British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

CFP: Science and Television

Call For Papers: Science and Television
Co-Editors: Steven Gil and Bill Lott
Proposal Abstract due 30 November 2014
Full Articles due 31 March 2015
Publication 2016

Contributions are now invited for a special issue of the Journal of Popular Television which seeks to analyse the presence, representation, and role of science in television.

As science has become more and more integrated into mainstream society, increasingly varied and sometimes sophisticated representations of science have taken centre stage in popular culture. Science content, both factual and fictional, manifests today in many forms of entertainment and infotainment. Much of this content is produced for, disseminated through, and consumed as popular television.

Recent years have seen an expansion in scientifically themed and related programs. Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey (2014), a revival of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (1980), illustrates the sometimes high-profile nature of science on television. Hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson and produced by Seth MacFarlane, it includes segments on the history of science alongside up-to-date information, and slick special effects that make full use of televisual capabilities for inventive and engaging storytelling. Similarly, Through the Wormhole (2010-ongoing) merges scientific and popular concerns into an informing and engaging series narrated by celebrity host, Morgan Freeman. It is not only straightforwardly science oriented documentaries that are noteworthy here but also series such as the long-running Mythbusters (2003-ongoing) which explicitly utilises science as an approach to systematic and reliable problem solving. Little academic attention has been given to either Mythbusters or the many shows built on the same model despite its rise to mass popularity.

Beyond factual and educational programs, science is also present in television fiction. One recently successful and noteworthy series in this regard is The Big Bang Theory (2007-ongoing) which sought to include a high level of real science content, and is marketed on an image of being scientifically literate and accurate. Additionally, the CSI franchise and other crime series, as well as some medical dramas, often centralize the role of scientific expertise and investigation. Science fiction television also has a long and complex relationship with science. Within the Star Trek franchise, Doctor Who (1963-89), The X-Files (1993-2002), and Battlestar Galactica (2004-09) among others, science and scientist characters are highly prominent. Although there has been an increase in academic attention towards science fiction television, little of that literature focuses on the role of science.

This growth of science content on television has opened a large space in the academic landscape for new and original analyses. The increased complexity, diversity, and salience of science in popular television signals the pressing need for critical engagement with the subject.

Articles can examine any part of the theme, including (but not limited to):

  • Representations of science and scientists on television (whether fictional, dramatized, or real)
  • Use of scientific knowledge and practices in television series and documentaries
  • Documentaries about science
  • The cultural influence of science as shown through television
  • The influence of popular television on science and scientists
  • Scientists as television celebrities
  • What television as a medium enables and restricts with regards to the presentation of science
  • Television and popular science
  • Science communication and education through television, or the use of televisual materials in communicating and teaching science
  • How/where scientific debates are shown on and contributed to by television
  • Science on non-Western television
  • Science and scientists in science fiction television
  • Scientific accuracy and method as part of the marketing of shows such as The Big Bang Theory, and Mythbusters
  • Food science in television cooking shows

Send a titled abstract of 300-500 words and a short CV by 30 November 2014 to:

Accepted articles must be 6,000-8,000 words inclusive of all notes etc. and conform to Intellect style guidelines.

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