This seminar presents the findings of original research projects that have explored some of the diverse and complex ways in which scientists have been portrayed in contemporary popular culture. The papers offer unique, but complementary, analyses of scientists’ fictional and non-fictional representations in a variety of different mass media formats, genres and cultural contexts. The seminar examines how images of scientists are disseminated, described, constructed and contested, not only in journalism, but in other cultural forms, including animated cartoons and popular science books, through which audiences encounter and engage with scientists and scientific ideas.

In their work, the presenters have used diverse methodological approaches and theoretical frameworks. Massimiano Bucchi explores, through mass media coverage of Nobel laureates, two contemporary trends in the communication of scientific information: the proliferation of journals disseminating results, on the one hand, and the concentrated attention given in particular journals to a limited amount of eminent scientists, on the other. Richard Holliman presents work that he and colleagues have undertaken to examine images of scientists in animated cartoons shown on children’s television, finding that these forms retain at least some of the stereotypical imagery that was evident in the 1950s. Declan Fahy explores ideas about scientific fame through an analysis of three contemporary British scientist-authors, recontextualising their popular representations using approaches from emerging theories of celebrity.

The seminar aims, through presentations and discussion, to draw comparisons and contrasts between scientists’portrayals in these different cultural forms. It aims also to provide original insights into the contemporary representation of scientists in popular culture to a range of audiences.

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 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

(Scientists in popular culture
Between stereotypes and celebrities): Science communication through mass media

Massimiano Bucchi   University of Trento, Italy

Richard Holliman   Open University, U.K

Declan Fahy   American University

This seminar presents the findings of original research projects that have explored some of the diverse and complex ways in which scientists have been portrayed in contemporary popular culture. The papers offer unique, but complementary, analyses of scientists’ fictional and non-fictional representations in a variety of different mass media formats, genres and cultural contexts. The seminar examines how images of scientists are disseminated, described, constructed and contested, not only in journalism, but in other cultural forms, including animated cartoons and popular science books, through which audiences encounter and engage with scientists and scientific ideas.

In their work, the presenters have used diverse methodological approaches and theoretical frameworks. Massimiano Bucchi explores, through mass media coverage of Nobel laureates, two contemporary trends in the communication of scientific information: the proliferation of journals disseminating results, on the one hand, and the concentrated attention given in particular journals to a limited amount of eminent scientists, on the other. Richard Holliman presents work that he and colleagues have undertaken to examine images of scientists in animated cartoons shown on children’s television, finding that these forms retain at least some of the stereotypical imagery that was evident in the 1950s. Declan Fahy explores ideas about scientific fame through an analysis of three contemporary British scientist-authors, recontextualising their popular representations using approaches from emerging theories of celebrity.

The seminar aims, through presentations and discussion, to draw comparisons and contrasts between scientists’portrayals in these different cultural forms. It aims also to provide original insights into the contemporary representation of scientists in popular culture to a range of audiences.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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