Entertaining Social Experiments

Open Inquiry Archive    Vol. 2, No. 3 (2013)   ISSN 2167-8812

Entertaining Social Experiments

by Paul Myron Hillier


This article explores how “social experiments” and entertaining “studies” have informed the making of Reality TV in conception, design, and rhetorical justification as it identifies the influential roles of particular producers:  Stanley Milgram’s  obedience study; Allen Funt’s Candid Camera; and Mark Burnnett’s Survivor. Highlighting these individuals and related practices helps to not only inform a critique of the more problematic methods of particular programing but it also suggests a way to correct if not prevent the most egregious, such as deceiving participants about all or even part of a producer’s intentions. It almost goes without saying that a number of Reality TV shows have clearly misled, misrepresented, and even exploited its participants, young and old. In the end, the article argues for implementing a kind of “Institutional Review Board” to vet Reality TV programs and set specific guidelines.

Keywords: Reality TV, Popular Culture, Candid Camera, Survivor, Social Experiments, U.S. Media History

Access full-text PDF article here.


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