Didn’t expect to do a full talk, nor to be so rude as to go first, but since this is such a “cozy” panel, I wanted to do this first so I could pay the most attention to the talks following.
Public art is defined by wikipedia as “ artwork that has been planned and executed with the specific intention of being sited or staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all.” Some of the most famous examples around the world include The Gates by Christo and Jean-Claude; Big Yellow Rabbit by Florentijn Hofman; Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoo
We posit an equivalent for science: Public science = “ science outreach that has been conducted outdoors or in another type of public or accessible space such as a public park, metro stop, library etc. with the intention of engaging the public.” . These initiatives attempt to reach new audiences -- particularly non-experts and “casual visitors” (Crettaz von Roten, 2011) who might not actively seek out science -- by hosting events in “alternative venues where the primary draw is not science outreach” (Norsted, 2010, p170). These events tend to be learner-centered as the participants can set their own agenda (Bell, 2009), and may be considered as neutral territory for participants who don’t necessarily have to take on the burden of actively seeking out science (Riise, 2008).
Using this definition, we can go back and identify many projects that could arguably be considered public science. Here are some of our favorites. Science City: ran from June 1994 through May 1995. Created by organizers from the New York Hall of Science, "Science City" was an outdoor exhibition that utilized the street, fences, buildings and other public structures in New York City to attract the "non-museum-going" public to the science in everyday life; For Science on the Buses, city buses were decorated with large informational science posters inside or outside, taking science concepts outside museum and planetarium walls; Other sci festivals include San Diego, Philadelphia, SF; Also Science Cafes, Science in the pub, Soapbox Science & more.
FETTU was an image exhibition project created for IIYA2009. It was grassroots project that created a digital repository of astronomical images that local organizers were then encouraged to use to make their own exhibits. Unique model for astronomy outreach: Non-traditional science outreach venues (malls, prisons, hospitals, parks, metros) Distributed Curation (shared submission, selection and content creation) Global to Local Methodology (global platform with open source materials and resources for any local organizers to utilize, applying detailed knowledge adding local flavor – local imagery, mythology, traditions, context. Both Global/Local commonly bound by ethical use of material, non-profit implementations Such global-to-local methodologies in distributed curation offer exponential increases in exposure and impact from an original single-noded project. Possibility to go viral, loss of control: This is a decrease in control and authority of the curatorial process, including the final outcome, which might take the form of a physical exhibition. Can curatorial practice be analogous to viral code? Where the product is unpredictable, spreading, uncontrollable, self-repeating and mutating in behavior outside the initial exercise of control by the curator? If so, it then becomes a process-based and transformative system redistributing power, and redefining our roles as cultural workers.
Viral FETTU results, no two exhibits were the same. Simple exhibits served as platform for varying experiences from talks and debates, to games and arts & crafts, to experiments and citizen science initiatives. >1000 locations in >70 countries text translated into >40 languages Shown here: Norway, Liverpool and Iran.
Test the sustainability of such a model with FETTSS FETTSS was tied to NASA ’s Year of the Solar System that ran from October 2010 through August 2012. Exhibits in over 100 sites world wide
The following tables show self-reported results from 5 out of 11 questions from surveys distributed to population samples of every third adult at the FETTSS sites described above as well as additional sites. Five-point Likert scales were used with open-ended questions for subsequent depth. Demographic and psychographic questions provided an overview for the population. http://hea-www.harvard.edu/~ascpub/fettss/FETTSS-Survey.pdf It is of interest to note some similarities between the responses from participants at different venues. For example, one might think that viewers at a shopping mall setting would have a lower level of astronomy knowledge than those at a science museum. Yet, the responses were relatively consistent as seen in these data.
