I was introduced to “The Two Cultures” during the first lecture of my scicomm MSc. When we were talking about scicomm history, “The Two Cultures” stood proudly on our timeline alongside documents which were fundamental to the field. So I wanted to read it for myself.
Originally “The Two Cultures” was a lecture, presented by scientist-turned-fiction-author C. P. Snow in 1959. Snow’s titular cultures were “people of the humanities and literature” and “people of the sciences”. In the lecture, Snow sketched out divisions between these cultures, with anecdotes from his experiences as a novelist amongst scientists and a scientist amongst literary intellectuals. He blamed this cultural divide on Britain’s education system, which forced people to specialise in one subject too early and prioritised humanities at the expense of science and engineering.
A few months ago, I read and enjoyed Sam Kean’s The Tale of the Duelling Neurosurgeons. Thanks to that book, I figured out something interesting about how I understand sci-comm.
The principles I believe in when it comes to science and sci-comm, and the threads which run through both my psycholgical and scientific interests, weren’t created through my science or psychology education.
1) Cross-disciplinary connections – Science doesn’t work in a vacuum but is informed by art, humanities, politics, and religion.
2) Human history – Rather than being detached thinking agents, scientists are as human, flawed and biased as anyone else.
3) Accidents, serendipity and luck – “Failed” inventions, wrong beliefs and faulty discoveries can be as valuable, informative and powerful as “successful” history.
News from the last three weeks has been bad, to say the least. Both Britain and America have seemingly been bent on destruction and bridge-burning. Yet despite being anxious about just what will happen next, I’m also a little bit curious as well.
One of the few good parts about the previous three weeks is how people have often responded to protect and support others. Social networks have shared resources for contacting politicians, lawyers and advocates, and advice on how best to do so. Widespread protests and calls for mobilisation have made some meaningful changes, called attention to the wrongs which would have remained away from the spotlights, and delayed political decisions. People aren’t taking the changes as quietly as either Trump and co. or May and co. had wanted. And I hope this atmosphere of fighting back will continue, and lead to bigger changes.
I’ve recently finished Fun Science by Charlie McDonnell, and after reading it I’m surprisingly impressed both by the book itself and its potential value for science communication.
Firstly, some context. Charlie McDonnell is a filmmaker/musician/ vlogger/presenter… and now author. Last month he released Fun Science (the book), inspired by his 2011 YouTube series of the same name. Fun Science (the show) has also returned,and covers topics included in the book. (A playlist of all of the YouTube episodes is below).
A few weeks ago, I said about getting to explore scicomm on youtube in a uni assignment. Now that I’ve got it finished, marked, and out of the way, here’s the story.
The assignment was a content analysis- which means an attempt to interpret media such as writing, speech or video into quantifiable data to analyse it.I decided to try using YouTube videos as my medium, rather than newspapers, and my topic was how YouTube creators represented psychology in videos. Thanks to undergrad, and previous videos I’d seen, I had some ideas of what to expect, so those ideas were the start of my research questions. Also, there’s so little research yet in this kind of area that I could end up finding anything- that unexpectedness made this topic appealing.
Our first Science and Society lecture covered a history of science communication. For many of us, considering the history was surprising; we’ve got so used to scicomm being a cutting-edge interdisciplinary mess that following the trail of people who led us here hasn’t crossed our minds.
While a lot of familiar faces and names appeared on the timeline, such as Darwin, Galileo, and the Royal Institution, a lot of supporting roles were unexpected. Also, the amount of progress made between the 1500s and 1600s was astounding.