Science is a relative stranger in the Third World. In any given country, public communication on science and technology, and public understanding of science, depend on several factors. But the nature and quality of science and technology in that country is crucial, once the type of economy, the state of education, and the role of mass media are taken into account.
 
In many developing countries, there is very little or no scientific research. Science is thus an exotic product, a luxury. This situation is reflected by education and the media.
 
The prevalent image of science in education is of the encyclopaedic type. Science is a collection of facts and laws, more or ¡ess eternal and immutable. It is in the books, not the laboratory.
 
In many Third World media, science is something that happens abroad, far away, in rich industrial countries. It is spectacular and expensive. And it is rather unrelated with daily life. It deals with the Big Bang, atom smashers, super computers and the Nobel Prize.
 
From a cultural point of view, science competes with traditional beliefs. In a certain sense this is not a problem restricted to the Third World. And it may not be a problem at all, if it were possible to find specific places in culture to both science and beliefs.
 
But the real problem in the Third World is the perception of science in the power elites, where people have university degrees, read newspapers and travel abroad. Here local science is often viewed as a luxury, a waste of scarce resources, a non-priority, because its products can be easily imported from developed nations, or because it is supposed to be outside the economic reaches of a developing country.
 
Perceptions of science and technology are evolving in a not very favourable direction in the Third World. The industrial countries pressure to lift al! barriers to international trade has recently produced an avalanche of consumer products that embody the popular image of technology, obscuring the role of scientific research.
 
Also satellite TV inundates homes with visions of science and science fiction concocted in the First World with the view of entertaining mass audiences. Science is gee-whiz: an Star Trek. in any given day, you probably will not find a single local researcher talking about what he or she does in the laboratory and how. Education programs on science have only a token presence. Thus entertainment value and sensationalism prevail.
 
Arid this is reflected in the lack of interest in local research, something in the media managers view, difficult and expensive to cover, that does not attract audiences. Thus they turn towards foreign materials, sometimes almost archaic, but glossy, inexpensive and pre-digested.
 
To summarise, in many Third World countries, particularly those of Latin America, science is an imported good, either in consumer products or mass media messages, because there is little or no indigenous scientific research or technology development, and very little encouragement for its popularisation.
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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Science in the third world media
An exotic luxury?

Martin Yriart  

Science is a relative stranger in the Third World. In any given country, public communication on science and technology, and public understanding of science, depend on several factors. But the nature and quality of science and technology in that country is crucial, once the type of economy, the state of education, and the role of mass media are taken into account.
 
In many developing countries, there is very little or no scientific research. Science is thus an exotic product, a luxury. This situation is reflected by education and the media.
 
The prevalent image of science in education is of the encyclopaedic type. Science is a collection of facts and laws, more or ¡ess eternal and immutable. It is in the books, not the laboratory.
 
In many Third World media, science is something that happens abroad, far away, in rich industrial countries. It is spectacular and expensive. And it is rather unrelated with daily life. It deals with the Big Bang, atom smashers, super computers and the Nobel Prize.
 
From a cultural point of view, science competes with traditional beliefs. In a certain sense this is not a problem restricted to the Third World. And it may not be a problem at all, if it were possible to find specific places in culture to both science and beliefs.
 
But the real problem in the Third World is the perception of science in the power elites, where people have university degrees, read newspapers and travel abroad. Here local science is often viewed as a luxury, a waste of scarce resources, a non-priority, because its products can be easily imported from developed nations, or because it is supposed to be outside the economic reaches of a developing country.
 
Perceptions of science and technology are evolving in a not very favourable direction in the Third World. The industrial countries pressure to lift al! barriers to international trade has recently produced an avalanche of consumer products that embody the popular image of technology, obscuring the role of scientific research.
 
Also satellite TV inundates homes with visions of science and science fiction concocted in the First World with the view of entertaining mass audiences. Science is gee-whiz: an Star Trek. in any given day, you probably will not find a single local researcher talking about what he or she does in the laboratory and how. Education programs on science have only a token presence. Thus entertainment value and sensationalism prevail.
 
Arid this is reflected in the lack of interest in local research, something in the media managers view, difficult and expensive to cover, that does not attract audiences. Thus they turn towards foreign materials, sometimes almost archaic, but glossy, inexpensive and pre-digested.
 
To summarise, in many Third World countries, particularly those of Latin America, science is an imported good, either in consumer products or mass media messages, because there is little or no indigenous scientific research or technology development, and very little encouragement for its popularisation.

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