphized – stories told from their perspective.
  10. 10. Cognitive Psychology of Stories  Social interaction is central for human beings. Stories are fundamentally about social interaction. – Read & Miller  For humans, social knowledge is at the center of the cognitive system. Knowledge of physical objects (and even scientific concepts) is understood through relations to the social. – Read & Miller  “Knowledge of the physical world is almost always taken with reference to human concerns.” – Read & Miller  Stories are also memory structures – they make it easier for us to find (in our brains) stored information later when it is needed. Stories and their narratives serve as cognitive structures for organizing and storing information. (Schank & Abelson)
  11. 11. Cognitive Psychology of Stories  Even deeper then memory structures, stories serve social goals: gossiping, group cohesion, learning from others’ / past mistakes, communicator morals & values.  Story structure is universally basic to conversation and meaning making. – Read & Miller  Humans appear to be ready from a very young age to hear and understand stories. – Read & Miller
  12. 12. Telling Stories that Communicate Values  Values may shift as humans adjust to differing environmental and other social conditions.  Altruism, Protecting the Environment vs. Power, Security  Conformity, Tradition vs. Self-direction, Curiosity  People tell different stories to make different values more salient (prominent / available in memory) for local survival or cultural cohesion  For example, anthropologists have argued that when food is hard to come by, many cultures will tell stories about sharing.  Fables (stories) often have moral lessons.
  13. 13. The Ant and the Grasshopper  One of Aesop's Fables, providing an ambivalent moral lesson about the virtues of hard work and planning for the future.  A grasshopper that has spent the warm months singing while the ant(s) worked to store up food for winter. When that season arrives, the grasshopper finds itself dying of hunger and begs the ant for food. To its reply when asked that it had sung all summer, it is rebuked for its idleness and advised to dance during the winter.
  14. 14. Stories for Climate Change  A recent report on communicating climate science by the UCL Policy Commission notes that narrative is a powerful means to engage with an audience and convey complex information  “Stories are the means by which people make sense of the world, learn values, form beliefs, and give shape to their lives. Stories are everywhere [but] they are absent from climate change communication.”  “Fiction is great – it can help us really feel the horror of what we’re headed for, change our lives in a deeper way than scientific projections alone could do, and give us ideas to help us adapt to the change.” – Jane Rawson
  15. 15. Climate Science Fiction http://www.npr.org/2013/04/20/176713022/s o-hot-right-now-has-climate-change-created-a-new- literary-genre
  16. 16. Getting the Story How can you get the ‘story’ out of science, a scientific paper, an interview with a scientist, etc.?  Dig. Pay attention to colors, sounds, smell, textures. These will make the story come alive. “It doesn’t matter that 55% of the invertebrates in your story were impacted, but rather what they looked like, how they smelled, and what the day was like.”  Shed preconceptions. Don’t go in have a narrative already in your head. Some stories are hidden in the data, the small details, etc.  Character matters. The scientist is only one character: there are many others who shouldn’t be ignored.  History matters. Context will make your story. Consider the history of a scientific field, the scientists that came before, the history of how a scientific issue has been communicated or interpreted, etc.  Find a guide. Find experts or people with direct experience that can help you better understand the story embedded in the science. A historian of the field. A blogger who writes about this regularly?
  17. 17. Telling the Story  The story won’t always materialize magically with a perfect beginning and end. Sometimes you are starting in the middle of a bigger story.  Tell the story in an order that makes sense. Often that is chronological order. Other times you can make a point my messing with traditional chronological order. Start at the end, etc.  Verbs! Create action. “Scowled, brooded, gasped, puzzled, obsessed, twirled, dismissed, twinkled, and belched.”  Facts and details matter. Don’t use fuzzy language or generalizations.  Try to figure out where your story ends. Have a destination, even if the destination is more questioning.  Invite your readers / listeners to be a part of the story. Where do they fit in?
  18. 18. Discussion: How is the narrative or story different than the news pyramid?
  19. 19. Critical Thinking: What ethical considerations are there to communicating science through narrative? What is the underlying purpose of using narrative: comprehension or persuasion? What are the appropriate levels of accuracy to maintain? How might narratives oversimplify science or lead to misrepresentations of science / scientists? We should take care that our narratives don’t misplace blame for problems or oppress particular views, etc.
  20. 20. More Reading  Creating Characters on the Page: http://www.theopennotebook.com/2014/08/19/creating-characters/  Tales from the Sea: Scientists Take a Storytelling Journey: http://compassblogs.org/blog/2014/08/18/tales-from-the-sea- scientists-take-a-storytelling-journey/? utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&ut m_campaign=Feed%3A+Compassblogs+%28COMPASSblogs %29

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