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Screaming When There is Sound in Space: Unrealistic Science and the Reception of Narrative Fiction

Green, Jarrod

Description

Sound in space. Featherless dinosaurs. Physics-defying stunts. Unrealistic science in fiction is often the subject of commentary and critique. Existing audience research on science in fiction focuses on the possible effects of unrealistic science on the audience; however, there is limited research investigating how the audience evaluates and discusses unrealistic science. This thesis reports on the outcomes of an audience research project investigating...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorGreen, Jarrod
dc.date.accessioned2017-06-15T23:51:13Z
dc.date.available2017-06-15T23:51:13Z
dc.identifier.otherb44473047
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/117412
dc.description.abstractSound in space. Featherless dinosaurs. Physics-defying stunts. Unrealistic science in fiction is often the subject of commentary and critique. Existing audience research on science in fiction focuses on the possible effects of unrealistic science on the audience; however, there is limited research investigating how the audience evaluates and discusses unrealistic science. This thesis reports on the outcomes of an audience research project investigating the role of unrealistic science in the reception of narrative fiction. Qualitative data drawn from focus group discussions and interviews with 55 participants were used to explore why the realism of science in fiction can be personally important to the audience, when the realism of science in fiction is most relevant to aesthetic evaluation, and what motivates audiences to discuss the realism of science in fiction. Participants reported scientific realism to be personally important for its effects on the narrative experience, its effects on the evaluation of narrative as rhetorical communication, its effects on perceived authorial respect for science and the reader, and its perceived effects on the public’s understanding and support of science. These findings illustrate how a concern with scientific realism can be both a routine and deeply personal aspect of responding to science-themed fiction. The aesthetic acceptability of unrealistic science depended on four key principles of aesthetic evaluation: subservience (unrealistic science is acceptable because it is subservient to the narrative’s aesthetic goals), satisfaction (unrealistic science is acceptable because the narrative is aesthetically or ideologically satisfying), salience (unrealistic science is acceptable because it is unimportant to the narrative or to the audience), and severity (unrealistic science is acceptable because it is an understandable or innocuous error). The framework introduced in this study provides a catalogue of evaluative moves that audiences may deploy in response to unrealistic science and serves as a tentative guide to predicting when unrealistic science is aesthetically acceptable. Discourse about the realism of science in fiction served nine self-reported functions, including catharsis, critique, conciliation, continued engagement, curiosity, communication, change, competence, and connection. These self-reported functions underpin three latent discourse functions identified in previous research. Discourse about scientific realism is a form of boundary work that not only maintains the epistemic authority of scientists (credibility) but also asserts authority over public discourse about socio-scientific issues (control). Furthermore, by highlighting media effects concerns, this discourse may perpetuate and legitimise the practice of blaming fiction for public opposition to science and technology (concern). The framework introduced in this study highlights how discourse about scientific realism can serve diverse functions for diverse audiences. Any audience can participate in and benefit from discourse about scientific realism. However, the benefits and rhetorical affordances of this discourse are ultimately most accessible to audiences with self-assessed scientific competence. This study contributes to science communication and audience reception research by introducing new frameworks for understanding how audiences evaluate and discuss unrealistic elements in fiction. These frameworks can inform science communication practice as it relates to the production and reception of narrative fiction.
dc.language.isoen
dc.subjectScientific accuracy
dc.subjectunrealistic science
dc.subjectperceived realism
dc.subjectmedia realism
dc.subjectscience in fiction
dc.subjectfictional science
dc.subjectmovie science
dc.titleScreaming When There is Sound in Space: Unrealistic Science and the Reception of Narrative Fiction
dc.typeThesis (PhD)
local.contributor.supervisorOrthia, Lindy
local.contributor.supervisorcontactLindy.Orthia@anu.edu.au
dcterms.valid2017
local.description.notesthe author deposited 16/06/17
local.type.degreeDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)
dc.date.issued2016
local.contributor.affiliationAustralian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, The Australian National University
local.identifier.doi10.25911/5d70eecbbe207
local.mintdoimint
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