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Visions in Global Systems Science: Narratives as a Communication Tool for Scientists

See also the events: Visions in Global Systems Science: Energy Futures and Visions in Global Systems Science: Models and Data.

The Euclid Network, together with INSITE partners and the European Commission held a workshop in Brussels to understand how we can use narratives effectively to communicate scientific results to a large audience. Traditional scientific narratives are effective for the scientific community, but they often fail in convening a message between the scientific community and the rest of society. At the same time, new techniques and ICT-enabled media allow us to communicate and use narratives in brand new ways. The workshop explored how to frame and position scientific narratives. Practitioners from domains like art, communication, ICT and science were invited to share their experiences and discuss what role narratives can play to get the whole of society more engaged in science, how scientists can develop narratives for engagement and what role ICT can play to enhance such engagement. The potential and limitations of different types of media to develop such narratives were also explored, based on existing examples.

As part of the preparation for the workshop, participants were asked to share their visions about how ICT can be used in the future to build narratives. To find out what they said and access more out the outcomes from the workshop, take a look at the documents to the right of this description.

Below is an account of how the workshop went. In addition, input from the workshop is also available below in the easy-to-read form of mind-maps. The clustered possibilities and limitations are also provided below.

Once Upon a Time, at the GSS Workshop...

Once upon a time*, a group of practitioners from the arts, science, ICT and policy-making domains came together to brainstorm about the future of narratives, media (e.g. film, Social Media, etc) and certain techniques (e.g. gamification) to bring scientific knowledge into the societal dialogue and trigger behavioural change.

They had already met the day before to discuss the topic, but the aim of this second session was to focus on the possibilities and limitations of media and techniques, generate concrete examples (both existing and future) and envision a future where narratives play a key role in bringing scientific knowledge into the societal dialogue and underpin the response to global challenges.   

Following a short introduction on the findings of the previous day, participants dove into the brainstorming process by looking at possibilities and limitations of media and techniques to engage with people both actively (e.g. through games) and passively (e.g. through documentaries). Through a collective clustering exercise of these ideas, a comprehensive map of possibilities and limitations was developed. The key success factor of this approach was its ability to capitalize on the productive diversity of the participants.

Next, participants were asked to generate concrete examples (both existing and future) of where a particular medium or technique had been or could be used to convey scientific knowledge to a wider audience, contribute to societal dialogue and generate behavioural change. A voting system was set up to identify the 6 most popular ideas and these were then discussed by participants, who split up into 6 mini-roundtables according to their area of interest. Each of the topics was chaired by he/she who came up with the idea, and the 6 topics discussed were:

  • 1. Inclusive story-telling
  • 2. Environmental engagement through media cascade
  • 3. Communicating science in simple ways
  • 4. Data citizens
  • 5. Democratic online gaming
  • 6. Linking cities through narratives

For each topic, the questions that participants had to look at included the types of science-inspired narratives produced by the media/techniques, the suitability of a particular medium/technique to bring science into the societal dialogue and the potential impacts in terms of behavioural change. Each group shared its findings and all participants had the opportunity of commenting and asking questions.

To use the words of one of the participants, the workshop worked on the principle of "creative confusion," whereby the different experiences and backgrounds of participants were successfully mixed together to generate ideas. Indeed, participants left "hungry for more" in terms of exploring the other topics that were not discussed in the 6 mini-roundtables and having more time and opportunities to continue engaging with one another on this topic.

This story will continue on Futurium, you can comment on this page, add evidence, add to the vision or generate a policy idea. Contribute to and co-create the future!

  • *Note:
  • Once upon a time = The workshop on "Visions in Global Systems Science: Narratives as a Communication Tool for Scientists," which took place in Brussels on 14 March 2013.

The mind-maps


The possibilities, limitations and examples

Participated events

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