“Why language?”: the answer on Instagram
The National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Evolving Language is launching its Instagram account. What to expect: knowledge transmission and exchanges between scientists and their audience thanks to videos, memes and quizzes in story format.
By Radar RP & NCCR Evolving Language
Zurich, Geneva, November 15, 2022. What specific biological conditions have allowed language to flourish in humans? How do interactions between humans and artificial intelligence impact language evolution? What is the ethical framework for the use of neurotechnologies?
Scientists at the National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) Evolving Language are working on these questions and other current issues that affect society as a whole. Entitled @NCCR_Language, the new account will allow the NCCR to popularize its research, to transfer its knowledge and to open science among young people and the general public. This will arouse the curiosity of all those who wonder about what distinguishes the human species from all others: language.
Each month, subscribers will be able to ask questions to researchers who will answer in video. Quizzes in story format will allow knowledge to be transferred in a playful way and the creation of memes will help in breaking down perceived walls of science. The audience will be able to learn more about the NCCR’s research, as well as get a glimpse of the realities of the fieldwork and the daily life of researchers. In addition to their knowledge, scientists will pass on learning tips to students as well as a passion for their discipline. As Valentina Borghesani, an assistant professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Geneva within the NCCR, explains: “Our goal is to stimulate scientific thinking and promote careers by demystifying the figure of the scientist and by forging links between today’s scientists and those of tomorrow. We aspire for students to receive a decent science education, regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, or ethnicity.”
The @NCCR_Language account will adopt an informal and humorous communication style to appeal to digital natives, among others. The video and photo mediums will be privileged and the audience will be invited to discover the activities and news of the NCCR.
Building a bridge between language sciences and society
In addition to creating a dialogue between research peers, the aim is to create a loyal community of the general public, students and young people. As NCCR director Balthasar Bickel points out: “We are funded by the general public, so the general public deserves to know what we have discovered. And, in many ways, some of our research, for example on how neurotechnology can decode what we plan or imagine to say in words, is of great importance to everybody.”
Interdisciplinary and multilingual
More than 100 years ago, the division of faculties created a growing chasm between the world of “humanities and social sciences” and the world of “natural sciences and mathematics”, making the study of the evolution of language more difficult. The transdisciplinary approach of the NCCR opens up new perspectives for research by bringing together a wide range of disciplines: linguistics, psychology, neuroscience, biology, anthropology, medicine, genetics, computer science, geography, mathematics and philosophy. Together, they study, for example, communication and cognition in humans and animals, especially in our closest relatives, they examine the neural and processes involved in language processing or they investigate how children learn their language.
The content of the Instagram account @NCCR_Language is offered in the three official languages of the NCCR, namely English – lingua franca of the scientific world -, German and French – which are the languages of the two home institutions of the NCCR, (University of Zurich and University of Geneva). A precise graphic signature for each language allows the NCCR’s multilingual audience to more easily locate the content intended for them on the Instagram page.