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Outreach Communication


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chapter10: Outreach Communication (Textbook, pdf, 539KB)

  • 10.1 The feature of outreach communication
  • 10.2 The styles of outreach communication
  • 10.3 Outreach communication methodology
    • 10.3.1 Communication models
    • 10.3.2 Methods and subjects of communication
    • 10.3.3 Building process of the communication environment
  • 10.4 A practical case study “Eco-experiment”: global warming and the greenhouse effect (environmental issues)
    • 10.4.1 Problem analysis
    • 10.4.2 Designing the communication environment
    • 10.4.3 The preparation of the communication tools
    • 10.4.4 Practice in the field
  • 10.5 The possibilities and challenges of outreach communication

What is the relevance of Outreach Communication in Field Informatics

Citizens today face many critical issues, such as global climatic change, natural disasters, resources and energy problems, and institutional fatigue of the political and economic systems. As one of the new methodologies in field informatics, we apply outreach communication to understand the essence of these problems and develop new ideas and policies to tackle them. This method links the "local knowledge" that has been continuously-embedded in the citizen's everyday life and "specialized knowledge" that has been accumulated by specialists in multiple areas. To successfully build this link, we provide an outreach communication tool, which is composed of an interaction place and the content as a mechanism.

The communication tools are designed such that the participants are expected to play a role as one who has a specific standpoint. Through role-play, the participants directly think about what will happen as a result of their actions. Thus the communication tools allow the participants to approach the essence of the problems, whether their effects be indirect, protracted, and have far-reaching ramifications and many uncertainties, as long as we can appropriately build a system of information exchange and interaction as the outreach communication tools.

In this chapter, we introduce outreach communication and address the process of the building of the communication tools.


Interactive communication by diverse participants including the experts is generally established in outreach communication. In tackling social issues, especially those concerning science and technology and those which are intimately involved with the day-to-day lives of the public, both experts (not only scientists and technicians, but also sociologists, economists and, at times, philosophers, poets and other experts, regardless of their field) and the public gather together to share in and discuss problems in the mutual hope of deepening their understanding of the problems and acquiring new perspectives.

To conduct effective outreach communication, communication planners prepare the field as an interaction place and the content as a mechanism. In highlighting the difference of multiple viewpoints, which is called 'framing,' and the variation among stakeholders in outreach communication, communication planners design the tools based on the following two points. The first point is to induce the discussion and promote an understanding of the issues among the participants and to encourage discussion about whole issues and individual points. The second point is to prepare a flexible system. Multiple scenarios or future projections may be presented dynamically as options corresponding to the changes in the participants' perspectives which accompany progress in the communication. The system promotes a spirit of collaboration, sometimes stimulates competition among participants, and poses a social dilemma in their mind, thus helping participants to capture the essence of the problems.

Outreach communication requires not only focus on transmitting particular knowledge, but also focus on the development of new methodology to offer an entry into understanding the structure of complex problems and component interactions. The methodology aims to achieve collecting opinions from citizens who have different local viewpoints and local knowledge, and to share the future opinions between the citizens and experts. If it is possible to explain the whole picture of the complex problems easily using the new outreach methods, many citizens can be actively involved in the critical problems or issues that are deeply and directly linked to their everyday life. It also provides the opportunity to facilitate the participation and cooperation of experts and citizens for rebuilding sustainable social systems.

Case Study

We introduce a case that deal with carbon circulation and global warming problems: "Eco-experiment: global warming and the greenhouse effect".

The experiment was conducted by integrating participatory gaming with science communication. This case aims at viewing global warming problems from the perspective of a mutually-connected chain of elements.

In this case, we utilize personal computers connected to the Internet. The experiment was conducted by integrating participatory gaming with science communication (science café). Participatory gaming was originally used for military tabletop exercises, and later applied to various games such as business games, city games in the social science field, and now it helps as a useful practical research methodology in existing various academic fields. It enables participants who live in remote areas and have diverse local knowledge to obtain the outreach communication easily without the limitations of time or space by improving the communication environment using a computer that is connected to the Internet. In this case, we introduce and focus upon real-world methods for putting communication into practice, including practicable steps for the construction of communication tools.