Scientific popularisation

lcomu2600  2021-2022  Louvain-la-Neuve

Scientific popularisation
5 credits
30.0 h
Main themes
The course offers discussion on the relationships between popularisation and scientific discourse. To this end, it analyses the three stages involved in a popularisation device:
  • the production of a popularising discourse: the psycho-social and scientific role of the mediator, or third man, and the constraints of a didactic discourse ;
  • the reformulation of a source discourse within a second discourse (e.g. paraphrase, transcoding, translation, narrative and metaphorisation) ;
  • recognition by the public of a popularised message (e.g. deciphering and appropriation of scientific information, and the attitudes of a reader of scientific popularisation).

At the end of this learning unit, the student is able to :

1. Know the main theories relating to scientific popularisation and writers on the subject ; 
2. Evaluate a communication or scientific popularisation device, and design the necessary adaptations ;
3. Design and construct a small popularisation device (including, at least, a text and an image) designed to reformulate an area of scientific knowledge.
Content This course is based on the idea that, like science, popularisation may be seen as ‘a kind of discourse’ (J F Lyotard) that possesses forms of expression and its own social functions. Unlike scientific discourse limited to written expression, popularisation documents use numerous language combinations such as texts, images, sounds and animation. The course reviews these forms of language, and identifies the specific features of a discourse of scientific reformulation. They include: – the vocabulary and organisation of concepts (e.g. map concept and superordered series); – reformulation (e.g. paraphrasing and meta-language), narration and setting the scene for communication; – imagery and visualisation procedures (including metaphorical measures); – humour. Methodology Lecture, case study and applied exercise.
Teaching methods
The course is divided into two parts.
The first 4 to 5 sessions are devoted to an ex cathedra presentation of the issues raised by the popularization of science and more broadly by the mediation of knowledge, focusing on one or other of their particularities.
The following sessions take the form of a seminar. Based on a specific theme, students, in small groups, are trained to develop a scientific popularization system. This work will lead them successively to
  •     analyse extension documents
  •     design and script a mediation system
  •     produce a popularization document and
  •     evaluate its reception by a public
These steps are shared and exchanged with all participants, which helps to consolidate the work carried out by each group. The last session is devoted to a presentation and peer review of the various popularization works.
Evaluation methods
The evaluation shall take into account
  •     the student's contribution to the group work and exchanges between participants during the four-month period
  •     the relevance of the group outreach document and its peer review
  •     in session, a work of critical (individual) reflection on a particular question of popularization of science to be defended orally.
The pedagogical method adopted means that if a student does not participate during the quadrimester in group work and exchanges organised in sessions, he will be declared absent and will not be able to present these works later in the year. He will then obtain an "A" grade for all activities related to this course, both in the January and September sessions.
Other information
Course requirements: A good knowledge of the theories and methods of semio-pragmatic analysis of audio-scripto-visual messages.
Online resources
Faculty or entity

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