How can Facebook contribute to the creation of a more ocean literate society?
The ocean provides countless goods and services supporting economic human activities. These goods and services are under threat as a consequence of a continuously increasing human population with limited knowledge of the ocean. It is important for citizens to take an active responsibility for ocean conservation, and therefore they need to develop ocean literacy. One challenge is that the knowledge is mainly held by scientists, often admonished for their lack of ability to communicate with the public. The online social media have become common resources for learning, sharing of knowledge and communicating with others. This constitutes a unique opportunity and a challenge for scientists to promote ocean literacy. This study takes a socio-cultural perspective of learning and argues that participation and interest are key components of the learning process. This study investigates the potential of Facebook for scientific communication and develop best practices to maximize its benefits. Quantitative (Facebook statistics analysis) and qualitative (interviews and discourse analysis) methods were used to scrutinize the Facebook page from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). From a quantitative point of view, the best strategy to optimize the reach and the followers’ interactions is to post daily and use picture or movies. From a qualitative point of view, MBARI’s fans seem to learn from MBARI’s stories to a certain extent, but this study indicates that Facebook pages do not offer the appropriate social context to foster participation since it has only a few of the features of an arena where such practices could develop. However, the context might be more favorable for participation when the fans share MBARI’s stories with their own friends. Moreover, MBARI’s stories hold the potential to develop people’s personal interest in marine science, supporting the learning process and enhancing their ocean literacy. In conclusion, social media can facilitate the development of user’s interest in the ocean and their ocean literacy. However, it is essential for scientists to increase their social media literacy in order to manage their pages in a more appropriate and timeefficient way, to benefit from the potential opportunities offered by online social media.