Baukasten:Nuclear Power in Pop Culture - digital
Nuclear Power in Pop Culture - digital
The debate around nuclear energy is a polarizing one, with proponents praising it as a zero-carbon solution for the future, and opponents criticizing the possible climate disasters and the radioactive waste. The goal of this building block is not to convince the participants that nuclear energy is good or bad or even debate nuclear energy itself. The goal is to open a dialogue for participants to examine their opinions and thoughts about nuclear technology through the lens of pop culture.
Given the relevance of the debate about nuclear energy today, it is worthwhile to consider how the media, movies, tv shows and even video games have shaped personal opinions on nuclear power. The framework of thinking that is introduced in this building block can hopefully be transferred to many other topics that suffer from the same plight of being defined by pop culture rather than scientific facts research.
The building block places a particular emphasis on how pop culture shaped participants' opinions about nuclear energy. By completing this building block, participants should be to see if and how pop culture influenced them. The scope of this building block includes the definition of pop culture, the psychology of fears, and personal reflection on what pop culture interaction shaped participants' opinions.
The participants prepare the building block by reading/viewing some background material and participating in polls. During the building block itself, participants will see the results of the polls juxtaposed with actual empirical data from various studies and statistics extrapolated from studies. Before delving into a discussion about how pop culture shaped their opinion of nuclear power, participants will partake in a quiz that is designed to prime them to consider different perspectives on nuclear power represented in pop culture.
Preparation and Follow-Up
The facilitators read the documentation which provides all needed resources and information to facilitate the building block, with some minor changes that are optional below.
Areas that need to be updated / considered:
- The presentation that is included in the preparation tasks, Nuclear Power as a Cultural Element, can be modified or excluded from the building block. The presentation focuses on art movements that resulted from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- The study that the first preparation poll question is based on is conducted every year. Facilitators can use the most recent version of the study from the respective website. The poll question can also be left the same as it is clarified in the preparation and schedule that the data being used is from 2019. If the facilitators should decide to modify the poll question, the slide under Minute 03 - Preparation Poll Results also needs to be modified to match the poll question chosen.
- Quiz: the questions and answer options that we included in our version of this building block are in the documentation under Minute 08 – Quiz. They need to be entered into a quiz app by the facilitators before the building block.
The preparation and follow up videos regarding nuclear power can be exchanged for videos that the facilitators find more relevant. They can also be left the same as there is no information that would lose relevance in either the preparation or follow up YouTube videos.
Participants read the preparation text and do 3 preparation tasks that are listed further below in the documentation.
Participants will complete the follow up tasks which are listed further below in the documentation.
Minute 00 – Introduction & Preparation Summary
The facilitators greet the participants and present the outcomes of the building block. The facilitators go to the forum page with the preparation tasks and briefly summarize what the participants should know. (1-minute short summary). It is most important to read the definition of pop culture out loud to make sure all participants are on the same page as to what pop culture is.
The building block on “Nuclear Power in Pop Culture” allows you to…
- …examine how pop culture shaped your opinion of nuclear power
- …be aware of how pop culture can influence your perceptions of other topics
Minute 03 – Preparation Poll Results
The facilitators present the results of the study as well as the results of the survey which the participants did. The facilitator contrasts the results of the official survey and the results of the participant survey. The facilitators present the two examples of perceived fears vs. actual danger.
Preparation Poll Results A study conducted every year at Chapman University attempts to quantify America’s Top Fears. In the study conducted in 2019, a random sample of 1,219 adults in the USA were asked their level of fear about eighty-eight different phenomena including crime, the government, the environment, disasters, personal anxieties, technology, and many others.
Here are the results for the options that were also asked in the preparation for this building block. The percentage indicates the percentage of participants who rank their fear level as “afraid” or “very afraid”. They are the same options that were included in the preparation poll.
