Demanufacturing Doubt: A Design Strategy for Science Communication
A Master's Thesis submitted to the School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University
by Jennifer Briselli
Communicating scientific concepts to non-scientific audiences can be difficult. Often, scientists rely solely on the strength of empirical evidence as an appeal to reason in public scientific discourse. Unfortunately, in a world where ‘truthiness’ has become an accepted part of media messaging, public understanding and attitudes do not develop solely in response to objective reasoning. From climate change to evolution, vaccines to nuclear power, the science community finds itself on the defensive as shifting perceptions of authority and the narratives that frame scientific communication undermine public understanding of science. This thesis project draws on social science, rhetoric, and communication design to develop and evaluate communication strategies that both compete with science denial narratives and stand on scientific evidence to make the truth more compelling than its alternative. These strategies are in turn made actionable and prototyped as a set of guidelines and exercises for scientists and those who communicate on their behalf.