My Photo


  • Jen-Luc Piquant sez: "They like us! They really like us!"

    "Explains physics to the layperson and specialist alike with abundant historical and cultural references."
    -- Exploratorium ("10 Cool Sites")

    "... polished and humorous..."
    -- Physics World

    "Takes 1 part pop culture, 1 part science, and mixes vigorously with a shakerful of passion."
    -- Typepad (Featured Blog)

    "In this elegantly written blog, stories about science and technology come to life as effortlessly as everyday chatter about politics, celebrities, and vacations."
    -- Fast Company ("The Top 10 Websites You've Never Heard Of")
Blog powered by Typepad
Bookmark and Share

« three's company, two's a crowd | Main | candles of many colors »



And nobody could frame this better than you!

Except that that doesn't seem to be what framing is.

Ok, before I veer totally off topic, I should say that I enjoyed the post, as usual. I'm not a physicist, but it certainly didn't leave me mentally muddled.

Framing isn't about clear explanations or metaphors. They're used in it, to be sure, but they seem fairly noncontroversial. There's always the debate about whether *particular* metaphors have enough in common with the nitty-gritty version and what details are vital, but that isn't framing as defined by Nisbet & Mooney.

Framing isn't about conveying understanding, it's about getting people to agree with you. "Faced with a daily torrent of news, citizens use their value predispositions (such as political or religious beliefs) as perceptual screens.." Framing, as far as I can make out, is appealing to those value dispositions. The metaphors passed along in this post are great, but I don't see how they "defin[e] a controversy to resonate with core values and assumptions." (both quotes from Nisbet & Mooney's Science piece)

Scientific uncertainty, unfair economic burden, creation stewardship, public accountability, teach-the-controversy, economic development, social progress, and economic competitiveness are all cited as frames by Nisbet & Mooney. Tuning forks and waves in ponds hardly seem to fit on this list.

After that, you may think I reject framing. I don't. For example, I think environmentalism as creation stewardship and a field for economic developments are both great strategies. On the other hand, I am having trouble figuring out how "a special point of view, emphasis, or interpretation presented for the purpose of influencing opinion" is so vastly different from "par[ing] down complex issues by giving some aspects greater emphasis" and "resonat[ing] with core values and assumptions." Since my post on Thursday on Nisbet's blog never made it, I doubt I'll get my answer.

But enough of the off-topic junk.

Good post. I may make use of that tuning fork demonstration next time I teach about beat frequencies.

I'm actually well aware of that element of framing, and like you, it doesn't change my mostly positive opinion of it. But I'd argue that using metaphor/analogy, conceiving of a well-ordered press conference with a focused, targeted message, are absolutely part and parcel of good framing, essential elements of bringing others around to your point of view. Scientists rather naively think that all they have to do is present "facts" and the public will come around to their way of thinking. They're loathe to admit that it's not enough -- the public rarely finds mere statement of fact to be a persuasive argument, which is why "spin" -- the misuse/abuse of framing, turning communication of facts to make a point into manipulative propaganda -- has proven so effective in the political arena.

Yes, it's about getting people to agree with you. That is the final goal.

But, in some contexts, for some topics, for some audiences, the best way to reach that goal is to get them to unerstand what you are saying. Other scientists, your students, lay-people interested in science can be reached that way in most cases.

But getting them to understand you is not always necessary. Getting them to trust you is sufficient to reach your goal in some cases. For people who have no time or inclination to listen to you long enough, or to exert enough mental effort to meet you half-way in understanding you, all you want them to do is to accept your authority - to believe your words when you say that the sky is blue. This is a big deal, as those people may have thought, because of the spin by some other interest group, that sky is really pink. Or perhaps they never thought about the question before. But those are the people who will never think to look up and see for themselves what color the sky really is. If you manage to get them to believe that sky is blue, your goal is fulfilled - in the next election they will vote for the guy who says that the sky is blue and not for the guy who insists that the sky is pink. No understanding, but this kind of persuasion is sometimes necessary for a broader good (e.g., getting the people to pressure the government to do something about global warming, etc.).

-Colst said: Framing isn't about conveying understanding, it's about getting people to agree with you. "Faced with a daily torrent of news, citizens use their value predispositions (such as political or religious beliefs) as perceptual screens.." Framing, as far as I can make out, is appealing to those value dispositions.

That is well said. That's exactly how *framing* for the purposes of controversial science issues should be thought of. "Value dispositions" is right on.

-Colst said: The metaphors passed along in this post are great, but I don't see how they "defin[e] a controversy to resonate with core values and assumptions." (both quotes from Nisbet & Mooney's Science piece)

Jennifer isn't framing here in her post; in fact, I've read every post on this blog plus her first book and she doesn't frame - she's describing the picture, so to speak. And metaphors and analogies are *wonderful* for her purposes - to make science interesting, especially to the layperson, so they can "get the picture." As with art, the frame is how you hang the picture, how you accentuate it, and the frame you choose can greatly enhance or detract from the picture. Lots of work goes into picking the right frames to bring out certain qualities in the picture. So, I see that you both appear to have a grip on what has become a really boring topic to read in the Science Blogosphere now.

Coturnix and Orac have done much to make it sensible, which could have been easily avoided in the first place. And Coturnix gave some concrete examples, which is all that really matters now and should have been done from the get-go.

Nice posts lately, Jennifer, and I enjoyed your latest piece at 3QuarksDaily re Alice Cooper. Vincent Price's part on "Welcome to My Nightmare" could be a little lesson on arachnids. I know that one by heart. ;-)

The example I used in the post, the press conference, is most definitely all about framing. as for what I do -- it's a part of framing, it's just a bit more subtle and less overtly political than the Mooney/Nesbit approach. The end goal is the same. The one aspect of the official definition of "Framing" I find uncomfortable is the fact that trusting the source trumps genuine understanding. But just because I find it unconfortable doesn't mean I can't recognize the reality of the public mind.

And that's all I'm gonna say about. :) Because TBB is right, it's been over-discussed in the blogosphere by this point. Besides, I'm moving to Los Angeles in two days, and there's much to be done, which leaves little time for writing blog posts or commenting on other blogs. But I'll be back in full force once I get settled!

Framing is spin. Or, at least it's the original definition of spin. The trouble is that spin has been abused and now largely is synonymous with "lie".

Framing requires that you know your audience. That requires a skill, which i call "trailing". From Boy Scouts, you have "tracking" - following someone. And also "trailing" - which is going somewhere, but leaving clues so someone can follow you. To do "trialing", you have to guess what someone else is going to do with your clues. This isn't that common a skill. Can it even be taught? It is just a hair not-the-same as empathy.

So, that was pretty good on neutrinos. So how about that Standard Model? (Wiki does a pretty good job - and in a blog you really don't have to explain it. But if you're standing in front of a group - you might.)

So, you think your audience knows billion, but not trillion? I shy away from billion, because i half expect my audience to be from the UK or somewhere, and there's this ambiguity - a billion might be a million million, or just a thousand million. But you're talking about 10^12, right?

So, a G, an E-flat, and a C walk into a bar. And the bartender says "we don't serve minors here". (The rest of this joke has been omitted because it won't fit into the margin of this blog.)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.