Danielle Lee, who just defended her PhD last week (her defense was livestreamed and livetweeted and liveblogged – Congratulations!!!!!!!!!) wrote a very thought-provoking post this morning – Understanding push-pull market forces and promoting science to under-served audiences. Go read it now.
If general public will not actively seek science content (‘pull’) than perhaps we can have the content come to them wherever they are (‘push’). But people are scattered over gazillions of media places! How do we get to them everywhere? One answer is to try to get many people to contribute science-y stories everywhere (or, as I said before, we don’t need one Carl Sagan, we need hundreds…. or thousands of them, each in a different media spot).
But the other important factor, and this is something that Danielle points out and I did not think of clearly before, is that the general population is not homogenous. There are groups that are not scattered all over the fragmented media but flock to specific media outlets that cater to them – media outlets they tend to own or run or work at or write for or have influence on.
Danielle goes into detail about the media consumption of the African American community, but her thoughts apply to other groups as well, e.g., Latinos, or gays, etc. This may also apply to various blogospheres, e.g., mommybloggers, atheist bloggers, feminist bloggers – all groups with strong group identity, congregating at a relatively limited number of media outlets on a regular basis.
One thing that Danielle noted is that media outlets that target African Americans prefer if the science stories are “Africo-Americanized”, i.e., that they specifically hook the audience with something that is directly relevant to that community (and supposedly no other community). Why? Cool science stories are cool for everyone. I suspect that this was more editor-think than the actual response of the audience to Danielle’s science articles that were cool without being ‘Africo-Americanized’.
And some of the communities are more inclined to be interested in science than others, especially those communities that see themselves as ‘reality-based’, thus inherently science-friendly. Thus progressive blogs like DailyKos have regular science coverage both on the main page and in the diaries – cool science stories, as well as science/political controversial topics. Atheist blogs are sometimes indistinguishable from science blogs. Feminist bloggers, like Lindsay Beyerstein, Jesse and Amanda at Pandagon and some of the community bloggers at Shakesville regularly touch on science topics (especially those with either public health concerns, or environmental concerns, or with political controversies associated with them).
But how do we get science stories, purely cool or group-targeted, in front of other audiences, e.g., those based on race/ethnicity, or gender/orientation? Are whites much more scattered across the media than minorities or do they also congregate around their various interests? Where do they congregate? How do we ‘push’ science there where they are? Not just online, but also in big corporate media, especially television?
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