The sociology of Star Trek

Occasionally, I run across more unusual sociology courses. Here is a summer class that examines Star Trek:

In order to understand more about why the Star Trek cannon has continued to be popular and respected since its creation in the 1960s, I took a class this summer at Portland State University entitled “The Sociology of Star Trek.”  I learned about how the Trekkian visions of the future offered a lens through which to examine the culture of its time and about the vision of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenbarry, who highlighted enlightenment ideals and ‘exploration without conquest.’  Additionally I learned about the obsession and culture surrounding the show.

One of our assignments was to review an event that occurs annually in Portland: Trek in the Park. At this event, a full-length original episode is performed by the Atomic Arts theater company. For one month a year, Portlanders gather to show their Trek Pride.

Big sociological themes that you could play with in such a course:

1. The social change of the 1960s and how this was reflected in popular culture.

2. American fascination with:

a. Technology and progress. Even in space, we can’t escape some basic problems.

b. Utopias or idealized communities. This could be tied to a number of utopian communities that were actually built or perhaps even the suburbs, the space where Americans seek the elusive American Dream.

3. The subcultures that form and are maintained based on objects in the popular culture.

4. Cultural narratives as displayed in television (all the versions of Star Trek) plus movies.

See a draft of the syllabus here and comments from the Internet public about what the class could include here. Apparently, you can cover all sorts of topics through the lens of Star Trek…

Are sociologists more likely than the general population to be Star Trek fans? And is the competition to Star Trek, the Star Wars franchise, too low-brow for sociologists?

One Response - Add Yours+

  1. Kathy says:

    It sounds a lot more fun that the summer taxation law course I’m about to start teaching! (I’m in Australia) I didn’t start watching Star Trek until the mid to late 90s, when I started watching my Dad’s videos of TNG. Now, I’m a bigger fan than he is. I’ve recently been watching all of DS9 again and every time I see more represenations of modern society represented in it. (PS – I went to my first Star Convention this year in Vegas and had an absolute blast. Wish I could go every year!)

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