The range of responses across sites was similar. Participants were questioned about their existing knowledge of astronomy on a scale of least (1) to greatest (5). The similarity in self-reported knowledge across the venues is perhaps surprising The slightly higher number from CFU may reflect the academic setting. There were a number of comments that the respondents were specifically interested in, or studying astronomy. Table 2. Participants were questioned about their existing knowledge of astronomy on a scale of least (1) to greatest (5). The similarity in self-reported knowledge across the venues is perhaps surprising, and requires additional correlating with the remaining data from the survey and further analysis. A possible change for future studies might be to increase the scale from 5 to 10 points, as used in the Aesthetics & Astronomy studies (Smith et al, 2010), and to align with such benchmarks. The response from visitors across all the sites was very consistent. Speculating on the highest and lowest numbers: Although Penn State hosted the exhibit; it was installed in an art gallery off-site of the university. It is possible this site brought in more of an art/science mix; those that normally go to the gallery for art and those that came for the science exhibit. Central Florida University, with the highest rating, installed the exhibit in the university library, as opposed to a community library, which may have brought in a more specifically scientific audience. CFU “I am an astronomy graduate student so most of the information is review.” CFU “Already fascinated with astronomy…” CFU “I enjoy information on astronomy….” This population actively participates in science events. Combining the last two categories, 42% of those surveyed attend a science event a minimum of once/year. The greatest areas of interest appear to be focused around museums. Flower shows and botanical gardens have the lowest draw. Venues and activities listed in the “other” category included gem and mineral shows, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, photography outings, solar observations and Penn State seminars.
While there was much consistency in responses to the question of what people thought about the exhibit, the question of what drew people to FETTSS revealed some clear variability. The chart bellows highlights the responses for how people encountered the exhibit for each of the sites. Note: Visitors were able to select more than one response so totals can be greater than 100%. The variation from one site to the next may be reflective of the exhibit’s, location. Corpus Christy, Kansas City and Puerto Rico, were in public settings that attracted people who may have already been there for other reasons (mall, a planetarium and a community library) resulting in higher percentages in the “passing by” category. The sites with the lowest percentages in that category (PS and CFU) have the highest percentages in the “like astronomy category indicating that the visit was planned. NASM had the highest percentage in the “like learning about science” category. It can be speculated that this reflects a more general science/natural history audience visiting the Smithsonian at large. The most repeated comments from the “Other” category included the following: KC – they came to see the planetarium. PS – Five comments specifically mentioned the Venus transit (there was a special event at the gallery for the Venus Transit) three people heard about it on NPR and two people came because of word of mouth. PR – Attending was an art class requirement, it was mentioned at the university, and advertised on the radio.
Question about the participants ’ interest in astronomy as a result of seeing the FETTSS exhibition, and the likelihood that they will attend other science events or read about science online. The range of responses across sites was similar, with slightly lower numbers from the mall site in Corpus Christi. While still positive, the somewhat lower averages for this category reflects the secondary nature of the question. As opposed to asking about the direct experience of the exhibit, these questions are looking for longer-term impact. As with the previous question, the responses across all 6 sites were very consistent.
A total of 64% of those surveyed responded to this open-ended question compiled from all the sites. Of those who answered, 76% reported a factual piece of information. The remaining 24% responded with a general comment that did not refer to any specific content.
A total of 84% of the visitors surveyed responded to this open-ended question. Just under half of those who answered, 48%, included not only a particular image or images, but provided an explanation for their choice. Within this category, the responses fell almost equally into one of two categories: science (54%) or art (46%). The science- based responses indicate that the visitor had gained specific information. This is evident by their use vocabulary directly connected to the label copy and specific facts stated. The art-based responses made strong visual connections. In both categories there was a degree of excitement implied with the use of vocabulary and exclamation points. Below is a sampling of responses coded by art or science from across sites:
