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Sciences and society

An Institute for the Science of Communication

In a world awash in information but where effective communication remains an issue, CNRS' Communication Sciences Institute (ISCC)1, created and led by Dominique Wolton, will be dedicated to “thinking out” a communication revolution.

The world's population–some six and a half billion people–owns 4.5 billion radios, 3.5 billion television sets, more than 2 billion mobile phones, and 1 billion computers. These figures are witnesses to the relentless growth of information technology over the past 50 years. However, the multiplication of means of transferring information does not guarantee the overall efficiency of communication. Quite the contrary in fact: No mechanical link exists between the torrential flow of information, and successful dialogue or effective sharing of that information. Indeed, the huge amount of information available paradoxically makes it harder to communicate. For Wolton, if the world has changed drastically over the past 50 years, we have yet to acquire the tools necessary to understand the nature of communication in our new open societies.

“We need to make up for lost time and apply to communication what has already been done for the life sciences, engineering, and environmental sciences –i.e., set up tools for understanding and analyzing it,” says Wolton. “What is complicated about communication is neither the message transmitted nor the technology used, it is the receiver.”

Sensitive to this approach, CNRS approved the creation of ISCC at the end of November 2006, and validated a range of actions that covers five strategic areas: language and communication; political communication, the public arena and society; globalization and cultural diversity; scientific and technical information, and finally, sciences, techniques, and societies.

ISCC wants to identify and associate the many scientists working at CNRS whose research already deals with the core topics (between 200 and 300). “Scientists represent the 'reactor core' by virtue of the fact that they are the principal producers of knowledge,” explains Wolton. In addition, “the general public increasingly wants them to explain the impact their work has on society. They are therefore ideally placed to carry out a critical analysis of the limits and contradictions involved in the globalization of information and communication.” The ISCC will coordinate this work and advise on the allocation of human and financial means. This mission will naturally mean moving beyond CNRS and towards international cooperation, more specifically via European networks.


Philippe Testard-Vaillant

Notes :

1. Institut des sciences de la communication du CNRS.

Contacts :

Dominique Wolton, ISCC, Paris.
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