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Mythbusters, Galileo, Quarks und Co.: a study of young people’s reception of science programmes
Television science programmes aim to deliver knowledge in an entertaining and exciting manner. Among existing programme formulas there are various approaches to this task. Current television schedules often include moderated magazine programmes, for example Galileo on the private broardcaster Pro7 and Quarks und Co. on the public broadcaster WDR, which deal with up-to-date findings of the natural sciences and invite scientists to appear as experts. Distinct from these are those programmes which accompany researchers on their quest for concrete answers: Mythbusters, broadcast on the private station RTL2, is one example. Here a group of hands-on researchers uses scientific methods to prove whether popular myths are true or false – in other words, “busts” them.
The aim of the study is to investigate how attractive these different programme formulas are to young people – both those who are educationally motivated and those who are not – and what they in fact learn from these programmes, including facts about the natural sciences.
The characteristic features of approach, educational content, and presentation in the two programmes Mythbusters and Quarks und Co. are extrapolated by means of a media analysis. Mythbusters in particular has a quite individual “look” which – according to one theory – is specifically designed to appeal to non-academic target audiences and interest them in science as well. The popularity of the programme is surveyed, on the one hand, by means of the ratings and, on the other, by means of screenings before an audience of 80 young people between the ages of 14 and 16. Immediately after viewing, a questionnaire survey and discussion are designed to give information about what can be learnt from these programmes, and how. The results are differentiated according to programme (Mythbusters, Quarks und Co.), gender, and educational background (higher/lower secondary education).
The results of the study were published in TelevIZIon 21/2008/2 (only available in German). Claudia Maier has written her bachelor thesis on study for at the University of Passau.
Project leader: Dr. Elke Schlote; project assistant: Claudia Maier (IZI)
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