I’ll give up my vaccines when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.

by Jen

So you’re wondering about that first prototype I made (and keep casually mentioning). You can (finally) view it here:

Vaccination: A Conversation

A few words on its design, (beyond the many, many words I’ve already written): it’s not meant to be a completely polished and perfect piece, but instead it functions as a vehicle for communicating about a scientific topic and in the process, testing out a handful of strategies.

In making this artifact, I applied the process I developed from my exploratory research.


As I followed that process, I asked myself how different groups of people tend to view vaccination. I imagined all the ways a science communicator could frame the facts about vaccination in ways that resonate specifically with different cultural worldviews and speak to different types of concerns. A lot of the messaging we currently see on vaccination safety focuses on herd immunity and social responsibility, which is well and good if your audience consists of communitarian-egalitarians. But what of the hierarchical-individualists? Even if you’re in the “ignore the denialists!” camp, you have to admit that ignoring anti-vaccination movements will be problematic for everyone.

So how might we craft a message about vaccines that makes vaccination seem like the ultimate expression of patriotic, personal freedom? How do we mobilize an NRA level reaction to the idea of not-getting-vaccinated? (Hence the title of the post). Of course, that’s getting a little extreme, but pushing those boundaries helps generate ideas and when scaled back, provide some good foundations for metaphor and narrative selection. For example, I characterized some of the arguments for vaccination in terms of personal defense, armor if you will, in a battle to stay healthy. In a future post I’ll share the results from a study I conducted with this prototype that illustrates whether this kind of strategy worked, and with whom.

Also worth mentioning: I made one artifact instead of multiples. I explained this a bit in the development of my thesis poster, but to recap:

1. A single unified piece is more feasible if I’m going to suggest these strategies for others to use. Most individuals and even organizations won’t have the resources to conduct targeted demographic marketing.

2. Even if said organizations did have the ability to do so, that kind of strategy would be duplicitous and certainly prove problematic for reputation and credibility. The scientific community’s job is to tell the truth about what they have learned- not to sell specific ideas. It is therefore important to draw a very stark contrast between spinning or marketing or advertising, which I would avoid at all costs, and simply framing the same information (with all necessary scientific integrity and accuracy) by using different metaphors and weaving various narratives around it. Obviously, it’s a challenge to frame information differently for different audiences within a single piece, but I did it in this case by presenting information in different ‘voices’ (suggested by different typefaces) in a conversation dialogue, and then providing the different arguments for vaccination through subtle language cues.

It was suggested during the recent poster session that I should be looking at entire ‘ecosystems,’ rather than a singular piece, and I feel it important to note that I’m not suggesting my work will somehow provide a way for us to create a single piece that can be a panacea to the denial or controversy surrounding a science topic. Rather, these types of communication pieces are vehicles for me to test strategies. Those strategies may in turn be applied over larger efforts (ideally) and I am going to think more about that in the coming weeks, especially in designing ways to turn my new understandings into actionable insights for others.