Intimacy and fidelity: situating social media

Human societies are made in media. Gesture and speech, before writing, the printing press and the internet, have not just been vehicles through which we talk about people and stuff; they have fundamentally shaped what societies are and what they can possibly be.

Each successive development in the long train of communications technologies, from the development of speech through to the invention of the internet, has gradually transformed our ability to connect with other people and imagine our community. As writing begat the advanced agricultural society, so too the printing press begat the nation.

In what follows I seek to situate social media in this socio-economic history so that we can begin to think about what it means for academic work and science communication, and society more broadly. Continue reading

A Science section in the Canberra Times? But Why?

An opinion piece by Rod Lamberts and I, published in the Canberra Times 16 April 2010:

Last week Sarah McKenzie wrote in these pages (Science needs a simpler voice – April 5) that she looked forward to the day when she could read a dedicated science section in the Canberra Times. We stand shoulder to shoulder with McKenzie in calling for greater public awareness of and engagement with science; as McKenzie mentioned, the last year or so has been replete with “a number of high profile, climate-change-denying columnists peddling anti-scientific messages”. We agree that there is much that needs to be done to facilitate better communication between scientists and the public, particularly on issues of wide social importance.

Yet as much as there’s a clear need for better communication between scientists and the public, continued emphasis on preaching to the converted – and that’s exactly what a dedicated science section in the Canberra Times would do – is going to do precious little to get the heathens into church.

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