Introducing Science through Images: Cases of Visual Popularization

Introducing Science through Images: Cases of Visual Popularization

by Maria E. Gigante


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As funding for basic scientific research becomes increasingly difficult to secure, public support becomes essential. Because of its promise for captivating nonexpert publics, the practice of merging art and imagery with science has been gaining traction in the scientific community. While images have been used with greater frequency in recent years, their value is often viewed as largely superficial. To the contrary, Maria E. Gigante posits in Introducing Science through Images, the value of imagery goes far beyond mere aesthetics—visual elements are powerful communication vehicles.

The images examined in this volume, drawn from a wide range of historical periods, serve an introductory function—that is, they appear in a position of primacy relative to text and, like the introduction to a speech, have the potential to make audiences attentive and receptive to the forthcoming content. Gigante calls them "portal" images and explicates their utility in science communication, both to popularize and mystify science in the public eye.

Gigante analyzes how science has been represented by various types of portal images: frontispieces, portraits of scientists, popular science magazine covers, and award-winning scientific images from Internet visualization competitions. Using theories of rhetoric and visual communication, she addresses the weak connection between scientific communities and the public and explores how visual elements can best be employed to garner public support for research.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781611178746
Publisher: University of South Carolina Press
Publication date: 06/01/2018
Series: Studies in Rhetoric/Communication Series
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Maria E. Gigante is an associate professor of rhetoric and writing studies in the English Department at Western Michigan University, where she has spearheaded the development of a science-writing curriculum. Her work on the visual rhetoric of science has appeared in Rhetoric Review and the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication.

Table of Contents

Series Editor's Preface vii

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction: Popular Science Images and Portals 1

1 Frontispieces: Science's Mythic Origin Story 15

2 Portraits of Scientists at Work: The Ethos of Superiority and Exclusion 32

3 Popular Magazine Covers: Supernatural Science Sells 51

4 Portals on the Web: Science-Art Competitions and a Celebration of Indeterminacy 73

Epilogue 94

Notes 101

Bibliography 125

Index 137

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