Vannini, Phillip (Ed.). Popularizing Research: Engaging New Genres, Media, and Audiences

By Soukup, Paul A. | Communication Research Trends, March 2013 | Go to article overview

Vannini, Phillip (Ed.). Popularizing Research: Engaging New Genres, Media, and Audiences


Soukup, Paul A., Communication Research Trends


Vannini, Phillip (Ed.). Popularizing Research: Engaging New Genres, Media, and Audiences. New York and Bern: Peter Lang, 2012. Pp. x, 220. ISBN 978-1-4331-1181-5 (paper) $38.95.

All scholars want others to know the fruits of their research but, as Phillip Vannini points out in the introduction to this collection, the academic world seemingly conspires against that desire by its system of publication for scholarly audiences, specialized journals, and prejudice against "popular" venues. Ruth Garbutt, one of the contributors to this volume, expands on this by commenting on how academics have identified "the need for researchers to write in an academic way and follow expected conventions in order to be 'accepted' and to have a research career. However, the scholarship and sophistication required of academia is not always helpful in terms of making research accessible for people with learning disabili ties, or in terms of popularizing research" (p. 133). Many, however, still manage to get the results of research into the communities that can benefit most from it--often the communities that provided the subjects or information for the research. That success forms the core of Popularizing Research.

This book brilliantly accomplishes several goals. First, it presents research from a variety of disciplines that has reached the public, along with commentaries from the researchers. In this, the book and its accompanying website must be experienced rather than read. The text offers, for example, the goals, methods, procedures, and audience of a documentary film maker; the website links to the film. Following the anthropological principle of "show, then tell," "almost all the contributors were asked to deliver a 'show' to be uploaded on the website and a 'tell' to be featured on the book. The 'tell'...was meant as a narrative reflection on the experience of producing and distributing popularized research" (p. 8). Vannini continues:

   Each chapter is meant to strike a compromise
   between two extremes: the practical extreme of
   teaching technical components of research popularization
   (e.g., how to use Adobe Creator to
   edit media material) and the abstract extreme of
   reflecting on the epistemological value of popularized
   research. As a result, the information presented
   in each chapter is meant to stimulate and
   guide readers to popularize research and to provide
   them with a rough directory on the possibilities
   available. (p. 8)

Second, the book serves as a kind of research methods textbook. Many of the examples begin in qualitative methods, but one could just as well present quantitative studies (as do several of the authors). The key lies in how to present what one has discovered. Here, the essays are truly eye-opening, suggesting imaginative and persuasive ways to communicate important ideas. From this perspective, anyone teaching a research methods class should certainly study this book and think seriously about assigning it to their students.

Third, the book--while not addressed specifically to communication researchers--calls to them both in the (communication) media the contributors employ and in the self-reflexive sense of these communication media. To set the book and the website side by side offers an important understanding of the possibilities of contemporary communication.

Vannini has divided the book and the website into nine sections, based on the media the various researchers have chosen to disseminate their work: film, visual media and graphics, exhibits and installations, audio, periodicals, books and reports, dialogue (often via social media), performance, and publicity. …

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