We are now in a golden age for science in entertainment. Academy Award winning films such as Gravity and television ratings titans like The Big Bang Theory have proven that science–based entertainment products can be both critically acclaimed and financially successful. In fact, many high profile scientific organizations including the US National Academy of Sciences and the Wellcome Trust in the UK now believe that science communication can, and perhaps should, be both informative and entertaining. These groups have embraced movies and television as legitimate vehicles for science communication by developing initiatives to facilitate scientific involvement in the production of films and television programs. Science communication scholarship on entertainment media has been slow to catch up with the enthusiasm shown by these scientific organizations, as science communication studies of science in mass media still predominantly focus on news media and factual documentaries. Despite the scarcity of academic research on science communication and entertainment media there is a growing interest amongst scholars in seeking to understand the interplay between scientific work and its portrayal in entertainment media including film, television, radio, new media, graphic novels/comics, and computer games.
This two-day symposium seeks to bring scholars from across disciplines together to explore the communication of science through entertainment media in order to uncover new ways of approaching, understanding and theorizing about this topic. We are seeking papers that investigate science communication and entertainment media from a variety of disciplinary and global perspectives as it is practiced and experienced by a diverse array of publics. We aim to move away from approaches to the study of science communication that are restricted to interpretations of the scientific ‘accuracy’ of entertainment media texts. Instead, we are keen to elicit contributions that critically examine the synthesis and mutual reshaping of science and entertainment media. Therefore, we invite paper submissions that critically analyze how stories about science are communicated through production, dissemination, and audiencing of entertainment media texts. Potential areas of interest might include:
– How much and what types of science exist in entertainment media?
– How historically has science been incorporated into entertainment media?
– Why do various groups choose to communicate science through entertainment media?
– How does entertainment media influence scientific research or technological development?
– How do different cultural groups respond to science in entertainment?
– Why do entertainment media professionals choose to depict science in their work?
– ‘Celebrity’ science/scientists
– How have different genres treated science? How does science function in a genre film narrative?
– How do different modes of communication affect science communication? e.g. videogame, digital fiction, youtube, comic, television, film, and radio.
– What criteria do media producers use to identify appropriate sources of scientific knowledge and expertise?
– What counts as ‘bad science’ in entertainment and why?
– Why are films and television programmes that focus on ‘fringe science’ so popular? To what extent do they delineate conventional boundaries of scientific knowledge?
– Does science in entertainment media influence our perception of science in other cultural spheres?
– Is the distinction between professional and amateur scientists important to media producers? If so, why?
Confirmed speakers include Bruce Lewenstein (Cornell University), Felicity Mellor (Imperial College London), Declan Fahy (American University), Jane Gregory (University of Manchester), and Emma Weitkamp (University of the West of England).
Proposals for 20 minute paper presentations are warmly invited. Please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words along with a short biographical statement (email attachments in Word format) before Friday 19 December 2014 to the organizers at [email protected]
We will arrange and pay for accommodation for invited participants during the symposium. In addition, we have limited funds to contribute towards travel costs for those unable to obtain support from their home institution.
This Wellcome Trust-funded event will run from Thursday 4 to Friday 5 June 2015 and is organized by the Science and Entertainment Lab research group (thescienceandentertainmentlab.com) within the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, comprised of David A. Kirby, William R. Macauley, and Amy C. Chambers. Further information can be found here: http://www.chstm.manchester.ac.uk/newsandevents/conferences/storiesaboutscience/ .