Seeing [hyped] science differently



Friday 24 February




Tara Roberson

PhD Candidate

Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science


Science popularisation can be characterised as a process by which we marshal resources and shape social and political discourse in support of scientific research. The drive to become popular can lead researchers and institutions to draw upon an often criticised tactic: hype.

Hype, or simplified and sensationalised science, appears to be inescapable in science communication with examples extending from viral social media accounts and ‘breakthrough’-themed press releases, to the mediated claims of the celebrity scientist. While the potentially negative effects of hype are familiar in science communication literature, the function of hype is not well understood. We lack a model which tracks the strategic use of hype in the communication ecosystem.

Hype does not occur in isolation. Rather, in line with Victor Turner’s social dramas, hype begins with a breach of routine communication and rises to a crescendo with sudden and parallel increases in communication across different mediums. In this presentation, I will provide a framework for understanding hype, which also acts as a theoretical foundation for investigating the use of hype in communication campaigns.

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