- 1: Corrupt Government Officials (77.2%)
- 22: Random / Mass Shooting (47.4%)
- 23: Being Hit by a Drunk Driver (47%)
- 31: Pandemic or Major Epidemic (42.8%)
- 37: Nuclear Accident / Meltdown (37.7%)
- 41: Heights (36.2%)
- 45: Devastating Wildfire (34.3%)
- 47: Sharks (32.3%)
- 67: Insects/Arachnids (25.7%)
- 85: Clowns (8.2%)
Since this study is conducted every year and the results vary, one could say that it is a representation of how the current mass culture in the USA, or pop culture, dictates the fears of everyday people.
Let us examine some of the things that people were afraid of in this poll and compare the perceived fear and the actual danger associated:
Sharks vs. Insects Sharks ranked #47 in the Chapman study, with almost 1/3 of participants ranking their fear level as afraid or very afraid. On the other hand, only 1/4 of people ranked their fear level of insects and arachnids as afraid or very afraid, with that category coming in 20 slots later at #67.
Average Annual Deaths Worldwide:
- Sharks: 4 fatal attacks
- Mosquitos: > 1,000,000 deaths
By this metric the mosquito is classified as the deadliest organism in the world, yet if you ask people which animal they fear most, they are much more likely to name the shark rather than the mosquito. In the case of sharks, movies like Jaws make them seem like much more dangerous to humans than they actually are.
Nuclear Reactor Meltdowns vs. Pandemics Nuclear reactor meltdowns and pandemics rank similarly in the Chapman poll, at #31 and #37 respectively. Yet if we look at the total death tolls to date, we see a huge difference in the fatalities each of these causes.
Total Fatalities to Date:
- Chernobyl: 4,000 to 60,000 Estimated Deaths
- COVID-19: 1.55 Million Deaths
In movies, both pandemics and nuclear disasters make an appearance. Yet the last major pandemic before the current COVID-19 pandemic was the Spanish Flu in 1918, whereas Chernobyl (1986) and the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown (2011) are much more recent incidences. It will be interesting to see how the fear poll changes this year in light of the COVID-19 epidemic. In the case of pandemics and nuclear meltdowns, both make an appearance in movies and tv-shows, but our perception of them changes as the circumstances of the era change.
- Do these results surprise any of you?
- Would someone like to share what answers they picked, and which answer they would have expected to be ranked at #1 out of the options?
- Now that you know the results, would you change your answer?
Minute 08 – Quiz
Facilitators share the link for the quiz that they’ve created with the questions below. One facilitator shares their screen so that participants can see the questions and how their peers do. The quiz contains 6-8 questions and takes about 5 minutes for participants to complete. The correct answers are marked with an X.
- In which popular TV show does a main character work at a nuclear power plant?
- Family Guy
- The Simpsons (X)
- South Park
- Rick and Morty
- Which of the following accidents doesn’t involve a nuclear meltdown?
- Deepwater Horizon (X)
- 3 Mile Island
- Fukushima Daiichi
- Which James Bond Movie does not have a nuclear device / nuclear catastrophe in the plot line?
- You Only Live Twice
- Casino Royale (X)
- Which of these activities exposes you to the most radiation?
- Smoking 1.5 packs of cigarettes a day for a year (547.5 total packs) (X)
- Being part of an airline crew that flies the NY-Tokyo route for a year
- Eating 3 bananas a day for a year (1,095 total bananas)
- Getting 3 Hip X-Rays
- Which video game doesn’t occur in a post-apocalyptic nuclear disaster setting?
- The Fallout Series
- Metro 2033
- Escape from Tarkov
- Halo Franchise (X)
- Which food has the highest amount of natural radioactivity?
- Brazil Nuts (X)
Minute 13 – Discussion in Small Groups
Facilitators prepare breakout rooms of 3-5 participants. The facilitators read the discussion guidelines to the participants and send them into breakout rooms. The facilitators inform the participants about the remaining time and the present task during group work.
The participants work on the discussion topics independently. The participants have their preparation at hand.
Discussion in Small Groups - 12 minutes
- look at your own opinions towards nuclear technology
- where does your opinion come from?
