Posts filed under ‘science communication’
Who knew that my experiences in science communication, technology, media, human rights, sustainable development and participatory theatre would combine for an assignment in the South Pacific?
Last month I arrived in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, to be a digital trainer with Wan Smolbag Theatre. Wan Smolbag is core funded by Oxfam, NZ Aid and Australian Aid. It began more than 25 years ago touring Pacific islands with one small bag of costumes, making participatory theatre for health promotion. It has expanded massively, now also coordinating a turtle monitoring network, reproductive health clinics, youth and nutrition centres, sports programs, disaster preparedness, health and environment resources and waste management projects.
It’s refreshing getting back into grassroots development after my work in Melbourne and Geneva over the past couple of years. It’s also fantastic to enjoy life by the ocean again – during high school I worked at my local surf shop. Vanuatu’s opportunities for surfing, kayaking and diving as well as fantastic tropical fruits make it a place I’m happy to live.
I’m continuing to do research and writing in science communication and health promotion with universities in Australia. I’m aiming to do digital training here related to a range of organizations I’ve been involved with in the past, including OpenStreetMap, Wikipedia and Mozilla. Firstly though I’m focused on local needs and interests. For example, I’m helping with World Oceans Day activities next week. This week I’m travelling around the island of Efate documenting Healthforce, the health promotion theatre group, and Rainbow disability theatre. Most digital work I’m supporting at the moment is making publications including comic books and posters about health and environmental issues, written in Bislama and focused on visual communication for island communities.
At the moment I’m sitting in the University of Melbourne Old Arts building after a fascinating environmental humanities workshop, in which I presented briefly. This emerged from my presentation at AAHPSSS last month. My last Impro Melbourne show of the year happened last week. Suddenly it’s almost the end of the year! Almost… though I’m presenting this Sunday afternoon at the Centre for Everything about the summer solstice.
I’m based mostly Melbourne right now, helping to edit a book about forestry governance at Melbourne Law School emerging from a research project that relates to my work in Asia. I’ve also been participating in some Open Knowledge Australia events, notably the one in which we discussed Public Lab.
Last week I returned from Adelaide Fringe, where I did some improvisational comedy guest spots & workshops. Last weekend I did an intensive AFTRS scriptwriting course at ACMI, which was the start of an exciting new project that will evolve probably over years.
I’m going to Canberra next week for Science Meets Parliament, as well as to meet with my supervisor and deal with the joy that is university administration.
I’m back in Australia! I have much updating to do, but here’s a quick note to report that I’m based in Melbourne for the next while. The University of Melbourne have kindly accepted me as a Visiting Scholar within Melbourne Law School, allowing me a room of one’s own (or a carrel of one’s own at least) and access to wonderful resources, which should allow me some solid time to write up my research. The first peer-reviewed paper emerging from my research has finally been published earlier this month (DOI: 10.1177/2158244014523791). I went to great lengths to make it open access, so please enjoy reading it paywall-free!
I was under contractual obligations to limit public comment related to my work during the last year, which impacted this site. Those same contractual obligations meant I had to take leave from my research for a year to do the very interesting things I did, hence I’m coming back to it now. It was a profound year that changed my views of the world, in which I did many novel things. They included riding a motorbike in Thailand hundreds of kilometres, helping indigenous peoples to produce a comic book about human rights, presenting about Wikipedia and women in technology in Cambodia with Khmer translators, and helping organise a dance flashmob for women’s rights as part of One Billion Rising.
I’m still processing how all of these experiences inform my life now and dealing with some reverse culture-shock. I’m lucky to have a space to focus in Melbourne that is allowing me to calmly segue back into life in Australia.
I’m now working as a freelance consultant while working on my PhD – recent projects include:
- a deliberative discussion about public perceptions of climate change;
- comedy and improvisational theatre (I mention upcoming projects, including science impro, in this Science on Top podcast);
- Science Rewired;
- my last project before resigning from RiAus about the mathematics of Alice in Wonderland.
I’ll be performing regularly in the 2013 Adelaide Fringe – information about some of those shows will appear here later.
I wrote this article for RiAus while I worked there.
I’ve recently returned from a round-the-world adventure, presenting at several conferences and workshops about my PhD research and exploring along the way.
During my adventures I was lucky enough to visit some of the world’s coolest places that do science-art projects, as well as compare notes with some people working in these spaces internationally.
While I was in California I visited the Exploratorium and was enthralled by their tinkering studio. I spent a good ten minutes playing with their oscylinderscope. Even though I know I perceive music when sound waves tickle hairs in my ears, there was something compelling and affirming about seeing this at the same time as hearing it. We’ve done some cool music-themed things in the past at RiAus and I hope to see something about the physics of music happen in the future.
I also visited Noisebridge, a hackerspace in San Francisco that blew me away. They had a collection of 3D printers just sitting around that dwarfed the collection we had at our 3D printing workshop with ANAT. They also have a dedicated sewing room, woodwork room and bike wall (pictured) – so much space!
