Beyond cosmos : Carl Sagan and a new approach to media science communication
Schmidt, Daniel John.
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Much can be gleaned by reflecting on how Carl Sagan captured the hearts and minds of so many people through science. I will examine the tenets of science communication Carl Sagan successfully employed to overcome the many problems inherent to explaining complex topics. Though Sagan inspires in us a belief that the public can be intrigued by the wonders of science, the methods employed by Cosmos to connect with viewers are now outdated. Television has evolved beyond the heavy box in the corner of the living room and has become the iPad, the laptop computer, and the mobile phone. All are personal devices populated by Internet channels teeming with endless amounts of information. Not only have our modes of watching changed but also so have our programs. The format that worked for science television in the 1980s no longer seems to entertain or captivate audiences like it used to. This paper will examine the need to respond to those changes in consumption and production to create opportunities for the public to connect with science through the modes most common to our current culture. Reality-based, competition-driven, and audience- participation shows are the new standard in nonfiction television. With the willing participation of scientists and the creativity of filmmakers, we should work to mold those formats around new science programs. This effort would ensure a better public understanding of science and bring science more prominently into the realm of popular culture and discussion.