This is a guest post by Annika Victoria, a science undergraduate student based in Australia who runs a popular fashion blog.
Having an in-depth conversation about the intricacies of quantum physics with an astrophysicist-slash-lingerie blogger was not something I would have predicted to occur when I first started my fashion blog in late 2011. Just three months ago, as my blog was becoming quite successful and drawing over 1000 readers each day, I made the decision to introduce a science fact or discovery alongside all of my fashion posts—instead of what I’d been doing for a year, which was inanely nattering on about my clothing choices, my hair and the weather.
As an aspiring neuroscientist and science communicator, I am disheartened by the lack of curiosity and understanding I often see in the general public about how the world works. And I share the frustrations of many science communicators who seek to engage an audience who isn’t already actively seeking out science. As my fashion blog, The Pineneedle Collective, grew, I realised that I had a space where people were actually listening to what I had to say. I could solve two problems in one: I’d get people interested in science and no longer have to make small-talk about the weather. Great!
Having no idea how my readers would react to this sudden-science-geek-Annika (having mentioned the fact that I’m studying science on my blog just once before), I crossed my fingers and went for it, starting by introducing a science fact alongside my daily outfit posts. At first I introduced each science story simply and slowly—never dumbing it down, just sharing the stories and discoveries which had sparked my own interest in science in a succinct and accessible way. I also tried in some way to relate the science to my outfit that day: for example, my first science post featured me wearing a neon-pink dress while explaining, with the help of a Minute Physics video, why there is no pink light on the visible spectrum.
So what happened? Did I give up and go back to: “so I wore a sweater today because it looked like it was going to rain and then it didn’t…”? Actually, the response was far better than I ever could have dreamed. Through my blog, I was able to reach out and communicate science to a vast spectrum of people from various ages and cultures who were otherwise not exposed to much science in their lives. One of the best feelings was (and is) having young women email me to tell me I’ve inspired them to choose science subjects at school, or major in science at university, or that I’ve dismantled their notions of scientists as being an uninteresting, uncreative and unfashionable bunch of people. I still occasionally have people tell me that they dislike science, but nonetheless found the science story I included that day really interesting, so my hope is that I’m sewing seeds of interest somewhere in their minds.
Another surprising thing that happened was that I inadvertently discovered and brought together a small community of clothing-loving secret-scientists. I’ve now met a burlesque dancer, Petra Dish, who has studied as a science communicator, a biochemist who is a nail artist and an astrophysicist who blogs about lingerie, to name a few.
Approaching science communication from an unusual angle has been nothing but rewarding for me. I’m (hopefully) able to demonstrate to the wider world that you can be creative and crafty and still care about chemistry. I’d encourage anyone who has some kind of platform (blog, journal, column, webzine or otherwise) unrelated to science to consider introducing a little bit of science now and again.
Through my blog, I am also, to some extent, disassembling the idea that you can’t speak about science from an unusual angle. Science should be something that can be discussed in everyday life, and be fun and engaging. If you do have a platform on which you could communicate science, but are worried that it will seem incongruous, this unfortunately perpetuates the idea that science can, or should, only be communicated in a text-book form—that you can only learn about science from journal articles or science-dedicated sites. Communicating science from wherever you are, using whatever tools you have, is a great way to reach out to those who would otherwise never be exposed to it.