Notes from the SPARKS Conference 2022: Day 2

Misinformation as an Obstacle to Science Communication

by Brian Southwell at RTI International

What is scientific misinformation? from Southwell et al for The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science:

  • publicly misleading info that is misleading or deceptive relative to best available evidence at the time and
  • counters statements by actors who adhere to scientific principles without adding accurate evidence for consideration

What’s the problem with misinformation?

  • we are biased towards acceptance — we listen and then filter / think about it, which sometimes doesn’t happen sufficiently because we’re tired etc.
  • there are reasons we share misinformation — we signal belonging with others by sharing info related to our identities
  • our regulatory approach (in democracies) focuses on after-the-fact detection and response — does not censor info, prevent misinformation from being shared
  • correction is hard
  • emotions make us vulnerable — anger makes us more likely to accept misinformation

Communicators should:

  • have a stance of empathy on those who share misinformation
  • focus more on building trust
  • stop blaming those who distrust us

Misinformation travels faster not because it is false but because it can be crafted in a way to scintillate

What is trust? > based on credibility, reliability, shared interest

  • local sources matter

His recommendations to communicators:

  • don’t be dismissive — be compassionate
  • empower people to be better info seekers
  • learn what people are encountering
  • translate more often

Recommended resources:

Seeding the Change

by Serena Li

Wrote a transcreated childrens’ book about healthy parenting and love languages

Transcreation guidelines:

  • find a theme with cross-cultural inspiration
  • preserve the difference of each culture
    • e.g. “I love you / I love you more” in English > “My favorite is you” in Mandarin (?) —
    • e.g. Spanish version art shows Christmas gifts, Chinese version shows lunar new year
  • review, review, review
    • avoid being taken as cultural appropriation: loop in review by cultural experts and community members
    • make connections with individuals in your community
  • seek insights from your network about which group needs more assistance

Co-creation and Visual Design in Social Marketing

by Keiko Betcher at Cascadia

Good time for branding = after barriers & benefits research

Methods for co-creation:

  • audience research
  • focus groups
  • polls
  • co-design

Learn which strengthen the connection between your desired behavior change and your audience

Case study: Snohomish County RainScaping logo

  • motivators = practicality, beauty
  • focus groups (compensated $100 gift card for 2-hour session)
  • strong reactions to word choice (e.g. smart implies dumb, DIY implies they’re on their own)
  • not interested in illustrations of rainscaping — wanted photos

Case study: Duwamish Valley Youth Corps — reduce illegal dumping into storm drains

  • techniques = co-creation with student group, survey
  • asked community about 2 logo options and slogan

Voluntary Landowner Participation in Streamside Vegetation Restoration

by Melanie del Rosario at Veda Environmental

Project with Ecology & Skagit Conservation District — developing a new voluntary riparian buffer program aimed at agricultural landowners

Key takeaways on process:

  • background research super important to understand context — also literature review
  • landowner interviews were more successful in person — helped with comfort, trust
  • trust and transparency vital
  • one-on-one engagement crucial

What they learned from interviews about what would make a successful voluntary riparian buffer program:

  • autonomy over their land
  • complexity of the process
  • size of the buffer — how much land removed from ag production
  • maintenance assistance
  • financial incentives should offset cost of installation and loss of productive land
  • land use objectives — open to supporting wildlife
  • trust and transparency  <– key motivator

Question: would “working buffers” provide viable habitat value? (Suggested by interview participants)

Yikes! More Clogged Pipes?

Using Social Marketing to Improve System Outcomes

by Lynn Knapp with Cascadia and Rachel Garrett with Brown and Caldwell (previously with SPU)

  • Audience research: size and impact, ease of reach, receptiveness and scale of barriers

Case study: college students (UW, Seattle U, Seattle Pacific) wipe a lot of disposable wipes and other non-flushable products

  • baseline study
  • pilot at on-campus and Greek housing:
    • A/B tested posters, bins, labels — provided free bathroom trash cans, hung door hangers with info
    • pilot results: increased knowledge but didn’t change behavior 😥
  • barriers and benefits
    • barriers: cleanliness, culture (grew up using them), convenience
    • benefits: environment and avoiding embarrassment of calling for maintenance
  • second pilot
    • social media ads — youtube and spotify audio ads (students listen while studying)
    • stall posters and toilet stickers — redesigned to show negative impact, focus on
    • tabling — goal = 1-on-1 convo; draw = custom-wrapped free TP
  • evaluating the strategy
    • survey with Amazon gift card reward
    • 15-20% reduction in flushing wet wipes at schools (self-report) 🙌
  • misinformation from marketing: people don’t know that flushable is false, people don’t know that biodegradable is not a legally defined term and therefore meaningless as a marketing term
  • audience primarily affluent, American (recent immigrants tend not to flush wipes)

Segmenting your audience

by Nancy Hardwick

Many ways to segment an audience, no one way is best.

  • Gender may not be a useful division for behavior change

Select the segment most likely to respond to your offer — take your budget into consideration

Example from recycling:

  • Informed recyclers = women, 55yo+, white, retired — think a lot about recycling
  • Wishful recyclers = often Spanish-speaking, have a kid, 25-24yo — more likely to put something in the recycling that they hope belongs there

Themes of the conference:

  • context
  • relationship-building
  • trust

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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