An innovative approach to public engagement with cosmology, aiming at fostering a multi-sensorial participatory experience for a diverse audience.

In collaboration with computer-human interaction expert Prof Marianna Obrist and her team at SCHI Lab at the University of Sussex/UCL. For full details, see our paper:

Trotta, R., Hajas, D., Camargo-Molina, J. E., Cobden, R., Maggioni, E. and Obrist, M. (2020). ‘Communicating cosmology with multisensory metaphorical experiences’. JCOM 19 (02), N01.

Much of our scientific knowledge is transmitted via intellectual means, based on abstract concepts and gained through reading and other mostly visual means. This modality of transmission can be hard to engage with on a dialogic basis, as well as on a more emotional level. This is especially true of astrophysics, where we are often dealing with ideas so far removed from the human scale that they are often hard to imagine. Grounding facts and abstract ideas in bodily experience becomes a helpful way of creating meaning and widening participation, especially amongst non-expert and under-served audiences.

We designed and delivered two novel multi-sensory immersive experiences, by using insights from research into multi-sensory perception and human-machine interaction.

We delivered two events, a pilot at the London Science Museum Lates in Oct 2018, and a second, improved experience at the Great Exhibition Road Festival in Summer 2019. The video above gives you a flavour of how the “Dark Matter Multi-Sensory Experience” was received by the public. Insights and ideas from this project informed my inaugural lecture as professor of Astrostatistics at Imperial in Jan 2020.