Author: Alexandre Schiele – University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM), Canada
Since the end of World War 2, science education, science mediation and science communication has been the order of the day. With the growing importance of science and technology within our societies, in all fields, it was posited that reason, science and a scientific mind were among the major conditions for continuously growing economies and continuously rising living condition. Science and scientists had a powerful voice, while everything and everyone that was deemed outside the mainstream, including pseudoscience and cranks, were confined to the fringe. Alternative values and ideas existed and strived, but they were mainly relegated to escapist fiction, and, for their most part, depreciated. However, in the past two decades or so, pseudoscience and cranks have gained a foothold in the mainstream and have now become a staple of mass media, even on historically science-orientated networks. For sure debunking still exists, but it is increasingly confined to the fringe: pseudoscience and cranks have not only become established fixtures of primetime television, they are less and less denounced, criticized or even confronted. Simply put, cranks now present their ideas without contradiction while the success of these shows bring in a steady flow of revenues if they secure a contract with a major. The result has been the marginalization of shows that even simply draw on science as a mean of entertainment.
In order to better understand this puzzle, which is unfortunately too often avoided by science communication, the object of this talk will be the comparison of the structure of a highly successful pseudoscience TV series on a mainstream network, Ancient Aliens, running continuously since 2009, to that of recent and more traditionally science-oriented TV series also playing on mainstream networks. Understanding their success may contribute to the improvement of science communication and to the counteracting of mainstream pseudoscience.
Presentation type: Individual paper
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices