Health Language Research Group Seminar - News Coverage of Stem Cell Research
Tuesday 1st June 2010 (15:00-16:30)
A54 Trent Building, University Park campus
Myth, mavericks and magic - How has the news coverage of stem cell research change over time?
Presenter: Sarah Atkins, University of Nottingham
Discussant: Professor Brigitte Nerlich, University of Nottingham
Chair: Jude England, Head of Social Science Collections and Research, British Library
Stem cell research is a field rich in rhetoric, metaphors and imagery, expressing the hopes but also fears for this continually advancing science. This is particularly evident in its news coverage. But how does this media rhetoric work to reflect, create and shape dominant cultural myths pertaining to stem cell research? How are relations of power between scientists, publics and natural matter construed in these myths? The study presented here investigates such representations in the mass media, unpacking the realities and ideologies that have been presented over time. It focuses, in particular, on the verbal metaphors and visual images surrounding three key stories in a range of print news media and Internet news sites. These representations are found to encode shifting ideas about scientific and medical agency over the course of twelve years, but also to highlight some key continuities and persistent cultural framings of the field. Drawing on notions such as the Frankenstein scientist, the journey towards either a utopian or nightmare future, and the magic nature or personification of stem cells, the metaphors and images do, it is suggested, work to create a larger, global structure of interlinked ideas about scientific power, in which different elements receive heightened emphasis in different time periods.
The study was conducted as part of an ESRC internship at the British Library and will be introduced by Jude England, Head of Social Science Collections and Research at the library. Professor Brigitte Nerlich, who has worked extensively on the use of metaphor and framing devices in the public debate on stem cells, as well as other scientific and health debates, will also talk on some of her thoughts surrounding the shifting patterns of news media coverage in this field.