- designate one person to share a short summary of your discussion in the main session
- In the breakout rooms we would like each person to:
- share the 3 items you wrote down (movies, tv shows, books, video games, news events etc.) in your preparation activity
- share if those items positively or negatively influenced your views of nuclear power
- share if you think that your opinion of nuclear power is based mainly on mass/pop culture or if you’ve done personal research / have first-hand **experience.
- Questions to consider as a group during the discussion:
- Did multiple members of your group pick the same item (same movie, book, video game, tv show etc.)?
- Was your group’s opinion positive or negative on average?
- Did most consider pop culture a major influence on their opinions?
- Post the results in the forum
Minute 25 – Discussion Follow-Up
One participant from each group shares the results of their discussion with the entire group. They use the “questions to consider as a group during the discussion” as a guide for their short summary. The person from each group that presents takes about 30 - 40 seconds to present their answer.
- We hope that you enjoyed the discussion!
- We invite one person to share a short summary of your discussion within the breakout rooms for each group.
- Please use the questions to consider as a group (listed above) as a guide for the summary.
Minute 27 – Building Block Follow-Up
The facilitators show the participants the follow up tasks in the forum and answer the questions which the participants might have. The building block is completed, and participants exit the session.
Building Block Follow Up
- see follow up below
Notes and Remarks
The concept of this building block can be extended to many topics that have nothing to do with nuclear power. The core concept of this building block is to take a controversial topic and guide participants to question their opinions and how they have been influenced or completely shaped by pop culture. The facilitators approach the building block with an open mind. The goal of this building block isn't to force your opinion onto the participants, but rather to open the door for the participants to question their opinions in a safe space.
- BBC - How the Bomb Changed Everything - An article that examines how nuclear age anxieties have had a profound effect on film, TV, music and literature
- Chapman University - Fear Study - A study conducted by Chapman University that attempted to quantify America’s Top Fears in 2019. In the study a random sample of 1,219 adults in the USA were asked their level of fear about eighty-eight different phenomena
- NPR - America’s Top Fears - An opinion piece that critically examines the results of the Chapman University Fear study from the year 2017
- Wikipedia - Nuclear Art - An overview of the artistic approach developed by some artists and painters after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
- The Mainichi - Japan’s Daily National Newspaper - An exhibition of paintings of the August 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima created by high school students
- Vice - Original Reports and Documentaries - This Haunting Survivor Artwork Depicts the Horror of Nuclear Weapons
- SHIMPEI TAKEDA - Artist - A Japanese artist that creates analog photo artwork by exposing photo-sensitive material to traces of radiation emitted from contaminated particles.
- Wead - Women Eco Artists Dialog - Japanese art writer and publisher Hiroko Shimizu’s essay is in two parts. The first part is a brief overview of her country’s nuclear issues and its artists working with these issues, both post-Hiroshima and post-Fukushima
- The New York Times - Takashi Murakami - Takashi Murakami’s artwork created as a response to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan
- Youtube - Takashi Murakami - Takashi Murakami on Jellyfish Eyes, Nuclear Monsters, and Artistic Influences
- Wikipedia - Uranium-238 - Offers an overview of Uranium-238, the most common isotope of Uranium
- Vox - Radioactivity Infographic - Offers an overview of radiation in everyday activities / occurrences.
- The Guardian - James Bond and Nuclear Power - James Bond villains harm nuclear power’s public image, says scientist
- UOC - Radioactivity in Bananas - Natural Radioactivity in bananas explained
The preparation for this building block consists of 3 preparation tasks that participants complete and in addition some reading/video material to gain an overview beforehand. The background information is helpful for facilitators to prepare as well, as it gives a general overview of the main topic areas. In this version of the building block, one of the poll questions that participants are asked is directly correlated to a study conducted by Chapman University every year. The answer options should be updated every year to reflect the updated study. The preparation can be uploaded to the forum as it is presented below.
To prepare for this building block, participants complete the background reading and 3 preparation tasks below.