Question about the participants ’ interest in astronomy as a result of seeing the FETTSS exhibition, and the likelihood that they will attend other science events or read about science online. The range of responses across sites was similar, with slightly lower numbers from the mall site in Corpus Christi. While still positive, the somewhat lower averages for this category reflects the secondary nature of the question. As opposed to asking about the direct experience of the exhibit, these questions are looking for longer-term impact. As with the previous question, the responses across all 6 sites were very consistent. FETTSS -- as with its predecessor, FETTU -- has demonstrated the interest and appeal of public science exhibits focusing on topics that NASA covers, including astronomy, astrobiology, and planetary science. From learning gains to increased interest in astronomy and increased interest in seeking out future science and astronomy opportunities, exposure to scientific content in these public settings allows NASA science to reach large amounts of people (exponentially increased by way of open access) that range from the science-initiated to the less science-inclined. Even without a guided experience, this content has demonstrated its appeal to non-experts. By placing this content in venues where science outreach is atypically found, FETTSS has broadened the reach of this engaging NASA material, reaching out to audiences that may or may not choose or be able to afford to enter a science center or planetarium. Moreover, as with the FETTU project (Arcand & Watzke, 2010), the FETTSS evaluation data show that public science projects have a positive impact on viewers' perception and relationship with science events. Deeper and longitudinal studies of public science events, and with evaluation data aligned with existing benchmarks (research such as the Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY) (Miller, 2012) and other existing US-wide data samples), will help to shed more light on these observations. We look forward to delving deeper into the data for all science outreach events to determine the value in objective terms for these projects on NASA's impact on science awareness and literacy in the U.S. Across all the venues there was great consistency in how people perceived FETTSS. As noted above, there was a strong positive response to how they liked the exhibit, what they learned and whether it was boring or fascinating. The open-ended responses also point to successful engagement. The one area that revealed more variability was the question of how people encountered the exhibit. Taken together, it appears that whether visitors happened to run into the exhibit in a shopping mall, or whether it was an intentionally planned excursion visitors were equally engaged with the show. There is much consistency in the responses across the categories. Much more evaluation is needed – digitizing the remaining sites as a start of course. Longer term, longitudinal studies would be really helpful.
Researching in FETTSS & beyond Who are we attracting in these “everyday situations”? More incidental visitors than intentional visitors with public science? Less-science-initiated audience than science centers/planetariums? Do participants follow up with local science center, library or other resources? Is there any reshaping of the participant ’s identity (or non-identity) with science through public science?
Simultaneously, continuing research on public understanding of astronomy images with Aesthetics & Astronomy project. Papers/articles at http://astroart.cfa.harvard.edu/ Latest data analysis includes evidence for understanding what type of story format may lead to increased participant comprehension and retention; and what type of materials may be best for digital platform implementations. (+New studies on color and comprehension/misconception/trust forthcoming)
Public science on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_science Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., “Creating Public Science with the From Earth to the Universe Project” Science Communication. Vol 33(3) 398–407, Sept. 2011. email@example.com Twitter: @kimberlykowal http://yourtickettotheuniverse.com
Public Science: Astronomy in Everyday Situations
Kimberly Kowal Arcand
Twitter: @kimberlykowal Live tweeting is encouraged! :)
Astronomy in Everyday Situations
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory: In orbit, 1/3 of the way to the moon
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory: Cambridge, MA USA
July 22, 2013 in Nottingham, UK
“ artwork that has been planned and executed with the
specific intention of being sited or staged in the physical
public domain, usually outside and accessible to all.”
Below: The Gates by Christo and Jean-Claude; Big Yellow Rabbit by Florentijn Hofman; Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoo
Equivalent for science? Public science =
“science outreach that has been conducted
outdoors or in another type of public or
accessible space such as a public park, metro
stop, library etc. often with aspects of
collaboration, community support and
involvement, and site specificity.”
Examples of varying depth might include:
• Science City (New York: 1994-5) Science
World (Canada, ongoing)
• Science on the Buses (UK, Canada, others)
• Science Festivals:
– Long tradition in European & other
– US caught on: USA Science &
Engineering Festival, World Science
•Science Cafes, Science in the pub, Soapbox
Science & more.
From Earth to the Universe (FETTU)
– Impetus: International Year of Astronomy 2009
– Unique model for worldwide astronomy
• Non-traditional science outreach venues
• Distributed Curation
• Global-Local Methodology; Small affinity
groups to provide interpretation, meaning,
• Process-based, transformative system of
redistributing power (Krysa 2008); new
capacity building of empowered
practitioners may lead to sustainability
Viral FETTU results, no two exhibits were the same. Simple exhibits
served as platform for varying experiences from talks and debates, to
games and arts & crafts, to experiments and citizen science initiatives.
