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Title: Science as pantomime : explorations in contemporary children's non-fiction books
Author: Bell, Alice R.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3454 3650
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2008
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This project explores a case study in children's science culture: Horrible Science, a UK based series aimed at 7-11 year olds. Children, I believe, are one of science communication's most interesting audiences. They are both potential members and potential outsiders of the scientific community, and Horrible Science produces a liminar identity to meet these two markets. I apply a metaphor of pantomime to help describe Horrible Science, partly because of the series' approach to using fiction and its style of audience participation. It is also panto-science because it is presented as a carnivalesque show, exciting and fun, laughing at authority. Horrible Science invites us to snigger at science's heroes and explore the hidden underside of both nature and of scientific work. However, I believe that this, at least in part, is largely a matter of excusing a type of earnest reverence, delight and excitement for science that had become unfashionable by the end of the 20th century. I investigate Horrible Science as an interesting phenomenon in its own right, but also because I hope to develop ideas about the popularisation of science. Since the early 1990s, theories on popular science have tended to describe popular science as sitting (obstructively) between scientists and the rest of the world. Its public audience are defined as receivers; the scientists, the providers. However, recent work from historians of 19th century science have critiqued this view, instead positioning popular science within a 'marketplace', full of empowered consumers choosing not only what cultural products to partake of, but who to trust and how far. I accept this emphasis on the marketplace, but with a less utopian view of consumer power which retains some of the scepticism of the 1990s analytical approaches. I suggest that Horrible Science aims to appeal to its readers by implying they can use a 'horrible' version of scientific knowledge to take up a position between the great and the good of the scientific community and an assumed, unenlightened othered public. Drawing on Bourdieu's ideas on symbolic 'capitals' of culture, I conclude with a reading of popular science as a product through which interaction between and across cultural fields allows a range of actors to, at once, share social power, declare their own cultural status, and fall prey to the hierarchies of science in society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available