Science Fiction and the Big Questions

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M. O'Keefe (2013), JBIS, 66, pp.202-207

Refcode: 2013.66.202
Keywords: Science fiction, media effects, audience research, STEM education

Abstract:
Advocates of space science promote investment in science education and the development of new technologies necessary for space travel. Success in these areas requires an increase of interest and support among the general public. What role can entertainment media play in inspiring the public especially young people to support the development of space science? Such inspiration is badly needed. Science education and funding in the United States are in a state of crisis. This bleak situation exists during a boom in the popularity of science-oriented television shows and science fiction movies. This paper draws on interviews with professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, as well as students interested in those fields. The interviewees were asked about their lifelong media-viewing habits. Analysis of these interviews, along with examples from popular culture, suggests that science fiction can be a valuable tool for space advocates. Specifically, the aspects of character, story, and special effects can provide viewers with inspiration and a sense of wonder regarding space science and the prospect of long-term human space exploration.

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