Preparation - Nuclear Power in Pop Culture
- Please read the introduction to the building block topic to gain an overview, and then complete the 3 preparation tasks.
- What do we mean by “Nuclear Power in Pop Culture”?
- To understand the title and the intention of this building block, an understanding of both components of the title, nuclear power and pop culture, is necessary. Below are short definitions of both as well as an example of someone who has already combined them.
- What is Pop Culture?
- Pop culture, also called popular culture, is generally recognized as the set of practices, beliefs, and objects that are dominant or prevalent in a society at a given point in time. It includes media objects, entertainment and leisure, fashion and trends, and linguistic conventions, among other things. Popular culture is usually associated with either mass culture or folk culture and differentiated from high culture and various institutional cultures (political culture, educational culture, legal culture, etc.). [Sources: Popular Culture by Dustin Kidd & Wikipedia - Popular Culture]
- A Short Overview of Nuclear Energy
- The purpose of this building block is not to debate the pros and cons of nuclear energy, but a general knowledge of nuclear energy is required to effectively participate. Below you will find a 5-minute Kurzgesagt video on the topic that serves as a great summary of what nuclear energy is, how it works and what place it has in today’s world.
- Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcOFV4y5z8c
- An Example of Nuclear Power Through the Lens of Pop Culture
- For those of you that enjoy background reading material, check out this (optional) BBC article. It is a relatively quick read and offers an interesting analysis on how the atomic bomb influenced pop culture.
- Please complete the 3 preparation tasks below before the building block.
Preparation Task #1 - Answer the following question
Write down the first 3 films, books or news events that come to your mind when you think of “nuclear”. Please be prepared to share these three items in small groups during the session.
Preparation Task #2 - Participant Poll Answer the following poll questions before the building block. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong answer for each question. Which of the options below would you say that you are afraid or very afraid of? [Participants can choose up to 4 options]
- Corrupt Government Officials
- Random / Mass Shooting
- Being Hit By a Drunk Driver
- Nuclear Accident / Meltdown
- Pandemic or a Major Epidemic
- Devastating Wildfire
- Insects/Arachnids (Spiders, Bees, etc.)
- Do you think that pop culture (for example movies, TV series, books and comics etc.) has significantly shaped your perspective on nuclear energy?
- How would you categorize your current opinion of nuclear energy?
- Mostly Positive
- Mostly Negative
- Neutral / Don’t have an Opinion
Preparation Task #3: Nuclear Power as a Cultural element Here is a link to a small presentation that we’ve prepared for you on the topic of nuclear power within the field of art and popular culture. While art is generally considered “high-culture”, it does intersect and is often influenced by pop culture. You will need the information in the presentation to complete the follow up tasks for this building block.
[Add a link to the presentation. The copy used in our building block is available along with this documentation. ]'
The follow up for this building block consists of 3 tasks. The two follow up poll questions are meant for participants to view whether their peers have changed their minds and for the facilitators to see if they achieved their goal of allowing participants to examine / reevaluate their opinions on a controversial topic.
# 1 - Follow Up Poll Questions
- Did this building block make you question your opinions about nuclear technology?
- My opinions about nuclear technology after this building block are…
- … more positive
- … the same
- … more negative
- … I want to do more research and reconsider
#2 - Choose a Video to Watch
- Please choose one of the following videos and watch it. Comment below which video you watched (#1 or #2) and share one aspect that surprised you / that you did not expect, and how popular media have formed your initial opinions.
- Video #1: Vox - Why Danger Symbols Can’t Last Forever
- Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOEqzt36JEM&t=5s
- Video #2: Veritasium - The Most Radioactive Places on Earth
#3 - Art Pop Culture and “High-Culture” (such as fine art) often intersect. Below are some particles that provide interesting insights about the influence of the Hiroshima bombings on public opinion and art movements in Japan. Take a look if this topic interests you!
75 years after the Hiroshima bomb, a couple’s art still devastates
Japanese Art after Fukushima through the Prism of Festivals