Author: Alexandre Schiele – Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Canada
In the past decade pseudoscience communication, characterized as non-fiction mass media content drawing condemnation from experts in related fields (Feder 2017), has become a fixture of cable television globally, and, more problematically, even of science channels: science communication programs on television account for a fraction of the audience; debunking programs, which purposely deconstruct pseudoscience claims using the scientific method, are few and far between, always in reaction to the most problematic pseudoscience claims in mass media (Lamberts & Grant 2016). Because few analyses of pseudoscience TV documentaries have been conducted (Black 2012; and Loxton 2015), this talk will present a systematic analysis. However, it will not discuss the present situation, but understand its roots by going back to the first instance of a deliberately produced pseudoscience communication series in the United States. Over the course of its original run between 1977 and 1982, the 144 episodes of In Search Of… were broadcast to every American tv set, at a time when there were only four national networks, and were received with much critical acclaim. At the same time ran a U.S. produced science communication series, although only lasting 13 episodes in fall 1980, was also received with much critical acclaim: Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. Both series were rapidly broadcast in other countries, and continue to enjoy reruns globally, becoming models for future series. Positing an audience overlap in 1980 United States, this talk will present the results of a systematic media analysis of the similarities and differences of topics, formats, narrative strategies, participants… to determine whether pseudoscience and science communication series follow different paradigms or constitute a single paradigm. This talk will demonstrate the existence of a paradigm governing (pseudo)science TV documentaries, and offer recommendations to improve the science TV documentary format, and limit its use for pseudoscience communication purposes.
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Presentation type: Individual paper