Screens, Research and Hypertext

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The General Public

People shouldn't need to become scholars to benefit from scholarship.

There’s a reason that policy is (largely) the province of academics and scholars and researchers. Policy is hard work. The people who produce policy are those lucky enough to work in the sorts of institutions that pay them for the time required to wrestle ideas from between texts.

These ideas matter.

Democracy also matters. If democratic society is to work properly, its citizens have to make informed decisions.

We could insist on “generational reparenting,” on a paternalism that insists on forcing the interested public to start behaving more like scholars if they want to join the policy game.

Or we could use the internet to do the work of creating links for people.

Maybe most of the general public really is content to scan a list of “The 20 Most Expensive Paintings in History,” to borrow one of Popova’s more dismissive examples. But perhaps we as communicators can link that listicle to a short video that reduces Thomas Piketty's 800-page Capital in the Twenty-First Century to a three-minute animation.

Maybe we’ll even try to make it comprehensible to someone playing it at 2x speed.

The world doesn’t improve because more people take pictures of themselves reading Piketty in especially picturesque libraries. It doesn’t get better if those same people put his doorstop of a book onto a shelf and refuse to part with it.

The world gets better when people act on ideas that matter.

Even if they saw those ideas in a tweet.

For more context

You don't have to fetishize books to appreciate them.

What to read next

Creating hyptertext content that meets users' needs isn't as easy as it should be.

Other items of interest

Wherein I deploy pop culture to make a larger point about research communications.

Knowing the best way to present information isn't dumbing down or selling out. It's rhetoric.

There's no right answer for how to present research results. But there's definitely a wrong one.

Referenced in

Back to WonkComms and Superheroes

There’s much to be said for this model. For one, policy is complicated. You need a lot of words to prove yours is the right option. For another, we’ve often promised our funders some sort of big deliverable at the end of the project, and we want to be able to tell our funders that they got their money’s worth.