Author: Maarten van der Sanden – Delft University of Technology, Netherlands


  • Anne Kamp – Vormtaal / Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world the discussion on complexity is inevitable. However, this interaction is often hampered by a mutual misunderstanding of what the other means by complexity at hand. Diffuse debates on HPV vaccination exemplify this awkwardness in which multi stakeholders and many emotions are both intensely interwoven and fiercely contested.

It is widely known that humans not only understand this complex reality through interaction with others, but actually by using all their senses. Through speech, a sense of touch, vision, sound, people obtain an idea of the whole by bringing their known and felt knowledge together. Likewise, mostly natural scientists make use of 3D-models, and abstract figures to explain or discuss the complexity of e.g. protein folding. However, when the challenge lacks a physical appearance these go-to ways to understand complexity fail and we’re back to relying on words to feed the discussion. A language based on form and space, using properties as ‘proportion’, ‘rhythm’ and ‘scale’ rather than words seems to fill this gap.

Looking at how architecture communicates in a more intuitive way through experience, rather than symbolic meaning, we created a ‘form language’ that invites the user to envision the complexity they feel when they think about e.g. the complexity of the vaccination debate. The various materials as well as the pyramids, spheres and cubes of this language support people to talk, touch, see and feel their mutual complex challenge through the shared imagination of what each form means to them.

Testing the form language with professionals and university students showed its great potential in supporting discussions on complexity and the creation of the team. During the insight talk we would like to showcase these results by a short demonstration of such a discussion obtained from our own research and design practice.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Insight talk
Theme: Transformation

Author: Maarten van der Sanden – Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

Sarah Davies – University of Copenhagen
Edward Duca – University of Malta
Eva Kalmar – Delft University of Technology
Frank Nuijens – Delft University of Technology

The successful development of science and technology heavily depends on the ability and opportunities of scientists, engineers, R&D developers, policy makers and citizens to collaborate with their colleagues, peers, alliances, in business-to-business relations and business-to-consumer relations.

We can see science communication as enabler of that collaboration in the context of innovation. But if we focus on this role of science communication, what kind of new science communication challenges do we face? What are differences in perspectives of all kinds of actors involved, like scientists, media, industry, citizens and policymakers? How could we take these into account?

And on a more abstract level: what is the connection between all these various forms of collaboration at various levels? What are the advantages and drawbacks of this collaboration point of view, practically and theoretically? How does collaboration develop the identity of science and technology and its actors and what could we learn from each other?

To structure the round table session, all 5 participants will shortly introduce a concrete example of collaboration in science and technology, highlighting a different perspective: the public, media, scientists, policy or business. These examples will be central in discussing the above questions. All attendants to the session are invited to take part in the discussion to explore the role of science communication as the heartbeat of collaboration in science and technology development.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice