News: News Archives
Panelists Explore How Innovative Media Can Engage a New Generation with Science
(l-r) Al Teich, Sheril Kirshenbaum, Adam Bly, Anthony Crider
Seed Magazine, issue 16
Image © Seed
Speaking at the 2008 AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy in Washington, D.C., the speakers showed off online islands with virtual telescopes, blogs that network millions of science aficionados around the world, and media empires that include dozens of blogs and glossy publications that reveal the beauty and sexiness of science and technology.
"A news source must reflect the culture, ideology, and attitudes of the next generation to get them interested in what they have to say," said Adam Bly, founder and CEO of the Seed Media Group, with includes everything from blogs to a stylish magazine. "Science is at an unprecedented level globally and the new generation is increasingly interested in what science has to offer."
Bly said that society is on the "cusp of the 21st-century scientific renaissance" and believes global science literacy can be increased through significant innovation in media technology.
Bly spoke 9 May alongside Sheril Kirshenbaum, a science blogger who co-hosts The Intersection and contributes to the Wired Science blog Correlations, and Anthony Crider, associate professor of physics at Elon University in North Carolina and co-founder of SciLands, an archipelago of science-themed islands in the virtual world of Second Life. The panel was arranged and moderated by Al Teich, director of AAAS Science & Policy Programs.
Held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C., the Forum brought together over 500 scientists, policy makers, and students, plus more than two dozen journalists, for two days of discussions and lectures on the nexus of science and public policy.
"Science and technology are changing faster than ever," said Teich. "One of things we try to do in the Forum is help our participants keep up-to-date on the policy environment for science. The new media are increasingly shaping that environment and the three speakers in this session gave us a great introduction to their growing roles and their potential."
Bly's company incorporates several media: Scienceblogs.com, a diverse group of 100 science blogs; Phylotaxis.com, a science news aggregator; Seed, the company's flagship news source covering a broad range of science issues appealing to the next generation of news consumers; and Seedmagazine.com, a daily source for science news.
Published six times a year, Seed magazine operates under the world-view that science culture is central to society. The magazine contains features including Seed Salon, which documents an interview between a well-known scientist and artist; artistic representation of science through photography, painting, or computer modeling; and Cribsheet, a special tear-out section that explains "something essential and makes it accessible."
"Seed is an example of how new media can fit into an old medium," said Bly, who serves at the magazine's editor-in-chief.
Late last year, Seed Media Group and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City collaborated on MIND08, a conference that brought an eclectic group of speakers including scientists, designers, and architects to explore the "aesthetic beauty of science."
Kirshenbaum, an associate in research for ocean and coastal policy at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, calls herself an "accidental blogger." She promised her students that she would start a blog when the Democratic Party regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. After telling them that "it'll never happen," she lost the bet following the November 2006 midterm elections.
Kirshenbaum said that while some people think of the blogosphere as geeky, there is tremendous assortment of topics and styles, enabling people, often outside of academia, to "share information faster than ever before."
Her blogs have been cited online by the New York Times, the Washington Monthly, and Rolling Stone, she said, adding that the impact has been far greater than she could have imagined.
Kirshenbaum, joined by Intersection co-blogger Chris Mooney and several other science advocates, recently published a Policy Forum in the journal Science (published by AAAS) calling on the presidential candidates to participate in a debate on science and technology.
"The speed at which the science community came together for the debate is amazing," Kirshenbaum said of ScienceDebate2008. "The science blogging community is very close."
In-world photo of high-rise buildings in Second Life
Image © and courtesy of Linden Research, Inc.
With a new media universe emerging in the form of blogs, virtual worlds and hip magazines, three new media pioneers on a AAAS panel showed how a generation of tech-savvy global citizens is gaining access to the wonders of science.
Crider described Second Life as a virtual community that allows its registered users, known as "residents," to interact with each other through virtual personalities, or "avatars."
SciLands, created by Crider and his colleagues in 2006, allows scientific or educational organizations to join a series of virtual islands within Second Life that focus on science education and communication. Several organizations have islands in SciLands including NASA, the University of Denver, the U.K. National Physics Laboratory, and Elon University.
Beyond writing the bylaws for the SciLands, which among other things, prohibits pornography and gambling on the islands, Crider has developed a virtual telescope, planetarium, and lunar landscape. While Crider's students don't see real stars when they look through the virtual telescope, they do see simulated constellations designed within Second Life.
Still, he said, "virtual telescopes are good teaching tools because they allow students to learn how to use a telescope without the fear that the expensive instrument will get broken."
During last year's United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, Crider and his students developed a carbon footprint simulation for Second Life. In the simulation, household appliances like coffee machines and refrigerators would emit a green-colored gas corresponding to the amount of climate change-inducing gasses the appliances release.
Crider said programs like Second Life are easily integrated into the classroom because they encourage students to think "outside the box" in designing objects like buildings, vehicles, and furniture. For example, Crider outlined the necessary steps to transform a box of wood in Second Life into a laptop that can perform simple tasks.
"It's not 'if you build it, they will come,'" said Crider. "It's, 'Give them the tools to build it, and they will.'"
27 May 2008