What story are you telling with your outreach? Doesn’t matter. What story are people hearing?
Less than an hour ago I came out of an interview that needs to be edited before it’s broadcast on The AlmaMAC, Thursday at noon. It’s a teaser for a lecture being hosted by WISE and sciGSA next week so it needs to be done now. It’s going to be a lot of work but I can’t help it, I need to write this, right now, to help me internalize everything.
During every stage of science, the story is being refined by someone with an agenda.
From the first measurement, you are crafting a story. What the data say to you, how you talk about them in group meetings, the thesis or paper that analyzes them, to the media that interprets the results; during every stage of science, the story is being refined by someone who wants to use the story for their own purposes. A good science communicator will craft their story to fit their goals. A great one will craft their story to affect their audiences’ goals.
Right now, I am writing a story of how scientific stories are crafted. My purpose is to share a way of thinking that is brand new to me. You are reading this because it came up in your Twitter feed, or because you know me, or because you are a scientist interested in communication. You are looking for to learn from someone with experiences different from your own. You’re probably also skeptical of my opinion. I want you to think my opinion is interesting and immediate (see paragraph 2). I want you to think I’m cool and detached (see paragraph 1). I want you to think I have insight gleaned from The Literary Arts (see paragraph 3). I want you to think I am funny and self aware (see this paragraph).
What I’m trying to do is preempt how you will engage with this piece based on what your motives for reading it are. I want to tailor the way I tell this story to influence the way you will think to tell the story (if you choose to do so). If this makes you feel uncomfortable, like someone is getting exploited or tricked, that’s good. You should.
The interview you are going to hear Thursday introduces this idea, then extends it. If we are attempting to manipulate the audience to interact with your story in a certain way, how do we ensure we are doing it ethically?
I don’t know.