Analyzing fiction in demographic research. What can we learn? What are the specific challenges?

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
IUSSP International Union for the Scientific Study of Population

30th International Population Conference (UIESP/IUSSP)
13-18 July 2025
Brisbane (Australia)



Thematic Session n°62

Theme: Data and methods

Analyzing fiction in demographic research. What can we learn? What are the specific challenges?

Organisers: Carole Brugeilles (Université Paris Nanterre), Mathieu Arbogast (Cresppa-GTM et CEMS), and Virginie Rozée (INED)

In its endeavor to understand populations, demography addresses the issue of studying social norms. Fiction plays an important role in building and reflecting these norms. People are heavily exposed to media contents and other publications (textbooks, literature, newspapers…) and to the social representations they convey. States even instrumented TV programs to influence the use of birth control in some countries. All of them rely on textbooks to promote specific social norms. The people on the screen or in books are not exactly the same as the people off-fiction. They do not exactly have the same bodies, families, fertility, sexual behaviors or sexualities. As early as television beginnings in the 1950s, researchers studied the basic demographics in the media contents, with the quantitative tools of content analysis. Only recently though researchers brought demographic analysis of fictional contents and characters to the next level, thus revealing methodological hardships. How can one categorize the gender of unidentified lifeforms as aliens in cartoons, books or textbooks? Is race categorization possible? If so, should one take only into account information on the characters or also biographic input about the actors? How is it possible to apply demographic indicators to a population of fiction? How can survival analysis be applied to multiple seasons TV series? What are the sexual health messages displayed in popular TV series? We call all the demographers working with fictional contents to share their findings and their methodological media-specific challenges.

Call for paper and posters:

  • Open for submission: 1 May 2024
  • Deadline for submission: 15 September 2024

Detailed information: