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Title: fMRI for severely brain injured patients: A media analysis
Authors: Samuel, Gabrielle
Advisors: Wainwright, S
Keywords: Sociology of expectations;Vegetative state;Bioethics/Health-care ethics;Science press-officers;Hype
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: School of Social Sciences Theses
Abstract: This thesis is set in the context of social science’s interest in the generation of expectations, the news media, and neurotechnologies. It is a qualitative case study that examines the nature and impact of news media reporting of some pioneering research, which used functional magnetic resonance imaging in an attempt to diagnose and communicate with severely brain-injured individuals. Previous news media studies exploring neurotechnologies have been quantitative, or have tended to focus on how or why the news media represents neurotechnologies and/or the impact of the reporting, but rarely all three together. My thesis looks at all three aspects of the news media reporting of my case study. I draw on three sets of empirical data. First, those related to the production of the media - the press releases which reported the research; ten semi-structured interviews with science press officers; and the relevant expert comments posted on the Science Media Centre’s website. Second, 51 newspaper articles reporting the research. Third, five semi-structured interviews with relatives of severely brain-injured patients. I show that the mood of excitement and ‘breakthrough’ present in the press release reporting of this research was closely echoed in the news coverage. This excitement influenced the views and beliefs of only some of the relatives I interviewed. I then examine the nature of hype and by drawing on Haraway’s concept of ‘situated knowledges’ (1988) I argue that individuals view hype differently depending on their profession, industry and/or socio-cultural background. Finally, I show how whilst both the news media and the scholarly literature portrayed this research as ethically contentious, the issues most prominently discussed by scholars and/or journalists do not necessarily equate with relatives’ concerns. My findings aim to contribute to the sociology of expectations, media theory, the sociology of bioethics and the public understanding of science.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and awarded by Brunel University .
Appears in Collections:Sociology
Dept of Social Sciences Media and Communications Theses

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