Microblogging and the Web for Public Outreach and Education

This presentation reports on an experience of an effective use of microblogging and the Web to improve actions and results in Public Outreach and Education, POE. Using Twitter and the website “paroledelcielo.it”, we promoted and held a public lecture of Astronomy at Festival della Scienza 2011 (Science Festival) in Genua, one of the first and most important events of its kind in Europe with over 200,000 visitors in a week. The promotion consisted in using Twitter to interact with the conference audience before, during and after the event itself. Given the short notice, three weeks, we looked for all possibly interested people in the Twitter community, who have been informed of the event, trying to figure out their subjects of interest and the questions they would ask to the speaker (LB). The lecture was about the importance of the sky in our daily life and its influence in the words we normally use. The website was also used for a deep description and discussion of some selected themes/words. The use of microblogging in conferences is now fairly established, and that is not what we intended to prove. Instead, the overall process of selection and engagement of the users, discussion and refinement of the user-preferred issues before the conference, communication with the “out of the conference” users via streaming video and Twitter comments is new and seems to be very promising. This work shows that this approach can be undertaken also by a very small research team in any scientific or humanistic discipline, if sufficiently skilled in the use of social networks. Indeed, the whole procedure was performed by the authors, with the contribution of four students, master's degree in Science Communication at the University of Padua, who worked about half an hour a day for three weeks, obviously as an exercise, under the time schedule and advice mainly from one of us (C.R.). The results were very encouraging: we had in fact a better understanding of our Twitter users and their cultural interests, and then we could fine-tune the main topics of the conference.



  • Leopoldo Benacchio
  • Cristina Rigutto
  • Italian National Institute for Astrophysics &
  • Padua University - Master in Science Communication, Physics Dept.,
  • benacchio@inaf.it

Part of session

Lightning Talks

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