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Rethinking How to Communicate Science

“How do you make a data set a mind set?”

It’s been 30 years since Edward Tufte convinced designers that the visual display of quantitative information mattered. We illustrate evidence to promote understanding, but our choices to express science have changed. The pervasiveness of technology in our lives generates volumes of data. Increasingly, scientists and researchers make extensible versions of their datasets available. Crowdsourcing projects generate additional data sources. The result is a new diction to distinguish fact from fiction.We used to rely on science writers and designers to translate impenetrable academic and scientific studies. Today, citizens and academics alike have accessible ways to visualize information. Is that enough? Communicating about science requires balancing competing interests with conflicting evidence. The craft of science communication will evolve with new technology and the ways we decipher the political, social and economic context of available evidence will be increasingly critical.
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Virtually Real: Integrating Minds with Technology

For the past couple decades, mobile phones and the internet have facilitated the communication between individuals, propelling us towards an interactive digital-socio-ecology. More and more people are citizens of the cyber-state. Social media networks have certainly catalyzed this migration. Facebook, Twitter and the like are even influencing the structure of language, forcing people to adapt styles and character restrictions to engage in social transactions. Yet, this is only the beginning.

Current advances in neuroscience are driving society towards a more integrative and dynamic system of interaction. BCI’s (Brain-Computer Interfaces) may allow people to send messages and control device with their thoughts. The Human Connectome Project, a research initiative to map the brain’s connections, is among the propelling forces of this enterprise. The field of synthetic biology is expected to significantly modify the human experience with developments ranging from the growing of organs to the creation of entire ecosystems.

Although all this sounds like works of science fiction, companies are hard at work to get this technology into the market. However, there are many ethical concerns about these technologies considering they are largely invasive, both biologically and interpersonally. These advances also raise many questions about human nature.

“new media provide the contextual regulations under which human interaction occurs, and it is ultimately something about this human interaction—engagement, however mediated, between living, breathing beings—that will demonstrate old patterns or will suggest new possibilities”     -Joseph B. Walther

What are we to expect? How are we to respond?

[See: “Interaction Through Technological Lenses“, “Privacy by Design in Brain-Computer Interfaces“, “It’s Like They’re Reading My Mind“, “Trekking our evolutionary maze: powerful bodies, end of death“, “Mind reading and brain computer interface technology: the future is coming, fast”]

Interested in this stuff? I will be writing about this subject matter bi-monthly on “JUST Media and Social Change,” please stay tuned for more info!