Science museums often introduce theatre as a communication medium to liven up exhibits and help digest difficult material. Research on this genre is scarce and has so far mostly focused on viewers. In this study we employ a broader perspective to enrich theory and research-based practice by studying not only viewers’ perceptions, but also creators’ aims and the script of the play.

We adopt Hall’s model of encoding/decoding as a theoretical framework. We ask three research questions and use following methods to answer them:
(1) What are the goals of the creators of a museum science theatre play for children on basic evolution?

Data were gathered by an interview with the creators and observations of the development stage. These were analyzed qualitatively.
(2) How are these goals encoded into the script of the play?
This was done by content analysis of the written script.

(3) How are these goals conceived by viewers?
To this end, 103 viewers filled out a questionnaire after the play and twelve interviews were conducted. Questionnaires (n=91) from visitors who did not watch the play formed a control group.

Seven aims of the creators were identified and assigned to three categories: (1) general aims of theatre in the museum, (2) general aims of the play, and (3) specific learning objectives. Factors influencing the encoding process were found to be museum policy, personal beliefs, past experience, artistic considerations, and scientific and historical accuracy. The creators were careful of social/moral values that might be encoded into the text (e.g. “only the fittest survive”). It seems that in the encounter between science and theatre, there is inherently a strong aspect of social values.

Content analysis of the script yielded evidence for the encoding of each aim. The structure of the script was found to be analogous to the canonical structure of a scientific paper. Throughout the script the narrative was intertwined with the scientific information.

There was clear evidence that the specific learning objectives were decoded as intended by the viewers. There was less clear-cut evidence for the decoding of more general and affective aims such as stimulating interest in science.

It seems that in the medium of museum science theater there is a strong link between what the creators want to present and what viewers learn. The connection between feelings the creators want to evoke and what audience experiences is more fragile and harder to pinpoint.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Communicating evolution through theatre
The case of ‘darwin’s journey’

Ayelet Baram-Tsabari   Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

Ran Peleg   Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

Science museums often introduce theatre as a communication medium to liven up exhibits and help digest difficult material. Research on this genre is scarce and has so far mostly focused on viewers. In this study we employ a broader perspective to enrich theory and research-based practice by studying not only viewers’ perceptions, but also creators’ aims and the script of the play.

We adopt Hall’s model of encoding/decoding as a theoretical framework. We ask three research questions and use following methods to answer them:
(1) What are the goals of the creators of a museum science theatre play for children on basic evolution?

Data were gathered by an interview with the creators and observations of the development stage. These were analyzed qualitatively.
(2) How are these goals encoded into the script of the play?
This was done by content analysis of the written script.

(3) How are these goals conceived by viewers?
To this end, 103 viewers filled out a questionnaire after the play and twelve interviews were conducted. Questionnaires (n=91) from visitors who did not watch the play formed a control group.

Seven aims of the creators were identified and assigned to three categories: (1) general aims of theatre in the museum, (2) general aims of the play, and (3) specific learning objectives. Factors influencing the encoding process were found to be museum policy, personal beliefs, past experience, artistic considerations, and scientific and historical accuracy. The creators were careful of social/moral values that might be encoded into the text (e.g. “only the fittest survive”). It seems that in the encounter between science and theatre, there is inherently a strong aspect of social values.

Content analysis of the script yielded evidence for the encoding of each aim. The structure of the script was found to be analogous to the canonical structure of a scientific paper. Throughout the script the narrative was intertwined with the scientific information.

There was clear evidence that the specific learning objectives were decoded as intended by the viewers. There was less clear-cut evidence for the decoding of more general and affective aims such as stimulating interest in science.

It seems that in the medium of museum science theater there is a strong link between what the creators want to present and what viewers learn. The connection between feelings the creators want to evoke and what audience experiences is more fragile and harder to pinpoint.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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