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Multimedia And The Mass Communication Of Science

2366 words - 9 pages

Scientific studies are published for the scientific community. More specifically, they tend to be written with the expectation of being read by peers. This may seem obvious, and yet it shouldn't be. The style of writing that occurs when writing to peers cannot help but alienate a portion of the audience that should be informed. This also results in increasingly isolated divisions of the scientific community and widens the gaps between disciplines in terms of interests, language, and knowledge. Archaeology is one of the first fields to become dissatisfied with this division. As an area that relies upon multidisciplinary data, archaeology is uniquely positioned to understand that the world is too complex to be fully understood by any single discipline of the scientific community. It is important to present data and analysis in ways that can be understood and contributed to by all areas. Beyond that, many scientific studies, especially in the areas of archaeology and historical ecology, are taken on with the intention of using the results in deciding how we will manage our world. Therefore, studies must be understood even outside of the scientific community. A multimedia approach is key to the clear and concise communication of data in and between archeaology, other disciplines, and the wide world.
A multimedia approach, for the purpose of this paper, includes information graphics such as illustrations, graphs and charts, screenshots, videos or animations, and photographs, as well as the use of three-dimensional models and simulation programs. Their effect on knowledge acquisition and retention is well documented; Mayer (1989) found that labeled illustrations combined with text provided better conceptual understanding of scientific information among subjects with lower levels of prior knowledge and learning skills. This conclusion is also supported by Lumsdaine (1963) and Wittrock (1986), who found that a multimedia approach allowed low-level subjects to better express comprehension of higher-level material. Furthermore, the particular effect that a multimedia approach has on the kind of knowledge attained by a subject is especially useful to the goals of scientific studies, as it promotes critical thinking rather than simple data retention. In one study, subjects who received aural and visual explanations simultaneously, provided an average of 75% more creative solutions on problem-solving transfer tests than those who received only verbal explanations (Mayer, 1997). This is precisely the kind of response that scientific articles should elicit from their readers, regardless of their background or area of expertise.
Further, the use of information graphics allows the reader to make their own judgment about a study's conclusion. The inherent bias of a scientist involved in a study is unavoidable – the things they feel are relevant to record, the way that they tend to record them – unconsciously the reader is made to follow in the writer's...

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