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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Metaphor, personification and anthropomorphization in contemporary popular media representations of science
by Long, Edlaina, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2009, 211; 3519787
Abstract (Summary)

Contemporary science and technology shape our understanding of the past, present, and future through narratives and images that describe the origins of life, the order of the cosmos, and the forces at play in the natural and human-made worlds. Yet a number of studies indicate that Americans are not as "scientifically literate" as citizens in other nations, and that many Americans have little real understanding of basic scientific concepts and practices. Surveys show that American students lag in science and math test scores, that we are increasingly importing scientific talent from abroad, and that we are sharply divided along political lines in our understanding and opinions about key issues, particularly evolution and global warming.

This has resulted in a strong push from several sectors to increase public interest, understanding, and appreciation of science. Simultaneously, burgeoning new media outlets are turning to science as another source of "infotainment" and headline news to fill the need for a "24/7" stream of media content, political strategists are formulating methods to "frame" scientific information to influence public opinion, and educators are turning to new technologies to teach science to an online generation. This study examines the presentation of science from professional scientific journal articles, through funding agency news releases, into a range of contemporary popular media sources, including online newspapers and magazines, science websites, blogs, television, and radio programs.

We find an increasing use of creative narrative devices associated with traditional methods of storytelling and imaginative literature, including increased use of metaphor and other figurative language, particularly personification and anthromorphization, as well as humor, pun, and playful language, rhythm, rhyme, and alliteration. We also find an interesting correspondence between language and communication metaphors used in the sciences and popular descriptions of human internet and wireless communication technologies. We see the scientific community putting forth a new face emphasizing imagination, creativity, and the excitement of discovery. Current high-tech popular multimedia communications with contemporary mythopoetic images and narratives provide a more effective medium for this message, with the potential to reframe science as a source of wonder and renewed imaginative engagement with the world around us.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Paris, Ginette
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Multimedia Communications, Science history
Keywords: Anthropomorphization`, Media studies, Metaphor, Myth and science, Personification in science, Popular science writing, Science history
Publication Number: 3519787
ISBN: 978-1-267-50687-0
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