New Media and PCST: Public Communication of Science and Technology

Notes from the Sharing Knowledge conference organized by the Da Vinchi Institute in Amsterdam.

Some of this may be useful for our research into an ARG for groworld, what attracts people, what problems are associated with informative games, etc.

Lecture by Peter Vorderer

What attracts people to games or anything else for that matter?

The standard way of looking at this is the uses and gratification theory
But Vorderer advocates the use of entertainment research/theory: effect-dependent theory of stimulus arrangement.

How do we select a medium? Do we watch a movie or read a book?
  1. excitatory homeostasis: optimal level of arousal.
  2. intervention potential: level of absorption of the medium.
  3. message-behavioral affinity: does it fit my mood?
  4. hedonistic valence: is it uplifting or distressing, can it change my mood?

Problems of this approach:

  1. entertainment is multifaceted and multidimensional.
  2. interactive entertainment is completely different from classical media.

More recent approaches:

  • evolutionary psychology: explaining our behavior from evolutionary principles.
  • motivational theories: intrinsic and external motivations.
  • self-determination theory: which states that people need 3 things for enjoyment or even mental health:
    1. need for competence: a challenge to overcome at just the right level of difficulty to not get frustrated.
    2. need for autonomy: the feeling of personal achievements.
    3. need for relatedness: being part of a group where there are not only rivals but also friends.
Relevance of self-determination theory to media and games:

In traditional media you almost always feel competent; you don't switch of the television because it's too challenging.
In interactive media the level can change so it delivers excitatory homeostasis.

Users of any media underestimate the interdependence from outside influences. When asked they think media influences others a lot, but not so much themselves.
In interactive media, you are not part of a movie-audience, you are scoring points and exploring individually.

PSI/PSR affective dispositions. This is of mayor importance. The success of a tv-show or game (MMOG) or a film depends very much on the popularity or unpopularity of show-hosts, avatars, movie-stars. Do we feel related, this is crucial to success.


PCST has to target these three needs just like entertainment has to and gaming meets them better than any other media.

  • the popularity of destruction. We like things exploding, falling over, and crashing, especially old and expensive things. Vorderer speculates that this tapps into a deep longing for change and renewal and the liberation from existing structures. The collapsing of the World Trade Center has overtaken the Challenger-explosion as the most broadcast picture of all time.
  • The budged for research into education in the USA is dominated by exploring the use of avatars as a learning tool.

Lecture by Ute Ritterfeld.

Games, if kids would only devote this kind of attention to their education.

Three ways to improve learning:
  1. motivation paradigm: making it more fun, and rewarding good results.
  2. reenforcement paradigm: combining different ways to deliver the message, text, graphics.
  3. blending paradigm: (as she calls it) enjoying the process of learning.
Serious Games, some statistics:

Ritterfeld looked into serious games in the English language.
In early 2007 they found some 650 of them:

subject area example
60% academic education Reading Blaster
15% social change Darfur is Dying
10% occupation related training the Business Game
10% health knowledge Remission
5% military training Americas Army
1% consumer behavior The Arcade Wire

My rough translation of her statistics:

age group
40% elementary school
40% high school
15% adult
5% preschool
educational goal example
50% skills maths / reading
25% problem solving saving seals game
20% discovery / exploration history
5% awareness / attitude change behaving well
Gaming environments; some results:

In working with disadvantaged children in LA she found that it remains extremely difficult to engage children into a topic they are not already interested in, even with gaming-environments.

They did an experiment where they presented the exact same content in 4 different ways:

  1. interactive game.
  2. just action replay.
  3. hypertext.
  4. text.

(I will develop this further later.)

Determinants of presence.

What holds the attention / increases engagement in educational games?

  • aesthetics.
  • challenge (at the optimal level).
  • narrative, the power of which she feels, is only very recently acknowledged.
  • personal relevance;
    • as a private laboratory for identity development.
    • developmental tasks such as dealing with competition, fear, joy, losing, winning.
    • mimic past experiences, for instance to deal with traumatic experiences.
    • enabling you to go beyond limitations, like a boy with muscular dystrophy who claims walking around a game environment are his happiest moments.
    • physiological arousal.
    • suspense / arousal due to the use of time and time-limits.
Some Interesting Experiments with Games:

Virtual Cliff (Blascovich 2006)
Person enters a room then gets a VR-headset which presents a cliff. The rendering is just with simple lines, nothing very intricate, and the person is asked to walk forward. 50% refuse to go there and 40% of those still refuse with a guide.

