To talk about Science and Society, and about how they communicate, it is not easy, especially for a designer. We are not sociologists, we are not scientists neither journalists. But we are translators, and our task is therefore to understand a issue, interpret its potential and criticalities and finally create something new. This is the essence of design: the first step is always to ask the right questions. This is why this research starts from afar: to understand how to deal with scientific communication, I started by asking who Science and Society are, first from a sociological point of view and then considering national and european institutions. In the second chapter I analyze the state of the art: how Science pictures Society and vice versa. I also take into account the structure of the scientific communication system, still under the control of traditional gatekeepers. Defining a more complex communicative model, based on the concepts of “risk conflict” and “public construct of science”, made me focus on a single topic, to analyze a debate in fieri: in the third chapter the stress is on climate change, which is considered not only as a physical phenomenon, but also as a collective unconscious, built up by the media and the everyday culture The characteristics of the issue itself, and the set goal of understanding public attitude, pushed the last part of research towards digital methods, that is to say, a set of tools for analyzing public discussion on the web. I paied special attention to Twitter and the role of images, powerful tools to convey emotions, engage and invite public to action.
The conclusion consisted of summarizing previuos considerations into a project: a digital barometer providing a measure of the online debate, thus allowing the experts to better understand the everyday world, where everyone can create, spread and edit cultural contents in a totally instinctive way.

Research questions

What is the role of communication design in the Science-Society relationship system?
Can specific skills and attitudes of design actively contribute to ease the ongoing discussion between this two stakeholders?


The dissertation starts from a theoretical basis, and gradually move toward a more practical approach, ending with the design of an interface.
In the first part, STS theories and SIS actions are presented, and a more complex model of scientific communication is discussed. Then the focus shifts to climate change, a sample debate which is explored to better understand how a social discussion takes place. Moreover, the visual imagery of climate change is investigated through Twitter, Instagram and Google Images: datasets were collected and analyzed to produce visualizations. The last step was the design of an interactive dashboard, Barometro, combining data from Twitter and other media to provide complex visualizations about the climate change debate online.


The most important achieved outcome is the recognition of a potential role for design into the complex system presented: the one of translating and therefore easing the communication process. Besides this, the analysis and visualization of image datasets, even if they are too restricted to provide general conclusions, could be a starting point for future developments, for instance for creating a visual glossary of climate change through new media.
The final project was also presented to a potential user, S. Caserini, environmental engineer and professor at Politecnico di Milano, interested in public communication of science. The positive feedback proved that a similar tool could be useful and appreciated, and eventually confirmed that design has the makings of a successful approach.