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Narratives in Science

Narrative in Science — Science Learning and Communication

Cognitive linguistic and narratological studies of the conceptual structure of continuum physics have been under way at ACSS for a number of years. They demonstrate a few points that are important for the learning of science and for communicating science:

 

  • a.   Human conceptualization in science is embodied and leads to figurative (rather than literal) concepts.
  • b.   Force of nature is an important figure of mind (and of speech) that is used to understand classical macroscopic physical processes.
  • c.    These figurative concepts are elements of larger conceptual and linguistic structures—namely, narratives.
  • d.   Narratives create story-worlds; stories narrate concrete events in these story-worlds. If we apply the notions of story-worlds and stories (and their relation) to science and engineering, we see that they correspond to models and their simulations.

Consequences

 

  • 1.    Using explicit modeling and simulation in science education leads to considerable advances in understanding of macroscopic natural and technical phenomena.
  • 2.    Stories of forces of nature can be designed that help young learners and lay persons to better understand natural and technical systems and processes including such important issues as energy and the environment.

Center of Narrative in Science

A Center of Narrative in Science has been created in 2015. With the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), the Institute of Applied Mathematics and Physics at ZHAW, and the ZHAW Foundation, an International Exploratory Workshop on Narrative in Science was held at Weissbad (Appenzell).

Our goals are to do fundamental research at the intersection of science and cognitive science — where narratology and science meet. We ask how the sciences of the human mind can help us understand the interaction between humans, the world around them, and the scientific and technical artefacts they create; and, in return, what this interaction tells us about the human mind.

The center is supported by a worldwide group of scholars interested in the same goals.

Background

Fuchs H. U. (2015): From Stories to Scientific Models and Back: Narrative framing in modern macroscopic physics. International Journal of Science Education, 37(5-6), 934-957.