Underwater New York

October 16, 2009

Art, fiction, non-fiction, inspired by New York’s underwater spaces.


“Underwater” Homeowners

August 30, 2009

Today, while searching “underwater” in the news media, more articles come up about the economic crisis than the environmental one — “underwater” is a term used in the industry to designate homeowners that owe more on their homes than they are worth (the official term is “negative equity”, also referred to as  “upside down” mortgages). See for example: “Mortgages: Economy Drowning in Underwater Homeowners.”

Also interesting is that homeowners are more likely to go underwater in bubble states (e.g. California), once the bubble bursts, of course. Two of the OED definitions of bubble:

1. A thin globular (or hemispherical) vesicle of water or other liquid, filled with air or gas.

2. Anything fragile, unsubstantial, empty, or worthless; a deceptive show.

The bubble is a (fragile, unsubstantial) surface of water. These water-related metaphors definitely draw from the negative connotations of underwater spaces — those in which we cannot live, cannot breathe, and are unable to move in the the proper directions (homeowners are stuck with homes they can’t sell). Water is amorphous, unstable, not a solid support, not to be trusted.


August 24, 2009

Another resource for those interested in ocean media, SeaOceanBooks is a website that sells maritime themed books. It contains a good collection of fiction and non-fiction on underwater environments: SeaOceanBooks.com.


The maritime screening room

August 24, 2009

Martin Leduc posts short reviews on maritime themed films and television.  A good resource to start looking for longer format ocean media. Most of the documentaries are about seafaring and life on the oceans but, of course, are strongly imbricated with the life, resources, and politics of underwater spaces.


Shark Break: Saving the Oceans in 15 minutes a Day

August 8, 2009

The latest in saving the world through digital media and games: SharkBreak.

You can embed all sorts of widgets, usually with cute fish and messages about ocean preservation, onto your computer desktop. The catch line is that it gives you a “creative, fun, relaxing environment” that would hopefully encourage reflection about the marine environment, which is also often positioned as a space for contemplation and relaxation (see tropical island vacations).
Not sure how effective the message is (or if there’s really an educational component), but I applaud the effort, especially the small sea animals that follow your cursor around. Also interesting is the attempt to “wigitize” marine conservation – here’s an approach that embeds small pieces into your digital environment (shooting for ambience), rather than producing another one stop shot website for conservation information.

Disney’s Oceans

May 5, 2009

Playing on screens now is the trailer for Disney Oceans, to be released Earth Day 2010.

One of the interesting things about this trailer is that most of it isn’t about the ocean, it’s about the history of Disney nature filmmaking (for further references on this check out Derek Bouse’s Wildlife Films and Gregg Mitman’s Reel Nature). And moreover, they go back to Bambi, an animated fiction film, as the historical precedent of this trajectory (as the inspiration for the True Life Adventure series). While most underwater films start with the captivating underwater imagery and then move into the fascinating “narratives” of marine life, Disney works the other way around, situating Oceans as the latest in the narrative of Disney’s engagement with nature. It is this emphasis on character and story (as opposed to the scope and spectacle of Blue Planet) that distinguishes the Disney series. (Thanks to Indy Hurt for the tip on this one.)

National Marine Sanctuaries Media Library (and other web portals)

February 12, 2009

Another addition to the list of online sites distributing underwater media: NOAA has recently released the National Marine Sanctuaries Media Library.


In a news release on the site, they write that “The media library is part of a continuing NOAA effort to enhance public awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the marine environment. It was created to provide a resource for numerous audiences, including students, educators, publishers, conservation organizations and individuals looking for compelling marine-related images.” As is common in many of these online underwater photo and video distribution hubs (see also, The Ocean Channel, EarthOCEAN, etc.) the spread of images is itself  framed as a potential mobilizer of environmental action. If we can just see the beauty under the surface, we will be compelled to stop the destruction.

These sites are fairly distinct from underwater media fan sites such as ScubaTube and AquaBank. These sites feature user generated content more prominently, forground the adventure of descending beneath the water, and tend to have images of female bikini-clad divers rather than environmentalist rhetoric on the periphery.