One of the main pending issues in the field of science communication is the lack of a general framework that allows us to analyse this activity from a theoretical standpoint. Among recent perspectives that have caught the attention of scholars in the fields of communication and culture are the ones that consider these processes from an evolutionary perspective. Although there are several versions of this approach, all agree in considering that the process by which an idea spreads in a population is subject to Darwinian-type selection. One such proposal is the one made by biologist Richard Dawkins in his book “The Selfish Gene” (1977). According Dawkins, ideas, like genes are subject to a process of evolution by natural selection. Like genes, ideas (which from this point of view Dawkins calls “memes”) are transmitted (communicated) from one individual to another, and in the process they simultaneously multiply and change. Gossip, fashion, rumours, myths, religions and ideologies are examples of how ideas experiment this type of process. Public communication of science means just that: to spread, to communicate, to share. To propagate ideas. From an evolutionary point of view, the messages of public science communication (understood as the emission of messages with scientific content towards a lay audience, with the intention of permeating their imagination and promoting a “scientific literacy” –cultura científica– shared by the common citizen) can be considered replicators that spread in a population. It is proposed here that a darwinian/memetic perspective of public science communication might be useful for defining and evaluating concepts such as “success” and “quality”, and for finding new and better ways of planning, evaluating and promoting projects for communicating science and technology issues to lay publics. Some ideas that may add to this perspective are explored, such as network science, and some of the work that has been done by various authors in order to delve into these possibilities is discussed.

">
 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Viral science
Towards a darwinian view of public communication of science

Martín Olivera   Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, Mexico

One of the main pending issues in the field of science communication is the lack of a general framework that allows us to analyse this activity from a theoretical standpoint. Among recent perspectives that have caught the attention of scholars in the fields of communication and culture are the ones that consider these processes from an evolutionary perspective. Although there are several versions of this approach, all agree in considering that the process by which an idea spreads in a population is subject to Darwinian-type selection. One such proposal is the one made by biologist Richard Dawkins in his book “The Selfish Gene” (1977). According Dawkins, ideas, like genes are subject to a process of evolution by natural selection. Like genes, ideas (which from this point of view Dawkins calls “memes”) are transmitted (communicated) from one individual to another, and in the process they simultaneously multiply and change. Gossip, fashion, rumours, myths, religions and ideologies are examples of how ideas experiment this type of process. Public communication of science means just that: to spread, to communicate, to share. To propagate ideas. From an evolutionary point of view, the messages of public science communication (understood as the emission of messages with scientific content towards a lay audience, with the intention of permeating their imagination and promoting a “scientific literacy” –cultura científica– shared by the common citizen) can be considered replicators that spread in a population. It is proposed here that a darwinian/memetic perspective of public science communication might be useful for defining and evaluating concepts such as “success” and “quality”, and for finding new and better ways of planning, evaluating and promoting projects for communicating science and technology issues to lay publics. Some ideas that may add to this perspective are explored, such as network science, and some of the work that has been done by various authors in order to delve into these possibilities is discussed.

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

BACK TO TOP