Talking Tech: the art and science of communicating complex ideas - Cecilia Thirlway

We live in a world where increasingly, technology is not just a part of our daily lives, but is woven into every aspect of what we do. From social media to the stock market, from insurance policies to transport, our lives are governed, affected and transformed through technology.

It’s no longer good enough to think of technology as something that happens outside people's daily lives: everyone needs a baseline understanding of the boundaries and possibilities of technology. Why? To promote understanding, remove fear and therefore influence policy and regulation; for better solutions to today’s problems (large and small); and finally to sell it effectively.

The problem is that people’s understanding is affected by the context in which we operate: the world of Fake News, post-truth means that media portrayals of technology are not necessarily accurate or helpful, while fictional portrayals tend to exaggerate and glamorise the possibilities or overstate/misrepresent the dangers. People’s perceptions and reactions will be mediated by these influences, and are also affected by their own biases and identities.

So how do we communicate well and tell the right kinds of stories about technology to overcome some of these problems? I’ll look at some tried and tested communications techniques to help, as well as referencing some past case studies of both success and failure and look at other complex areas that have struggled with this problem, such as the public understanding of science, in particular the issue of climate change.