Science on TV

This project analyzes representations of science in contemporary US-American TV series. The project examines the specific aesthetics of representation and narration, as well as transmedial marketing and distribution strategies, of science-focused TV series from different subgenres. This will allow us to determine if and how these shows may be both characterized by and promote a specific form of scientific literacy.

We work from the assumption that the serial nature of TV series allows for "narrative complexity" (Mittell 2006), for complex character development. Moreover, the ongoing nature of the series should allow them to be in constant dialog with contemporary societal discourses on science. Therefore, TV series would seem to be particularly suited to the representation of multi-faceted scientist characters, as well as to popularizing and critically reflecting on scientific knowledge and its production and usages in different contexts (e.g., as a means to discuss the social responsibility of scientists and the ambivalent functions and effects of science). We hypothesize that we will discover media-specific aspects to the ways that TV series represent and involve audiences in the dilemmas of scientific endeavor and knowledge production.

TV series such as The Big Bang Theory (2007-2019), Breaking Bad,(2008-2013), and Fringe (2008-2013) will be analyzed through close readings, which also take into account the series' transmedia environments and marketing and distribution channels. This approach is combined with a comparative perspective that will allow us to diagnose the specific ways in which the series differ from science novels in their methods of representing and involving audiences with their scientific content. The analyses aim at exploring the media-specific forms and functions of representing science and the scientist with particular attention to both their "catalytic" potential for enabling audiences to engage with science both on the intellectual and the emotional levels, and their "seismographic" potential as a site for tracking and critically reflecting on contemporary discourses on science.

This project is part of the larger Fiction Meets Science research project.

Note: I did not acquire funding for this project; I am merely hired as a postdoc in this project.

Publications related to this Project

"Imagining the Becoming-Unextinct of Megalodon: Spectral Animals, Digital Resurrection, and the Vanishing of the Human." Gothic Animals: Uncanny Otherness and the Animal With-Out, ed. Ruth Heholt and Melissa Edmundson, 107-123. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

"'It's like Groundhog Day': Remediation, Trauma, and Quantum Physics in Time Loop Narratives on Recent American Television." GRAAT: An On-Line Journal of Anglophone Studies 15 (2014): 93-113. Available Open Access.