It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

An odd thought

We PhDs (especially those of us who DIDN'T have a fascination with Marshall McLuhan in our youth) tend to miss changes in media. After all, we get scored on how well we can dress up our opinions to look like they are from 1895, when paper and print were expensive and time was cheap. This tends to make us the opposite of media savvy. Since I DID have McLuhan fixation in my youth, and since I AM obsessed with new media, perhaps my observations will be perspicacious, even though I'm rather old for a blogger.

Anyway. It seems to me that we believe that formal communication is written, semi-formal communication is oral, and video and movies are distractions, purely emotional, incapable of conveying information. Informational graphics can be used to support an argument but not to carry it, and are not expected to make a lot of sense.

When we confront the generation we most want to reach, we sense a certain lack of seriousness of purpose. This may be a real problem, but it may be perceptual, in part. This is because young people think of text as the LEAST formal method of communication, cheaper and more common and more casual than speech. Indeed, it may well seem that if you can't get it together to make a compelling video, you can't possibly be serious

Nobody is telling the story of global change very effectively. Not us, and not our opposition. Those of us who literally lie awake at night trying to puzzle out how to lay out the story have compelling movies in our heads. We need to commit them to bitstreams. We need to make people see.

A good start is collecting the data, like this:



But it's only a start

11 comments:

Bunty said...

What are the age demographics of climate change 'disbelief' though?

Anecdotally speaking (and partly based on reading another youth climate movement blog just below this one in my RSS reader), I tend to get the impression that for the most part the younger generations are not only far more with-it in terms of the most efficient modern uses of communicative mediums, but also in understanding and appreciating issues like climate change.

Not to say that visual communication (of which videos are one example, but also Uni lectures) isn't a very important tool when trying to get the message over to those who genuinely don't understand the issue.

Wherein lies the rub: how to do so in a substantive manner: understandable, convincing, compelling, and enthusing.

The other side has it so much easier as they have no compunction towards accuracy, and hence can use every dark trick in the compliance engineering play book.

Dano said...

"the other half of our job is to share our work with the non science community...our job is to go beyond the science community..."

Best,

D

Dano said...

Vivid particulars.

Best,

D

Dano said...

"We have a problem of perception...not enough people get it yet..."

Best,

D

Pelto said...

I have had artists with me on two glacier glacier surveys. It is important to include the humanities in what we see, when it is so dramatic. The annual changes as viewed from returning to the same location are compelling. My skill in photography and the equipment we have pail next to what Extreme Ice deploys. Impressive calving indeed, my time on Jakobshavns did not have any calving events of this magnitude. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMrlnISD-u0

thingsbreak said...

What are the age demographics of climate change 'disbelief' though?

Anecdotally speaking (and partly based on reading another youth climate movement blog just below this one in my RSS reader), I tend to get the impression that for the most part the younger generations are not only far more with-it in terms of the most efficient modern uses of communicative mediums, but also in understanding and appreciating issues like climate change.


You're correct. In the US, acceptance of the science is higher in the under 30 demographic than any other age group and belief that media coverage of climate change has been exaggerated are lower for the under 30 demographic than any other age group.

[One of these days I'll finish the daggum Demographics of Climate Denial post I've got sitting in my Draft box...]

Michael Tobis said...

Fair enough. I have to admit that I'm really an outlier in the boomer-and-older crowds in varieties and quantity of text messaging.

But I think a lot of people get their news from video. It's not just about actually seeing the glaciers retreat (though stiff like that is a big deal, potentially.) It;s about looking people in the eye, listening to their voice, getting a read on who they are and why they are saying what they say.

By now pretty much everybody alive has watched a lot of television and been influenced by it.

Bunty said...

Absolutely. The reason the denialists spend so much time going after Gore is because An Inconvenient Truth was such an effective educational/persuasive tool.

It's worth readin Caldini on this ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Cialdini ) particularly the whole Social Proof thing. If the general consensus shown in the media (fact and fiction) is that there is legitimate controversy about the science behind climate change theory, then that is what people will tend to believe.

Doing things like having climate open days at educational establishments, where people can meet scientists face to face, and see that they aren't statist shills could definitely help tips things away from the current manufactured popular understanding. And then sticking vids of the event on youtube after, natch.

Steve Bloom said...

"By now pretty much everybody alive has watched a lot of television and been influenced by it."

IIRC this isn't true for about 2 billion people. It's hard to watch much TV if you don't have electricity.

Re Gen. Y and their successors, it seems to me that the simple fact of having grown up with the global warming concept is the main difference, and of course from their POV there's nothing very offensive about blaming the "greatest generation" and the boomers for screwing up the planet.

Dano said...

What bunty said.

These are vivid particulars that galvanize movement. As far as action goes, we need the people who are rich enough to own a TV to move. The ones who don't have not enough power to sway decision-makers.

Best,

D

Michael Tobis said...

My intuition is that there are not 2 bn people who haven't seen much TV, anyway. Sometimes old ideas stick for too long.

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/92