PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Pseudo/science communication in mass media

Alexandre Schiele  

Pseudoscientists and pseudohistorians directly engage the non-specialist audience by imitating science communication while the success of TV series such as In Search of… (1977-1982) and Ancient Aliens (2010-) and its many derivatives on mainstream networks bears witness to their mastering of the codes of mass media communication better than scientists or even communicators themselves. However, they directly appeal to the very common sense that the increasing complexity of science has long outgrown while heavily relying on drama. Yet, paradoxically, their striving existence is proof of the legitimacy of this form of communication above others: the difference between creationism and intelligent design is at the level of the forms of communication. However, a new troubling trend is emerging: works of fiction that are not clearly advertised as such are shown on popular science networks with the same format and editing as their trademark science documentaries. How to account for such a trend on mainstream networks? The thesis that will be defended is that the impossibility to distinguish between science and pseudoscience is the very result of the development of the codes and rules of modern mass communication. This communication will present the analysis of some popular pseudoscience/pseudohistory TV series aired on popular science networks with the aim of helping science communicators refine the format of popular science communication and distinguish it from its pseudoscience equivalent.

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