Accepted paper:

Communicating science, transforming knowledge. Insights into the production processes of the popular science magazine GEO


Dorothea Born (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

Popular science magazines are an often-neglected medium in the field of so-called ‚straight' science communication. While being committed to the scientific community, upholding an ethos of scientific accuracy, they aim at mediating science, thus playing an active part in selecting, transforming and recontextualising scientific knowledge. Constituting a hybrid space of science communication, they continuously (re)draw the boundaries between 'science' and a 'broader public'. This public, however, is highly educated, specialised and interested and therefore co-constructed through the specific communication practices of these magazines aimed at their target audiences.

My paper draws on ethnographic observations and interviews at the editorial office of GEO, a highly successful German popular science magazine. I trace the production processes of this magazine, showing which practices, human and non-human actors they involve. Since GEO puts a large emphasis on the visual, a special focus lies on the visual conceptualisation of the magazine, including image selection, graphic design and layout. I show how members working for GEO conceptualize the act of science communication and on what concept of science (and science politics) they base their assumptions. I will also show how the target audiences of GEO are imagined, what kind of scientific and visual literacy is ascribed to them as well as what kind of practices of interaction exist. I will critically assess these practices based on studies within STS on public understanding of science, thus contributing to a better understanding of how popular science magazine participate in the shaping of public debates.

panel C1
Studying science communication