>1000 locations in >70 countries
text translated into >40 languages
From Earth to the Solar System (FETTSS)
– A collection of 90 images that cover astrophysics,
astrobiology, and planetary science
– >100 FETTSS sites worldwide
– Exercise in sustainability
Locale No. of
Males Females Avg. Age
Shopping Mall 50 25 25 34
Outside 52 29 23 42
33 18 15 28
14 7 7 33
Penn State, PA Off-Campus Art
48 20 28 47
49 28 21 25
Total 246 127 119 35
•Preliminary evaluation data analysis:
How Did Participants Feel About
Their FETTSS Experience
“Very exciting and
informative. My 7yr. old
liked it very much. I will
look up info for him.”
Am coming back.”
(Victoria Crater), looking
straight down on the
crater. Wonderful color,
“I enjoyed the fact that
it was a blend of science
“Very interested in
“Kepler project is
surprising. Will follow
“I would like to have
seen some models of the
space probes. Also, an
interactive exhibit would
be a better learning
slightly hard to
“Venus rotates opposite
“That not all stars go from a
Red Giant to a Blue Giant.”
“I enjoyed learning about
the various conditions on
the planets. I found the
Geminid meteor mystery
“That the rings of Saturn
resulted from a collision
with a moon.”
“About Uranus. I did not
know it rotated sideways.”
“The size of the spot
on Jupiter is the size
of the Earth.”
What Did Participants Learn
Participants Reactions to Images
and the stromatolites—
they are geology—
related which is part
of my degree.”
“Saturn’s rings because
I had no idea how small
they were and how they
may have been formed
from a moon crashing into
“The up-close image of
the surface of Europa.
The geometry of the
lines doesn’t look
natural and I love how
abstract the image is.”
“The great storm on
Jupiter is so mysterious.”
“Mars Victoria crater.
Reminded me of the
“Our “Milky Way”, great
to see tiny details.”
“The Aurora Borealis
stood out the most.
It is so beautiful and
something I will have
a chance to experience
“Solar climate; It
I did not know what
it was. Learned there
are storms on a star.”
Research questions for longitudinal studies
– Who is attracted with these “everyday
• More incidental visitors than
intentional visitors with public
science? Female/male ratios? Age?
• Less-science-initiated audience than
– Do participants follow up
with local science center,
library or other resources?
– Is there any adjustment of
identity with science through
• Simultaneously, further research on public understanding of
astronomy images with Aesthetics & Astronomy project.
– Papers/articles at http://astroart.cfa.harvard.edu/
• Latest data analysis includes evidence for understanding what
type of story format may lead to increased participant
comprehension and retention; and what type of materials may
be best for digital platform implementations. (+New studies
on color and comprehension/misconception/trust
– To be submitted 2013, Curator, Science Communication
Public science on Wikipedia
Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., “Creating Public Science with the
From Earth to the Universe Project” Science Communication.
Vol 33(3) 398–407, Sept. 2011.
Bell, P., Lewenstein, B., Shouse, A. W., Feder, M. A. (Eds). (2009). Learning science in informal environments:
People, places and pursuits. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.
Crettaz von Roten, F. (2011) In search of a new public for scientific exhibitions or festivals: the track of casual
visitors, JCOM Journal of Science Communication. Vol. 10 Issue 01, pp 1-8.
Diamond, S. (2008). “Participation, Flow, Redistribution of Authorship” Paul, C. (Ed.), New Media in the
White Cube and Beyond: Curatorial Models for Digital Art. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Krysa, J. (2008). Distributed Curating & Immateriality. Paul, C. (Ed.), New Media in the White Cube and
Beyond: Curatorial Models for Digital Art. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Lave, J. & Wenger, E., (1993). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge
Norsted, B. A., (2010). Take Me Out to the Ball Game: Science Outreach to Non-traditional Audiences.
Barnes, J., Smith, D.A., Gibbs, M.G., Manning, J.G. (Eds.), Science Education and Outreach: Forging a Path to the
Future. ASP Conference Series, Vol. 431, p.170-173.
Riise, J. (2008), Bringing Science to the Public, in D. Cheng, M. Claessens, T. Gascoigne, J. Metcalfe, B.
Schiele, S. Shi (eds), Communicating Science in Social Contexts, Brussels, Springer, 301-309.
Stafford, B.M., (1999). Artful Science: Enlightenment entertainment and the eclipse of visual education.
Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.