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IP102 Science, Society and the Media


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

4 workshops
Not available to students outside the School for Cross-Faculty Studies

Principal Aims

The module engages students with contemporary questions around the public understanding of science, scientific objectivity, universality, 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 raised across various forms of media, invites critical and creative responses to them through close analysis of case studies, and exposes students to practical considerations inherent in understanding science such as the quantification of risk, and the notion of proof (or lack thereof).

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 (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 (2018/19)


Indicative Reading List (2018/19)

  Reading List IP102 Term 1- 2018-2019

N.B. 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.

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Syllabus (2019-20)

The module’s structure is based on problems and case-studies around the broad nexus of Science, Society, and the Media. Because these topics are dynamic and characterised by ongoing debate, each year the syllabus will be reflective of active debates and contemporary challenges.

 

An example syllabus may include:

Term 1

I. The Science Wars

a) Introduction: Science and the Public

b) Science vs. Pseudoscience: The Problem of Induction

c) Scientific Revolutions and Shifting Paradigms

d) Two Cultures, Both Alike in Dignity?

e) Academic Hoaxes and Their Consequences

II. Science and Power

a) “Fear of Mob Rule” and the Public Sphere

b) Science and the Status Quo

c) Biology and the Patriarchy

d) Cyborgs and Posthumanism

Term 2

III. Media and Science

a) Science and popular culture: Hope, Fear, and Metaphor in 1950s Science Fiction

b) News media construction of science: Climate change

c) Risk, its transmission, and public outrage: The case of MMR

d) The perfect storm: The BSE crisis in the UK

 

IV. Science at the frontier: Utopia or dystopia

a) The bright utopia of automation: 20th century futurism

b) Dystopia and threat: AI and automated warfare

c) Automation and employment: livelihoods in and beyond the 21st century

Assessment (2019/20)


Indicative Reading List (2019/20)

Alberti, S. J. M. M. (2005) ‘Objects and the Museum’, Isis, 96(4), pp. 559–571.
doi: 10.1086/498593.
Bauer, S. W. (2015) The story of science: from the writings of Aristotle to the big bang
theory
. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Brake, M. and Weitkamp, E. (2010) Introducing science communication: a practical guide.
 
Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
De Beauvoir, S. (2009) The second sex. Trans. C. de, Borde and S. Malovany-Chevallier,
London: Jonathan Cape.
DeSalle, R. and Tattersall, I. (2018) Troublesome science: the misuse of genetics and
genomics in understanding race
. New York: Columbia University Press.
Emden, C. and Midgley, D. R., eds., (2013) Beyond Habermas: democracy, knowledge, and the
public sphere
. New York: Berghahn Books.
Gregory, J. and Miller, S. (2000) Science in public: communication, culture, and credibility.
 
Cambridge, Mass: Perseus Pub.
Habermas, J. (1991) The structural transformation of the public sphere: an inquiry into a
category of bourgeois society
. Translated by Thomas Burger. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT
Press.
Haraway, D. (1996) “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the
Late Twentieth Century,” in Manifestly Haraway. Minneapolis, MN: University of
Minneapolis Press.
Henry, J. (2012) A short history of scientific thought. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire:
Palgrave Macmillan.
Hume, D. (2014) An enquiry concerning human understanding. Edited by T. L. Beauchamp.
[Oxford]: Oxford University Press; The Clarendon Edition of the Works of David
Hume.
Koertge, N., ed. (1998) A house built on sand: exposing postmodernist myths about science.
 
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kuhn, T. (1963) “The Function of Dogma in Scientific Research,” in A. Crombie, ed., Scientific
change: historical studies in the intellectual, social and technical conditions for
scientific discovery and technical invention, from antiquity to the present
. London:
Heineman.
Latour, B. (1999) Pandora’s hope: essays on the reality of science studies. Cambridge, Mass:
Harvard University Press.
Markham, T. (2017) Media and everyday life. London: Macmillan Education.
Nelkin, D. (1996) ‘The Science Wars: Responses to a Marriage Failed’, Social Text, (46/47).
doi: 10.2307/466846.
Olson, R. (2015) Houston, we have a narrative: why science needs story. Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press.
Pinker, S. (2018) Enlightenment now: the case for reason, science, humanism, and progress.
 
London: Allen Lane.
Popper, K. R. (2002) The logic of scientific discovery. Translated by the author. London:
Routledge.
Snow, C. P. (1959) The two cultures and the scientific revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Sokal, A., (1996) “A Physicist Experiments With Cultural Studies,” Lingua Franca 4.
———, (1996) ‘Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of
Quantum Gravity’, Social Text, (46/47). doi: 10.2307/466856.
———, (2000) The Sokal hoax: the sham that shook the academy. Lincoln: University of
Nebraska Press.
Sur, Abha. (2008) ‘Persistent Patriarchy: Theories of Race and Gender in Science’ Economic
and Political Weekly
, pp. 7–8.
Yearley, Steven. (2005) Making sense of science. London: SAGE Publications.

N.B. Due to the dynamic nature of the module, readings will change each year, based on active debates and challenges. 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.