June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Educational Research and Methods
23.240.1 - 23.240.20
Bazinga! You’re an engineer…you’re___! A Qualitative Study on the Media and Perceptions of Engineers American television has had a significant impact on shaping people’s perception ofcareers in the medical field, law enforcement, and public office, etc. Television shows like AllyMcBeal, ER, Law and Order, and The West Wing have made a mark on how we view lawyers,doctors, law enforcement officers, and politicians. While a significant amount of television airtime is dedicated to dramatizing careers, engineering careers seem somewhat vacant from theprime time line up. Many studies have been conducted to look at the impact of popular televisionshows on how people view career professionals but little has been done to look at the impact ofpopular media on people’s views of engineers. This pilot study looked at the impact of viewing popular media articles that focus onengineering characters on a person’s perception of an engineer. The study focused on using threepopular media articles (Dilbert, Mythbusters, and The Big Bang Theory) as representations ofengineers. Participants for this study were graduate students at a large research university. Twoparticipants were graduate students in engineering departments and two participants weregraduate students in non-engineering departments. Utilizing individual interviews, participants inthis study were asked to describe their initial mental picture of an engineer from their ownpersonal experiences. Then, a series of media articles was presented to the participants forviewing. After viewing, participants were asked to describe the mental picture of an engineerthey held after watching the media articles. Finally, participants were asked to describe thesimilarities and differences between their original picture and the picture developed afterwatching the media articles. Three major themes developed from the data collected in this study. First, participantsdescribed an engineer as a socially awkward, white male or the stereotypical engineer. Second,participants noted that the representations of engineers in the media reflected the stereotype theyinitially described. The media representations seemed to be quite exaggerated and comical.Finally, participants noted that, though they held a view of a stereotypical engineer in theirheads, their personal experiences with real engineers seemed far from the stereotype. While the participants cited that there were many life experiences that had helped themdevelop a picture of an engineer in their head, many were quick to explain that the charactersportrayed in the media articles were similar to the mental pictures they had developed in theirheads. The results from this pilot study will be utilized to inform future work that will continueto study the impact of media representations of engineers on people’s perceptions of engineersand the engineering career. Based on our analysis, it seems that this work will support a need formore diverse and positive media characterizations of engineers in the media.
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015