It made me appreciate how awesome Hackerspace Adelaide is, given the limited real-world space and resources. I guess that’s why lots of projects end up happening out and about, like our Tour Down Under project in 2011.
I moved from the new-world technological frontier of California to a place steeped in science history – Florence. There I visited Museo Galileo and La Specola, fundamental to the history of astronomy and anatomy respectively. La Specola was fascinatingly creepy, while I found Museo Galileo profoundly educational for me personally.
I visited Museo Galileo fresh from talking about evaluation of science engagement at the Public Communication of Science and Technology conference, which made me more mindful of how I was engaging with the museum. At the moment I’m particularly interested in observational, ethnographic approaches to evaluating engagement, so was thinking about what someone might report from observing me interacting in the museum. I’m also interested in how engagement activities reinforce (or contradict) each other – and realised my own personal experience at Museo Galileo related to this.
e project, I worked with mathematicians and scientists to develop the interpretive signage for the final exhibition – as well as learning to crochet to contribute to the project as an artist. I was much more comfortable with the environmental science and biology in the project, so spent more time trying to get my head around the idea of hyperbolic space with mathematicians David Butler and Simon Pampena who kindly helped out on the project.
In the final, interactive section of Museo Galileo, I came to an exhibit (pictured). Had I not been involved with the hyperbolic crochet project last year, I may have quickly glanced at it, pressed a button, then moved on. As it was, I spent a good ten minutes there. I pressed the buttons that moved the cone mostly full of water around, which changed the type of curve within. I tried to integrate in my brain how the level of water moving within a cone related to my understanding of hyperbolic space from the crochet project last year.
It would have been clear to anyone observing that I was engaged with the exhibit. I spent longer at the exhibit than others who passed through the whole room while I was there. However if people had been observing alone they would never have known why I engaged with the exhibit. Yes, this exhibit in Italy clearly stimulated my genuine learning about mathematics. However this learning built on my prior learning about mathematics through a craft project in Australia. In my evaluation research I’m interested in the steps that people take between projects that lead to more active citizens or more aware people, so it was profoundly useful to understand these steps within myself.
I went on from Florence to London, where there are too many amazing people and places doing science-art projects to mention. Keeping on the crafty theme, there are some people doing projects beyond London that I met who inspired me.
Something that appealed to me as a potential project for our 300+ group of science-art crafters involved in the RiAus Adelaide Reef is the Knit a Neuron project, created by Helen Featherstone and Anne Cooke.
This project appealed because, like the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, it allows people to contribute an individually crafted piece which, combined with others, forms a new entity. Through creating their individual pieces crafters can learn some science or maths about what they’re crafting. Then the final exhibition gives everyone – viewers and crafters – something new to learn about, which in the UK version was the science of brain injuries and stroke.
I also had a great time throwing around crafty ideas with Julia Collins, who’s a doctor of knots at the University of Edinburgh. She does an awesome range of projects there now. We enthused about Vi Hart and got excited about the possibility of doing crafty maths projects for the Adelaide Fringe Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the same year – fringe festivals across hemispheres united through math and yarn!
Moving from yarn to other festive things – I was lucky enough to be in Paris for the launch of the science humour exhibition (pictured) at Espace des Sciences Pierre-Gilles de Gennes in Paris.
Even if you don’t speak French, if you can follow enough to click on ‘visionnez les blagues’ on this site you can discover a trove of science cartoons. I contributed by sharing my favourite cartoon and explaining why I liked it on a note – that cartoon and explanation are now part of the exhibition. I would love to see this participatory project happen in the RiAus FutureSpace Gallery down the track.
I leave for Chile this Saturday! So forgive me for being brief, but I still have much packing and organising to do. Over the next month you can expect updates on my travel blog about the big move and my first experiences in South America.
This post is mostly to share the slides from my presentation at the Royal Institute of Australia on Monday night. It was great to discuss some issues from my thesis with other members of Australian Science Communicators (ASC) and some members of the public. The slides can accompany the RiAus audio recording of the event, but beware the recording is of more than just my presentation, there’s 25 minutes of preamble first.
This talk was more focused on how my work relates to Federal Government policy, rather than democracy in general, which was the focus of my session at the national ASC conference in February. Kristin Alford from Bridge8 blogged about the session in Canberra; it’s interesting to see what people take away from my talks! I always try and get my audience to participate somehow, given I’m presenting about public engagement. The bits people actively participate in are the bits that stand out most in people’s minds. This is reflected in the impromptu poll I ran at the very start of my presentation in Canberra, which was the focus of half of Kristin’s writeup of it. More evidence to suggest participatory, two-way engagement is most fruitful!
This might mean that people will remember my presentation last night more for the trivia question about a quote from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy than the main messages from my thesis, but I guess that’s my own fault for pitting my work against that of Douglas Adams.
Me voy a preparar para viajar a Chile ahora. Deséame suerte!