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IP102 Science, Society and the Media

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Dr Bryan Brazeau
Dr Tim Burnett

Module Leaders

Core
Terms 1 - 3
22 weeks
30 CATS
44 contact hours:

1 x 2 hour workshop per week

2 field trips
4 workshops

Principal Aims

The module engages students with contemporary questions around the public understanding of science and the role that the media plays in communicating science. The module tackles the prevalent assumption that "despite the huge strides made in technology, we still live in a scientifically illiterate society" (Gregory 2000) and examines the ways in which public decisions are shaped by the media’s representation and manipulation of science. The module’s practical components introduce students to a set of topical issues making headlines in the national and local media and invites critical and creative responses to them through close analysis of case studies.

Principal Learning Outcomes (2017/18)

By the end of the module, students will have:

  • Acquired an in-depth understanding of the media’s role in shaping the public’s understanding of science
  • Examined the practical consequences of the media’s representation of specific scientific "issues"
  • Acquired an understanding of the ways in which Institutional interests influence science
  • Acquired an understanding of the ways in which institutional interests shape media reports
  • Studied, in depth, 2 theoretical stances explicating the relationship between science and institutional interests
  • Examined a range of controversial questions drawn from the national papers
  • Become familiar with the "language of news" and demonstrated their ability to deploy appropriate methods of critical analysis of news texts
  • Developed their ability to take a critical approach to news output and to use various methods of textual analysis
  • Developed their research and writing skills and compiled an e-portfolio of their work.

Principal Learning Outcomes (2018/19)

By the end of the module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the media’s role in shaping the public’s understanding of science and the practical consequences of the media’s representation of specific scientific “issues”
  • Express their own individual understanding of the ways in which institutional interests influence science and shape media reports
  • Apply and critique at least two theoretical stances explicating the relationship between science and institutional interests
  • Understand and explain the complex relationship between science and other academic disciplines
  • Examine how scientific knowledge is constructed and its contexts of production
  • Demonstrate and deploy appropriate methods of critical analysis of media, news, and popular culture
  • Demonstrate the development of research, writing, and presentation skills

Syllabus (2017/18)

Term 1
  1. Introduction: Science and the Public
  2. Science in Academic Culture: critical reflections on science
  3. Science in Public Culture: the social construction of science
  4. Popularization, Public Understanding and the Public Sphere
  5. Media issues in the Public Understanding of Science: Making news out of Science
  6. Media issues in the Public Understanding of Science: Language of the Media
  7. The effects of Media Science on Society
  8. Case studies in Science, Society and the Media
  9. Case Studies in Science, Society and the Media
  10. Reflection, Assessment, Critique
Term 2
  1. Introduction: Science and Institutional Interests
  2. Science, Capitalism and the Media: Critical Theory and Critical Realism
  3. Science, Capitalism and the Media: Critical Theory and Critical Realism
  4. Science, Patriarchy and the Media: Women as Subjects/ Objects of Science
  5. Science, Patriarchy and the Media: Women as Subjects / Objects of Science
  6. Case Studies I: Genetic Modification and Commodification of the Non-Human
  7. Case Studies II: Privacy vs Security
  8. Case Studies III: Mental Health
  9. Case Studies IV: Smoking
  10. Reflection, Assessment, Critique

Syllabus (2018-19)

Term 1
  1. Introduction: Science and the Public
Problem 1: The Science Wars
  1. Science vs. Pseudoscience
  2. The “Scientific Method” and Paradigm Shifts
  3. Science and Academic Culture
  4. Science vs. Academic Culture
Problem 2: The Military/Industrial Complex
  1. Science Museums and the Public Sphere
  2. Capitalism and Scientism: The Scientific Enlightenment and its Discontents
  3. Science, Society, and the Patriarchy
  4. Scientific Research and the Defence Industry
  5. In-Class Test
Term 2
  1. Introduction
Problem 3: How does Media affect the way we view and interact with science?
  1. Science and popular culture: Hope, Fear, and Metaphor in 1950s Science Fiction
  2. News media construction of science: Climate change
  3. Risk, its transmission, and public outrage: The case of MMR
  4. The perfect storm: The BSE crisis in the UK
Problem 4: Globalisation, Automation, and Anxiety: Utopia or dystopia?
  1. The bright utopia of automation: 20th century futurism
  2. Dystopia and threat: AI and automated warfare
  3. Automation and employment: livelihoods in and beyond the 21st century
  4. Science and globalisation: Challenges and opportunities
  5. Group Media Presentations and Discussion

Assessment (2017/18)








Assessment (2018/19)








Reading List (2016/17 - 2017/18)

The full 2016/17 reading list for Science, Society and the Media can be found here.

Reading List (2018/19)

Allan, S. (2002). Media, Risk and Science. Open University.

Bucchi, M. (1998). Science and the Media: Alternative Routes to Scientific Communication. Routledge.

Chomsky, N. (2012). How the World Works. Hamish Hamilton.

Chomsky, N. (2008). Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda.

David, M. (2005). Science in Society. Palgrave.

Erickson, M. (2004). Science, Culture and Society: Understanding Science in the 21stc. Polity.

Goldacre, B. (2009). Bad Science. Fourth Estate, UK

Gregory, J., and Miller, S. (1998). Science in Public: Communication, Culture and Credibility.
Perseus.

Herman, E.S. and Noam Chomsky. (1995). Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the
Mass Media. Vintage.

The course will also make extensive use of academic articles, book chapters, journalistic articles, and other forms of written media as required by the individual topics.