“Making us see science” : visual images in popular science articles and science journalism







University of Southern Denmark



The article explores how scientific research and scientists are represented visually in popular science and science journalism. It discusses communicative functions and cultural meanings of visual elements in science stories. Drawing on concepts from the visual grammar developed by Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen, the author indicates how different kinds of modality are used to address the audience in popular science articles in Scientific American and Illustrert Vitenskap (a Scandinavian magazine). It is argued that the visual elements in popular scientific magazines are conventionally arranged in a manner coinciding with a pedagogical/ educational intent typical of much popular science, taking the readers from a reality they are presumed to have experienced towards more abstract scientific knowledge. However, the two magazines analyzed differ markedly with respect to the audience competence that they implicate in their visual representations. The level of visual abstraction in Scientific American contributes to creating an identity for its audience as belonging to well-educated and advanced elites, as opposed to the images of Illustrert Vitenskap, where the emphasis is to a larger extent on a naturalistic coding. The author goes on to discuss how photographs, visual composition and verbal text work together in a multimodal rhetoric typical of many science and health stories in Norwegian newspapers.



Creative Commons License: CC-BY 3.0

Permanent URL

  • http://hdl.handle.net/10642/542