Historicizing CSI and its Effect(s): The Real and the Representational in American Scientific Detective Fiction and Print News Media, 1902–1935

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Over the past decade, CBS's hit television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has been characterized as novel and innovative, as one of the first times forensic science was made palatable to a popular audience. Because of its subject matter and its popularity, the show has also sparked debates about the effects of scientific representations. In this essay, I contend that both CSI and its potential effects would be better understood as part of a longer genealogy, one that accounts for debates concerning the real and the representational in American scientific detective fiction. Using a mixed methods approach from literature and science studies, I contextualize CSI via several other cultural 'texts': American scientific detective fiction (1909-1919) and a historical newspaper archive concerning anxieties about fictional portrayals of scientific detective work (1894-1935). By triangulating CSI and its effects with earlier representations of scientific detective work and their uptake in print news media, I draw attention to similarities between historical and contemporary debates: the relative worth of the real and the representational, the role of the media in identifying and/or constructing American anxiety about forensic science and detective work, the relative authority of (forensic) science and the police, and the differing standards of judgment for science and law.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-148
Number of pages16
JournalCrime, Media, Culture
Volume7
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2011

Fingerprint

news
science
Crime
Law enforcement
anxiety
Television
television show
science studies
genealogy
popularity
newspaper
police
offense
Law
Forensic science
Detective Fiction
Detectives
Forensic Science
News Media
Anxiety

Keywords

  • CSI effect
  • forensic science
  • literature and science
  • scientific detective fiction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Law

Cite this

@article{960f1597d39e4c18b9fc309f1abd1025,
title = "Historicizing CSI and its Effect(s): The Real and the Representational in American Scientific Detective Fiction and Print News Media, 1902–1935",
abstract = "Over the past decade, CBS's hit television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has been characterized as novel and innovative, as one of the first times forensic science was made palatable to a popular audience. Because of its subject matter and its popularity, the show has also sparked debates about the effects of scientific representations. In this essay, I contend that both CSI and its potential effects would be better understood as part of a longer genealogy, one that accounts for debates concerning the real and the representational in American scientific detective fiction. Using a mixed methods approach from literature and science studies, I contextualize CSI via several other cultural 'texts': American scientific detective fiction (1909-1919) and a historical newspaper archive concerning anxieties about fictional portrayals of scientific detective work (1894-1935). By triangulating CSI and its effects with earlier representations of scientific detective work and their uptake in print news media, I draw attention to similarities between historical and contemporary debates: the relative worth of the real and the representational, the role of the media in identifying and/or constructing American anxiety about forensic science and detective work, the relative authority of (forensic) science and the police, and the differing standards of judgment for science and law.",
keywords = "CSI effect, forensic science, literature and science, scientific detective fiction",
author = "Littlefield, {Melissa Monique}",
year = "2011",
month = "8",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1177/1741659011406700",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "7",
pages = "133--148",
journal = "Crime, Media, Culture",
issn = "1741-6590",
publisher = "SAGE Publications Ltd",
number = "2",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Historicizing CSI and its Effect(s)

T2 - The Real and the Representational in American Scientific Detective Fiction and Print News Media, 1902–1935

AU - Littlefield, Melissa Monique

PY - 2011/8/1

Y1 - 2011/8/1

N2 - Over the past decade, CBS's hit television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has been characterized as novel and innovative, as one of the first times forensic science was made palatable to a popular audience. Because of its subject matter and its popularity, the show has also sparked debates about the effects of scientific representations. In this essay, I contend that both CSI and its potential effects would be better understood as part of a longer genealogy, one that accounts for debates concerning the real and the representational in American scientific detective fiction. Using a mixed methods approach from literature and science studies, I contextualize CSI via several other cultural 'texts': American scientific detective fiction (1909-1919) and a historical newspaper archive concerning anxieties about fictional portrayals of scientific detective work (1894-1935). By triangulating CSI and its effects with earlier representations of scientific detective work and their uptake in print news media, I draw attention to similarities between historical and contemporary debates: the relative worth of the real and the representational, the role of the media in identifying and/or constructing American anxiety about forensic science and detective work, the relative authority of (forensic) science and the police, and the differing standards of judgment for science and law.

AB - Over the past decade, CBS's hit television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has been characterized as novel and innovative, as one of the first times forensic science was made palatable to a popular audience. Because of its subject matter and its popularity, the show has also sparked debates about the effects of scientific representations. In this essay, I contend that both CSI and its potential effects would be better understood as part of a longer genealogy, one that accounts for debates concerning the real and the representational in American scientific detective fiction. Using a mixed methods approach from literature and science studies, I contextualize CSI via several other cultural 'texts': American scientific detective fiction (1909-1919) and a historical newspaper archive concerning anxieties about fictional portrayals of scientific detective work (1894-1935). By triangulating CSI and its effects with earlier representations of scientific detective work and their uptake in print news media, I draw attention to similarities between historical and contemporary debates: the relative worth of the real and the representational, the role of the media in identifying and/or constructing American anxiety about forensic science and detective work, the relative authority of (forensic) science and the police, and the differing standards of judgment for science and law.

KW - CSI effect

KW - forensic science

KW - literature and science

KW - scientific detective fiction

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=80052497089&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=80052497089&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1177/1741659011406700

DO - 10.1177/1741659011406700

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:80052497089

VL - 7

SP - 133

EP - 148

JO - Crime, Media, Culture

JF - Crime, Media, Culture

SN - 1741-6590

IS - 2

ER -