Metaphor, Analogy & Visual Narrative as Contextual Thinking

On analogy/metaphor & cognition…

Analogy is widely used in the arts and humanities. Analogical thinking and representation has also been instrumental in science. I think analogy is particularly important yet underutilized for contextualizing scientific information -to make it more understandable and relevant to non-specialists. In particular, I am interested in visual representation as a means for conceptualising analogies, for both internal and external modes of science communication.

On visualisation…

In science, as in any subject, understanding how to communicate effectively means understanding how we learn best. Written texts have been, and are, crucial to the processes of communication and education. Yet other media forms have played an equally important role, and visual/graphic media appear to again be beginning to dominate. I think one of the greatest values of the visual communication of science is its inherently more holistic approach. Interpreting a visualisation allows us to understand, reach a conclusion, and respond from a less prescriptive angle. Because of this broader approach, we are forced (when thinking critically) to then question the drivers of how we achieved that conclusion. This is harder to do with written text, which is inherently more constrictive and prescriptive. How do we know something? It is easier to explore/acknowledge the historical/societal/political/personal influence when you explain how you achieve a conclusion from a visual image -even when this image might communicate the same message as a fragment of text. Because of its generally holistic approach, art should be able to convey complex concepts in science and society. I am interested in pursuing these ideas further in research on a variety of related topics described on this site.

The dichotomies posed by contrasts between ‘text and image’ (or ‘script and performance’) are unhelpful divides. In many of the film projects I have been involved with (see students page) move beyond binary divisions into multilayer communication through interactions between multiple forms of image, sound, text and thus understanding. What are the functional differences (for communication) between the experiences of reading written words vs. the interpretative viewing of images/objects/performances? How have images and other non-textual embodiments allowed us to interpret and what implications might this have for multi-media experiences and communication of science today? I.e. how is knowledge generation enhanced by bringing in other forms of notation than the written word?

How can the role of art and a visual approach be expanded to encompass science communication/teaching in our educational systems? How can art be recast and integrated as a socially and indeed scientifically engaged practice (e.g. citizen artists, and artists as science communicators/educators)? How can art be facilitated to promote critical thinking in cross-discipline communication within the sciences (and with other professional societies)?

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