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The potential of the evolutionary tree as mediational means in museum exhibitions containing key evolutionary concepts
Linköping University, Department of Science and Technology, Media and Information Technology. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering. (Visual Learning and Communication)
Linköping University, Department of Science and Technology, Media and Information Technology. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering. Linköpings universitet. (Visual Learning and Communication)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4694-5611
2015 (English)In: Non-formal Learning Environments, 2015Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Diagrams have been used to visualize evolutionary relationships for more than 150 years, and are today readily found in many areas such as textbooks, media, museums and the scientific literature. The tree of life metaphor, where the diagram takes the form of an organic vertical tree has been used almost as long and is still used to a high degree in textbooks and at museums. Despite this high prevalence the instructional needed to develop tree-thinking abilities are often lacking, potentially leading to interpretational misconceptions of the evolutionary concepts presented.

In this study 5 exhibitions with evolutionary content in natural science museums in the Nordic countries have been analysed in order to understand how evolutionary tree diagrams are incorporated in these exhibitions, what design is used and what instructional support is available to the visitor. A multi-modal social semiotic approach was used, where 3 functional levels were analysed together in order to assess the meaning making potential of the evolutionary trees in these exhibitions; i) content, representational process and design. ii) instruction and interactivity. iii) spatial and organizational composition. The analyses show a wide range of communication strategies; reaching from the evolutionary tree diagrams having a pivotal role in the exhibition narrative to being placed purely in the margin with no explicit connection to the overall evolutionary content. The instructional support is in many cases lacking but is sometimes incorporated in the presentational text of specific parts of the evolutionary tree, and the design ranges from tree of life type iconic visualisations to highly abstract renderings. Overall the evolutionary tree as a visual tool to communicate important evolutionary concepts seems to be used to a high degree but important aspects in order to better afford scientific correct interpretations of the trees are sometimes lacking.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015.
National Category
Didactics Evolutionary Biology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-122574OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-122574DiVA: diva2:868120
Conference
ESERA (EuropeanScience Education Research Association) 2015,Helsinki, 31 August - 4 September 2015.
Projects
EvoVis
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2012-5344
Available from: 2015-11-09 Created: 2015-11-09 Last updated: 2015-11-18

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Skar, HelenaTibell, Lena A E
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Media and Information TechnologyFaculty of Science & Engineering
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