Gaps

Aaron Davis linked to an important article from 2017 by Tim Requarth of Slate Magazine about “closing the ‘information gap'” (via OLDaily).

“lectures from scientists built on the premise that they simply know more (even if it’s true) fail to convince this audience”

A gap in the pavement.

The article resonated with me in several respects:

First:

“They may have more luck communicating if […] spending time on why it matters to the author”

This reminded me of the problems that many have with learning the style of scientific papers. Everybody agrees that such papers have to be emotionless and sober, and everybody complains that they are boring and tiring. Of course, the author must not employ emotional rhetoric to try and sway the reader into believing an unsupported claim and compensate for its weak evidence. But reading would be much easier if the author emphasized why some aspects are more important to them, and why they are passionate to find a convincing solution.

But — as if they were not able to distinguish these two kinds of emotions — most authors cultivate a special style that not only sounds maximally unbiased, impartial and emotionless, but also escapes into weird, rare and distanced words, and eventually conveys the impression of disinterest and disrespect and even arrogance towards the reader. I acknowledge that developing such a habit is not easy, and once acquired, this style becomes the hallmark of scholarly ‘speak’ that shines through in each and every public utterance. Certainly, some scientists may be so frustrated about the academic atmosphere of envy and elbow rule that they have indeed become blunted and emotionless, doing without passion whatever the funding agencies currently want to hear.

Second:

“communicators can be more effective after they’ve gained the audience’s trust. “

This is the most important, and seems obvious to me: trust has been lost, and the gap has become too wide.

Third:

“it may be more worthwhile to figure out how to talk about science with people they already know, through, say, local and community interactions, than it is to try to publish explainers on national news sites”

This reminds me of Downes’s successful networks, which are not centralized hub and spoke networks, but those that work through a ripple effect and propagate the messages on trusted shorter pathways.

In a polarized environment, we cannot expect that someone abruptly changes their mind against all of the closest acquaintances, without gradually seeing their neighborhood rethink, too.

This entry was posted in Learning. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.