GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 154-6
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-1:00 PM


DROBOTH, Jason, Department of Geoscience, University of Calgary, 2429 4 Ave NW, Calgary, AB T2N 0P3, Canada

Public science education and communication efforts continue to shift towards digital media spaces, especially that of social media. While it is difficult to quantify how much social media is contributing to public science communication and education, there is general agreement that its role is growing substantially, especially amongst younger audiences.

Yet there has been increasing concern over the quality and accuracy of the science found on social media, given that billions of users can claim to speak for science or share scientific information. Science organizations - like the US Geological Survey, NASA, the American Geophysical Union, etc. - attempt to enhance the quality and accuracy of science on social media by contributing to conversations via their official accounts across a variety of platforms. However, it is often difficult to both grasp audiences’ attention and teach accurate science.

This current research looks at the ways in which science organizations try to communicate with and educate the public on topics in the Earth Sciences. It analyzes a spread of science organizations’ social media posts to identify and make sense of the linguistic metaphors that influence their received meanings. It adopts conceptual metaphor theory (CMT) which claims that language and cognition are primarily metaphorical in that abstract concepts are described and thought of in terms of more concrete concepts developed from embodied experiences. The MIPVU methodology for linguistic metaphor identification and interpretation are used and adapted for the analysis of social media content. Given that metaphors function to highlight some aspects of reality while hiding others, the linguistic metaphors pervading social media posts highlight and hide different aspects of scientific concepts, whether intentional or not. Thus, public educational outcomes may be different from those intended. This research hopes to highlight, through metaphor analysis, what potential learning outcomes may result from science organizations’ public communication and education efforts through social media.