PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Spectacular science
A reflection about limits and opportunities

Cristina Olivotto  

Shows, spectacular events, mysteries, performances, busking… are instruments often used to engage the public in face to face science communication (in particular in science festivals, science events, but also in the outreach strategy of research institutions). They can be on one side a mean to reach underserved audiences, but on the other side they can just be used as a way to make the pill easier to swallow, reflecting an old fashioned view of science communication. Several recent projects are trying to clarify what are the opportunities and the limits of such approaches, reviewing them under a critical light. TEMI is developing a training model for teachers based on the use of mysteries and showmanship, but linking them to a more articulated scheme involving an apprenticeship-like model - the GRR - gradual release of responsibility approach - that appears as a promising link between formal and informal science education practices. PERFORM is analysing how Responsible Research and Innovation concepts, and more generally socially relevant science based issued, can be introduced to all type of audience - including high school students and museum visitors - through different type of performing arts (from street science and science shows to clowning). Guerilla Science is an organisation that revolutionises how audiences experience science through live events which aim to spark curiosity and inspire wonder in adults with little background in or experience of science. These examples will be used to spark a discussion on an issue - the controversial use of spectacular, mysterious trick to engage the public with science live and online - that is in fact not new, but needs to be constantly re-actualised and necessitates a constant reflection to overcome stereotypes and blind adhesion to mainstream paradigma.

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