Re-envisaging the visual communication of science

Re-envisaging the visual communication of science

Author: Matthew Wood – University of Tsukuba, Japan


  • Yin Chung Au – National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan
  • Wiebke Finkler – University of Otago, New Zealand
  • Bruno Pinto – University of Lisbon, Portugal

Diagrams, charts, illustrations, and photographs have long been at the heart of communicating science, and with visuals and graphics becoming easier to produce and disseminate in the digital age, we can only expect them to play an ever-increasing role in science communication. This is a welcome trend for those who acknowledge the communication potential of visual modes, but to what extent do we really understand the impacts of graphics, illustrations, diagrams, photographs, and video, or how they should be employed to best effect in our field? While there is a lot that is relevant and insightful to be learned from the study of visual modes in other disciplines, this ‘imported’ knowledge base is not always applicable for the specific needs and characteristics of science communication and often fails to address important concerns for science communicators. For example literature on the educational impact of diagrams that does not consider engagement value, or literature on persuasive visuals that disregards the need for accuracy or explanation. Furthermore, science visuals perform unique roles (e.g. ‘icons’ of science literacy) that can only be studied within a science communication context.

This session will offer diverse perspectives on the use of visual modes for communicating science to argue for a transformation in the way we perceive and understand visual communication within the specific context of science communication. Speakers will discuss the epistemic function (explanatory or persuasive) of visuals in different contexts; affective and attitudinal impacts of diagram design; the development of a visual rhetoric for science communication; the motivational and educational roles of science comics; and the significance of these topics for science communication practice.

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

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Transformation