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Publicity and Popularization of Technology Discourses, Popular Technology Assessment in Serial Media


In their attempt to achieve enhanced response, serial media produce specific knowledge relevant to self-understanding in culture and society. As their work on journals is based on the key criteria of periodicity, up-to-dateness, universality, and publicity, they can react to current problem situations in a rapid and open way that is visible to a large audience. Hence, they bear a historic up-to-dateness and response index that makes them suitable for cultural diagnosis. These specific features of the media shall be studied systematically by the project, with particular attention being paid to the popularization and reflection of technology knowledge and technology discourses and in particular of patterns of technology assessments creating a strong response. For this purpose, literature and cultural journals since 1830 and German-speaking TV series shall be analyzed.

A pilot study is performed out under the DFG research group 1091/1 “Esthetics and Practice of Popular Seriality” by the University of Göttingen, partial project 2, Forms and Processes of Seriality in the ARD Series “Tatort” (together with Professor Dr. Claudia Stockinger, duration three years from October 01, 2010, http://serialitaet.uni-goettingen.de/people/5-Stefan_Scherer). The detective series “Tatort” is tailored to the federal organization of the broadcasting stations and has been running since 1970. According to its concept of realism to fulfill its mission of public education, it wants to inform about living situations, lifestyles, and mentalities in the Federal Republic of Germany. Due to this long time (with so far undisputed extension), it is particularly suited for studying historical processes of popular seriality in both synchronous and diachronous comparison. In other words, the detective series can be used to derive a history of mentality of the Federal Republic of Germany since the social-liberal coalition that gave rise to an emancipation and participation history of broad groups of the population after the politization of the 1960s in response to the restorative Adenauer state. Today, the series reaches 6 to 8 million spectators on the average corresponding to singular rates above 20%, which reflects the high response by a socioculturally highly diversified group of spectators over many generations. Under this aspect, the series has represented a singular phenomenon in the TV landscape since the 1980s.
The partial project is aimed at generating an analysis structure for the seriality processes of the series and at systematizing it as a strategy of distinction. Using this system, the history of forms and processes of seriality will be represented both within a single story and within the series, with all broadcasting stations interacting. In addition, the television reviews of (supra-)regional daily and weekly newspapers on selected series shall be studied. It will be focused on continuity and change for a successful design of seriality. Reception has consequences on production and esthetics, as it controls conceptual reorientation and visualizes specific historic responses and thematic aggregations also as far as current technology assessment debates are concerned. This applies to the adaptation to changed times and target groups and to regionally specific seriality patterns and responses to technology. (Apart from global aspects of technology assessment, regional diversity of the socio-cultural practices in handling technology have to be considered). As a whole, the project focuses on feedbacks between reception and esthetics of seriality.

The diachronous and synchronous studies of the crime series “Tatort” since 1970 allows statements to be made with regard to the conditions and types of serial variation and with regard to the reflection of technology knowledge. Among others, the use of new (or old) technology for the investigation of the crime, the use of technology as subject matter of individual series, and changes of the lifestyle by the use of technology, etc. are analyzed. The interaction between technology and culture is studied by using finding-oriented questions: Which technologies and which technology debates are referred to by the series in the course of history (and obviously are highly virulent or irrelevant, because they can be integrated easily in everyday life)? How is technology used in history and evaluated? Are there any changes in handling the consequences of technologies in the past forty years? It is aimed at determining historic and possibly universal assessment patterns of technologies between the extremes of “risk/threat, fear, resistance” and “making life easier/acceptance or promising happiness” in a spectrum between real consequences or just paranoid fears. Specific patterns of threats and promises assigned to technology shall be studied (health-related, social, societal, cultural, technical – between the belief in its manageability and the fear of losing control).

Qualitative–quantitative contents analyses are linked with hermeneutic interpretations to close the gap between quantitative and qualitative approaches in media research. It is then intended to apply this contents analysis for the qualitative evaluation of literature and cultural journals since the 19th century, as technology discourse in the emerging “second culture” of technicians, engineers, and scientists, together with a culture of literary intelligence, critics, and humanists, plays an important role in the beginnings of this medium around 1830. The newly developed medium responds to increasing requirements of a changing public in the process of mass alphabetization and meets the task of despecializing the rapidly growing and differentiated technology knowledge and making it available to everyday life.

Institute of Literature Science – Professor Dr. Stefan Scherer

Contact Partner:
Professor Dr. Stefan Scherer
Duration: 2010 – 2013