Science as Entertainment …Entertainment as Science

The continuing contractions of serious news and serious “mainstream” news outlets may have scientists rethinking their traditional hostility to entertainment media – let’s call it edu-tainment – as a means of improving scientific understanding and science literacy.

A panel at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in mid-February in Chicago featured science academicians and researchers sharing their experiences with a number of recent “big screen” films and television programs. While the specific examples discussed in the session did not include climate change (no The Day After Tomorrow, for instance), the scientists-as-film-consultants shared practical advice and lessons-learned clearly applicable to the climate issue:

  • Scientists consulting with entertainment film and movie makers must acknowledge a need to, and accept the reality of, making science literalism and absolute veracity secondary to the goals of entertainment, drama, attracting a large audience – the real-world priorities of the director;
  • Scientists working with entertainment interests must not allow perfection to be the enemy of progress – getting some scientific facts into a drama may be better than getting none;
  • Scientists working with entertainment interests will need to better appreciate the particular professional strengths the film-makers bring to their craft and accept those strengths as full counterparts to their own technical capabilities.

Challenging some of the long-held concerns many in the professional science community may harbor, the speakers at the session emphasized what they see as potential positives resulting from increased scientific involvement in entertainment media.

There is, of course, a lot more to be said on this issue, and The Yale Forum in coming updates will explore these issues in more depth as part of its ongoing chronicling of the changing “media” landscape.

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