Leonardo da Vinci, Studies of the Shoulder and Neck,
Students in this class collaboratively research, plan, produce, and distribute science writing using primarily new media technologies. Students select and investigate scientific research currently underway at Saint Louis University using both primary and secondary sources (interviews, observations, background research), and then plan, produce, and distribute a range of media such as a podcast (akin to RadioLab or This American Life), a text-heavy publication (akin to Wired), or a series of video shorts (akin to How Its Made) with this research topic as its subject matter. Ultimately, students themselves negotiate the focus and tone of their own publications. Students enrolled in this course cultivate the habits of a successful professional communicator working in an increasingly collaborative, free-form, and mediated work environment. Students likewise develop an understanding of how rhetoric shapes science—both its practices and its public reception. Additionally, students will establish a voice as a writer, understand the principles and practices of primary and secondary research, gain comfort and competence with new media production and distribution, and develop sophisticated and critical responses to (new media) technology.

Studies of the Shoulder and Neck, one of many sketches produced by Leonardo da Vinci, resonates with this course at several levels. First, it is the use of the media of writing and drawing for the work of science. The sketch is not only a way to record and report science; it is part and parcel of the work of a scientist. That is, science proceeds discursively through symbolic action.

Second, the sketch becomes a way (perhaps, here, unintentionally) that the fruits of scientific labor become public: the sketch is the use of media to broadcast and tune into science. As an audience, we can begin to understand the science (the biology and the physics) of the body through such mixed-media compositions as this sketch.

Third, the image itself serves as a guiding metaphor for science writing: articulation. This sketch is a study the shoulder and of the articulation of the arm and the neck. The shape and movement of the human body is a function of such articulations. Articulations are thus generative of movement. Likewise, rather than seeing science writing as the simple transmission of science, or as the translating of science for non-experts, this course views science writing as articulation, as, in part, the generation of scientific knowledge. The science writer participates, alongside scientists, in the articulation of science—the piecing together of data. Each articulation, each connection, produces new knowledge.