The private lives of scientists : revealing the human-side of science film

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Date

2008

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Arts & Architecture

Abstract

As a genre, science films have routinely dehumanized the scientists who appear in them, portraying these characters as simple, one-dimensional encyclopedias of knowledge, whose sole purpose is to relay facts and provide expert testimony in support of the filmmaker's agenda. These films fall short of their true potential when they neglect to present their subjects as complex, multidimensional human beings with fascinating stories, opinions, tragedies and comedies to share about their lives. As science filmmakers we should attempt to re-humanize the way science is portrayed on film by looking to examples like standpoint feminist theory, which advocates owning our particular, incomplete subjective-viewpoints, or 'standpoints' as a form of empowerment. Championed by scientist and feminist scholar Donna Haraway, these partial perspectives allow filmmakers to create a place where the public and private lives of scientists can not only co-exist, but also strengthen one another. By exploring the complex world in the private lives of scientists, we can give greater respect to scientists themselves as well as to the intelligence and emotional needs of the greater public. To treat science and the people involved in its construction with more ethical responsibility, to build a more empowered and enlightened public, we as filmmakers need to introduce the personal values of willing scientists into the public sphere. If we can reinvent the science film as an endeavor steeped in humanity, it may become a more ethical and effective communication tool to fill these growing needs.

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Sweetness and light is a film that is part of the student's thesis project.

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