Online media and the sciences

Holliman, Richard (2010). Online media and the sciences. In: Priest, Susanna ed. Encyclopaedia of Science and Technology Communication. Newbury Park, CA, USA: Sage.



This paper is an introduction to online media and the sciences. It draws on several examples to illustrate some of the concepts being used to analyse and describe online media and the sciences. Online media are many and varied. They can be defined as those media that are networked (e.g. via the internet, intranets or SMS). In simple technical terms, networking requires interconnectedness and interoperability between computing devices and involves digital information that can be efficiently stored, searched for, and then retrieved and shared (simultaneously or asynchronously), and, where required, from multiple locations and different time zones.

Developments with online media have had profound implications for the accessibility of all areas of knowledge, not least the sciences. For example, online digital information (such as the home page of a scientific institution) can now be 'retrieved' from a number of geographically distributed locations via a uniform resource identifier (URI; a codified address that points to a resource on the World Wide Web). This information is sent to the user via a network. Applications (such as a web browser) hosted on compatible devices (including personal computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and mobile phones) then 'read' and 'reformat' this digital content (e.g. the title of the home page always goes at the top, left aligned; the search function at the bottom, left-aligned; and so on).

Such is the ubiquity of online media for the sciences that these forms of communication are now routinely used. Users of online media, such as scientists, media professionals, other stakeholders (patent lawyers, journal editors, etc.) and citizens, have adapted (and are continuing to adapt) their social practices in how they communicate science via online media. The paper concludes by aruguing the study of contemporary science communication therefore requires a systematic understanding of online media.

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