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Epilogue For the past few years, Google has featured variations on its homepage “doodle” such that the letters in “google” become integrated into a visualization commemorating a famous person or event. When Internet users place their cursors over the doodle, the name of person or event being celebrated pops up in a text box. If users want more information about said person or event, they can click on the Google doodle and will be transported to another webpage containing an informational article, or some other sort of textual description. On the occasions in which the Google doodle becomes a commemorative or celebratory visual, it serves as a portal image in exactly the sense that I have been using that term throughout this book: it is a captivating image that leads viewers to further information about a particular subject. It has the potential to frame viewers’ interpretations of the person or event that it represents and put them in a particular state of mind to receive textual information about the subject. Moreover, in a digital environment, portals have the capacity to reveal information in stages: first, viewers see the image alone; then they can obtain a title for the image by hovering over it; and finally, they can learn much more about it if they click on it and allow themselves to be transported to another webpage containing textual information. Rather than contributing to the mystification of science in the public eye, scientific portal images, such as those awarded in science-art competitions, could function in much the same way as the Google doodle and lead viewers to further, relevant scientific content. The consequences of mystifying science in the public eye have been studied in relation to textual genres by scholars in fields such as rhetoric, history, communication , and science and technology studies (STS). Mystifying science continues to position it in “a realm apart,” as Sarah Perrault put it in Communicating Popular Science, and doing so only creates more distance between science and society.1 Perrault devised a way of mitigating the gap by relying on a new model for communicating science: Critical Understanding of Science in Public (CUSP). In her analyses of popular science texts, Perrault concluded that “science can, Epilogue • 95 in fact, be presented in a way that does justice to the complexities of the issues while also making them accessible to nonspecialist readers.”2 CUSP attempts to overhaul past models of communication that feature top-down approaches to “educate the public” in science. It is similar to what Susanna Priest advocated for in the Bulletin of Science and Technology in Society: “Critical Science Literacy.” Both frameworks strive to create a culture of inclusion rather than exclusion around the scientific enterprise. The goal is to make scientific processes more transparent to uninitiated publics so that they can make more informed policy decisions. Images have yet to be studied within the context of CUSP model communication , but this book takes strides in that direction. I have argued that portal images have as much potential to do harm as they have to do good, in terms of their contribution to mystifying science in the public eye. However, with a set of criteria in place, communicators could be poised to use images more responsibly and respectfully. At the very least, taking stock of past practices, as this book does, can provide insight into the ways we choose to use images today. In particular, images can be more purposefully positioned as portals for uninitiated audiences into unfamiliar discourse. To accomplish this aim, communicators would have to select images that are relevant to current scientific research and link them to accessibly written text that elaborates on both scientific and social exigencies. CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING PORTAL IMAGES Though few in number, the existing rhetorical studies of popular science images have alluded to criteria for effective visual communication with nonexpert audiences , and, when synthesized, they provide fodder for a framework to evaluate scientific images that are specifically aimed at these audiences. Three case studies in particular—all of which have been mentioned in this book—informed the criteria set forth here. First, in a study of images in E. O. Wilson’s Sociobiology, Greg Myers considered how collections of science images and their accompanying text can be persuasive and powerful for nonscientist audiences. Second, in a study of museum exhibits, Jeremiah Dyehouse alluded to criteria for informative , educational science displays that serve both the scientific enterprise and uninitiated audiences. Dyehouse applied Jeanne Fahnestock’s concept...


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