PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Darwin in the Dome - Exploring the Impact of a 3D-dome Picture in Communicating Natural Selection

Lena Tibell  

Darwin's theory of natural selection explains how all life is related and how it has descended from a common ancestor. This theory is widely considered to be one of the most important and ground-breaking theories in science history and underpins essentially all modern biology. Ever since its presentation, results from across the life sciences have verified and enhanced details in the theory, and a multitude of practical societal applications can be understood through it. A meaningful understanding of evolution theory is therefore essential for many areas of individual, social and scientific life. However, a growing number of adults are uncertain about the contents of the theory and the complexity has made it notoriously hard to teach and understand. It is apparent that current science instruction is not effective and that informal learning channels become increasingly important. 2011 was the 150th anniversary of the publication of "On the Origin of Species" and the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth. In October the same year a full dome 3D cinematic film for digital full dome theatres was released (Natural Selection, produced by Mirage 3D). In this movie the audience could join Darwin on his voyage to the Galapagos Islands where he was inspired to develop his theory of natural selection. In the present study we have analysed the author's intentions with the script (interview), the content and semiotics of the multimedia production, and the experiences of the audience (survey). We describe and compare the affordances of the production in relation to the intentions of the author by the use of, for example, semiotic explanations. By contributing to the research area of visual design for learning we believe that our findings will be of interest to the PCST community.

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