Applying the Structure of Magic to Science Communication

Applying the Structure of Magic to Science Communication

Author: Jose Ilic – University of Concepción, Chile


  • José Ilic – Universidad de Concepción, Fundation 42

There is little research on the effectiveness of the structure of a science communication talk, yet the storytelling structure is widely recommended and regarded as the best way to organize a science talk. This aforementioned structures are usually based on Campbell’s book The hero with a thousand faces which outlines the basic structure of a story. As part of our research we have investigated a different structure on which to base a science communication talk, in particular we have approached the problem from another area of performing arts: magic and illusion. We have studied the works of several magicians that are considered to be, by their community, the most important and essential in magic. From there we compiled a structure for a science communication talk based on the structure of magic, where the primary focus is to maintain and manage the audience’s attention, rather than what the story structure proposes. There are two main reasons on why we think magic is a better approach than storytelling. First, magic is actively trying to elude the suspension of disbelief, which is exactly what a science communication talk needs; and second, the entire field of magic is dedicated to the manipulation of attention and expectations and we expect that to be translated on the structure. We developed an Agent Based Model to test this structure in comparison to three story structures and we expect to publish our results in the Journal of Public Understanding of Science by the time of the PCST Conference. For this conference we will explain the proposed structure, compare it to the storytelling structure and reveal what the experimental data has produced.

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

Presentation type: Insight talk
Theme: Time