AM08 2008 START Conference Manager    

Past Futures and Technoscientific Innovation: The Mutual Shaping of Science Fiction and Science Fact

Kenneth R. Fleischmann and Thomas Clay Templeton

ASIS&T 2008 Annual Meeting (AM08 2008)
Columbus, Ohio, October 24-29, 2008


Summary

Recently, there has been increasing emphasis on the impact of science fiction on the evolution of science and engineering and on the recruitment of scientists and engineers within the popular press, including books and television shows about the societal impact of science fiction series such as Star Wars and Star Trek. This anecdotal finding may be a compelling and highly relevant example of the library and information science (LIS) concept of the book in the life of the reader, the idea that what one reads (or watches, views, visits, or plays) as a child may have a significant impact on decisions in later life. This in-progress study is attempting to apply a systematic approach to understand the role of science fiction in the career choices and research trajectories of scientists and engineers, including information scientists and technologists, at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Data collection completed to date includes seven interviews conducted with scientists and engineers at NASA Goddard, with approximately thirteen more interviews planned for the spring of 2008. Interviews thus far indicate that while scientists and engineers do not claim a direct influence of science fiction on the contents of their research, they frequently explain and demonstrate an indirect influence of science fiction on their career and life trajectories. Scientists interviewed in this study are persistent in pointing to science fiction as an inspiration for science. Whether as a recruiting tool to encourage students to pursue careers in science, as possible goals for the next generation of scientists, or as a theoretical experiment in the future meanings, modes, and mechanisms of human existence, science fiction is regarded as important, in some sense, by all scientists participating in this study to date.


  
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