PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Visual scientific literacy
The role of images in public understanding of science in the digital age

Massimiano Bucchi  

Since Hooke's Micrographia (1665), modern science has put images at the center of its communicative processes: drawings, diagrams, schemes and later photographs, satellite images, film. In age of digital communication, specialists and publics live constantly immersed in aa visually dense environment, particularly when it comes to science and technology content. The quality - and sometimes even the beauty - of images has acquired great importance in order to publish papers in academic journals in areas like the physical, astronomical or life sciences. In the popular domain, think of the pervasive role played by the "modern cult of infographics", the presentation of data in sophisticated/interactive form which has become common place for leading digital outlets. Do we have the competence to decipher all these images, often complex and elaborate? If the so-called scientific literacy is a standard indicator of public understanding of science, much less studied so far is visual scientific literacy. The initial results of a pilot experimental survey of visual scientific literacy conducted on a representative sample of Italian population will also be presented.

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