Legitimation of Forensic Science in the Digital Age

By: Nashwa Elyamany  

In recent years, the crime drama genre featuring medical examiners and forensic investigators has dominated the highly competitive and overcrowded television landscape. This pivotal genre, driven by the forensic turn of the digital age, presents physical evidence as a reliable alternative to police officers and detectives with corporeal spectacle and a promise of certainty afforded by scientific facts. Significant bodies of research have turned their lens to the impact of forensic television on the operation of the criminal justice system, specifically labeled the CSI effect, from cultural, political, and criminological perspectives in several communication studies. To date, no studies have examined how forensics (particularly DNA evidence), gender, and the legal system are discursively and socially constructed in this crime genre. To this end, drawing on cultivation, social construction, and rhetorical structure theories, the researcher follows a critical discourse analysis approach in the examination of a 100 episodes from CSI and its two spin-offs CSI: NY and CSI: Miami. The objective of the study is two-fold: first, the analysis of the discursive and social construction of forensics in the prime time crime drama narratives under scrutiny; second, the identification of how gender is represented with special emphasis on detectives, medical examiners, and forensic investigators. Findings showcase that the DNA evidence is rhetorically structured and socially constructed using various rhetorical legitimation strategies to cultivate positive public perceptions. The penetrative forensic gaze is dramatized as the most innovative form of crime-solving to legitimize the proliferation of forensic sciences in the digital age.

Crime Drama, Digital Age, Discourse Analysis, Forensic Discourse, Rhetorical Structure
Media Technologies
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Nashwa Elyamany

Head of Languages Department , Languages, College of Language and Communication, Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport , Egypt