Imagining Fact: Imaginative Literature as a Medium of Science Communicaiton

by Olga Joanna Kotnowska

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: Literature; imaginative; Science Communication
Record ID: 1301369
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5520


This dissertation brings to attention the main objectives of the field of Science Communication: that of making scientific information accessible to the general public in a way that also encourages in them “a willingness to engage with science wherever and whenever it crossed their path”. In doing so, Science Communication aims to fulfil a necessary aspect of the scientific process: to popularise science. This dissertation proposes that imaginative literature - a fictional literary form of story - holds exciting possibilities as one method by which Science Communication can satisfy the aforementioned objectives. Due to the processes by which humans connect with, comprehend and respond to imaginative literature, this method of communication is capable of presenting information in such a way that is accurate, attractive, imaginative and memorable. Because the processes by which humans understand imaginative literature are universal, as a piece of writing, imaginative literature is capable of transcending both social and academic hierarchies, as well as overcoming differences between cultures. Furthermore, because imaginative literature is a form of art, when executed well, this form of writing can eschew an authoritative voice, an element of many communication methods that can distance the public from powerful agents of authority, such as science-as-an-institution. The aforementioned attributes endow imaginative literature with the capability of forming the space for a public dialogue whereby members of the public are inspired to participate in societal conversations concerning the particular issues that are explored. This dissertation also addresses the main critique of using imaginative literature to engage the public with science. This criticism stems from a culture that identifies the ‘formal statistic' - a product of scientific research - as fact, and fact as something that ought to be communicated through the more rigorous language of the scientific method, rather than through (the more ambiguous language of) narrative cognition. To address this critique, this dissertation explores briefly the ancient relationship between story and the human-being, and concludes that narrative cognition does not differ from paradigmatic cognition with regards to authenticity and accuracy. The main thesis of this dissertation- the benefits in adding imaginative literature to the repertoire of Science Communication - is further supported by the creative component of this dissertation. The Stranger - an anthology of 17 short stories about the interactions between and within Central American tropical forest ecosystems and modern human civilizations - forms the creative component, and it addresses the theory of this dissertation. In order to communicate to the public the underlying concepts, theories and social agendas that drive The Stranger, in writing this anthology, I employ the elements and attributes that are discussed throughout the body of the academic dissertation. Because The Stranger is told through fictionalized…