A key ingredient for successful science communication is storytelling and when it comes to communicating factual material through film, the usual format is the documentary. However, documentary in its long form is not necessarily the most effective way for a filmmaker to influence public opinion and change attitudes: one potential and largely unexploited avenue is to use “commercial-length” documentaries to communicate the facts and change attitudes. For the purposes of communicating science these short-form documentaries are defined as “SciCommercials”. In this PhD research project, a conceptual framework for science filmmaking is being developed with a special focus on what documentary filmmaking can learn from the commercial TV advertising industry. The study identifies key elements/techniques used in TV commercials and campaigns in order to develop a new framework for science communication filmmaking in the form of SciCommercials.
This paper and presentation will concentrate on a specific example by illustrating how SciCommercials may be applied to altering attitudes to sustainable Whale Watching practices. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has concluded that there is sufficient evidence that Whale Watching can endanger the viability of small coastal populations of whales and dolphins. Yet, there is a public perception that Whale Watching is a green enterprise with little or no impact on whales. This creates a tension between the public’s expectations of what constitutes a successful Whale Watching trip and the commercial Whale Watching operators’ responsibilities
to minimize impacts on the whales. For example, the closer to the whales, the higher the impact risk, but for the public the closer to the whales the better the Whale Watching experience.
This conference paper and presentation will outline: (i) the concepts for a series of SciCommercials designed to change the public’s attitudes so that they perceive Whale Watching at an appropriate distance to be a superior experience, and (ii) how to test the effectiveness of these different forms of SciCommercials at altering public perceptions to Whale Watching.
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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Communicating science through TV commercials to alter attitudes to sustainable whale watching practice and management

Wiebke Finkler-Hendry   University of Otago

A key ingredient for successful science communication is storytelling and when it comes to communicating factual material through film, the usual format is the documentary. However, documentary in its long form is not necessarily the most effective way for a filmmaker to influence public opinion and change attitudes: one potential and largely unexploited avenue is to use “commercial-length” documentaries to communicate the facts and change attitudes. For the purposes of communicating science these short-form documentaries are defined as “SciCommercials”. In this PhD research project, a conceptual framework for science filmmaking is being developed with a special focus on what documentary filmmaking can learn from the commercial TV advertising industry. The study identifies key elements/techniques used in TV commercials and campaigns in order to develop a new framework for science communication filmmaking in the form of SciCommercials.
This paper and presentation will concentrate on a specific example by illustrating how SciCommercials may be applied to altering attitudes to sustainable Whale Watching practices. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has concluded that there is sufficient evidence that Whale Watching can endanger the viability of small coastal populations of whales and dolphins. Yet, there is a public perception that Whale Watching is a green enterprise with little or no impact on whales. This creates a tension between the public’s expectations of what constitutes a successful Whale Watching trip and the commercial Whale Watching operators’ responsibilities
to minimize impacts on the whales. For example, the closer to the whales, the higher the impact risk, but for the public the closer to the whales the better the Whale Watching experience.
This conference paper and presentation will outline: (i) the concepts for a series of SciCommercials designed to change the public’s attitudes so that they perceive Whale Watching at an appropriate distance to be a superior experience, and (ii) how to test the effectiveness of these different forms of SciCommercials at altering public perceptions to Whale Watching.

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

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