Virtual Combat 1 (Rizzo et al. 2007)
War veterans are helped to overcome their Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

Virtual Combat 2 (Henderlite 2005) War veterans with and without combat experience are allowed to play for as long as they like.

  • without combat experience - 4 hours.
  • with combat experience - 9 hours.

Temporary Suspension of Disbelief.
From neurological data gathered on gaming in a MRI-scanner, Ritterfeld speculates that subjects when gaming are constantly engaged in a balancing-act between accepting the fiction as real and sometimes letting it collapse into disbelief.

Attributes of the Perfect Educational Game.
  • scaffolding learning environment.
  • encourages self regulated learning.
  • is a safe and private environment.
  • challenges you to go beyond impasses and problems.


  • Games can be shallow entertainment, but they can also give very meaningful experiences to people.
  • Games are excellent at keeping the attention of individuals.
  • deliberate and sustained practice is the most important factor in learning, not just talent.
  • future games will respond to the learner state more closely to give the optimal challenge level by monitoring physical behavior:
    • hart rate and other physiological measures.
    • keyboard speed and correctness.
    • monitor facial expression.
    • body posture.
    • monitor voice and language.

Lecture by Jaqueline Broerse.

Science communication and public health.

Two Models:
model methods influences
old transmission top down dissemination of knowledge public
new transaction consultation / dialog / discussion scientists

In the transaction model scientists and general public meet on equal terms and share their knowledge.

This leads to a win /win situation:

  1. More contextualized science.
  2. More societal legitimacy of science.
  3. More implementation of research.

Anticipated problems:

  • small impact on policy and science.
  • little public interest.
  • results are not representative in any general sense.
  • expensive.
  • how to deal with science-illiteracy among non-scientific participants.
Design Research for Interactive Learning.

Broerse has developed processes for interactive learning with various patient groups for eight years.
Working with:

  • diabetics.
  • people with burns.
  • congenital heart defects.
  • mentally disabled.
  • and several others


To achieve a good dialog between physicians and patients:

  • mutual respect.
  • active involvement throughout the project, there was a mentally disabled person involved from day 1 in all meetings for that project.
  • attention for diversity and plurality, many age-groups, and social groups involved.
  • integration of different kinds of knowledge, not a debate, because then people still tend to stick to their positions.
  • design the process as flexible as possible.
  • facilitators are key-persons for keeping things going.
  • don't start the dialog to early or the experts will dominate the process.
  • Visualization is a powerful tool for communicating between different groups.

Results learned:

  • Patients are able to set research priorities:
    • can prioritize topics (itching as top issue for people with burns)
    • have attention for long term value of research.
    • can bring new topics to research.
  • This process clears up differences in priorities for researchers and patients.
  • it remains difficult to address power differences between doctors and patients, but:
    • increasing the number of patients helps.
    • preparing patients for this helps.
  • the facilitator is crucial.
  • there are always issues with enthusiasm and mistrust.
  • the dialog is seen as very gratifying for all parties.
  • the use of peers increases impact of research results (like patient organizations)
  • tackling scientific illiteracy by giving lessons, just makes patients more shy to share their part of the story.
  • the dialog doesn't continue when the project ends.
  • the medical system is not organized to work well with this new approach:
    • scientists have to make a paradigm shift.
    • lack of sense of urgency.
    • fears of delay.
    • financing dominated by scientists themselves.
    • patients are not present in panels and boards.
    • appraisal procedures are based on scientific data only.
    • treating other types of knowledge such as a patients daily experience as equal to scientific knowledge can be felt as a threat to their authority by scientists.
    • patients are not 'naive' anymore but are well informed proto-professionals, which gives them a certain mindset similar to the scientists. The real 'naive' patients that you want, are hard to find.


How do the anticipated results pan-out?
anticipated problems results
small impact on policy and science a large impact due to involving patient groups
little public interest a much closer network with the general public
results are not representative more implementation of research
expensive same
science-illiteracy problem needs good moderation
  • communication_of_science.txt
  • Last modified: 2007-10-12 12:42
  • by theunkarelse