June 27, 2008
Dolphin Mania is a film about dolphin swim tours in a small community outside Melbourne, Australia. This is one of the few places that these tours are allowed. The filmmakers interrogate the effects of the tours for both the people and the dolphins who swim with them. The film brings up questions such as: is this really eco-friendly tourism? How can these operators balance people’s desire to make contact with marine animals (and worlds) without “turning it into a theme park?” What will the model for nature tourism be in the future?
One of the most useful things about the film is, perhaps, the accompanying study guide. Co-written by director Sally Ingelton and Christina Jarvis, author of “If Descartes Swam With Dolphins : The Framing And Consumption Of Marine Animals In Contemporary Australian Tourism (2000)“, the guide lays out the issues and poses questions for use in classrooms. The film itself is less easy to get a hold of.
June 21, 2008
NOAA’s National Ocean Service helps organize and carry out ocean explorations within the US’s thirteen marine sanctuaries and once ecological reserve. On their website they document (with photos, video, and text) many of these expeditions in detail. There is a significant educational component to the site: there is a section on the history of NOAA exploration, technologies of ocean exploration, a gallery of different types of media, and a variety of different materials crafted specifically for teachers, such as lesson plans. As the site states:
The NOAA Ocean Exploration program strives to engage broad audiences to enhance America’s environmental literacy through the excitement of ocean discovery. Increasing this literacy requires high-quality, effective collaborations between ocean explorers and America’s teachers. NOAA is forming such collaborations to reach out in new ways to the public to improve the literacy of learners with respect to ocean issues.
The vast amount of media on this site is meant to tie together scientific research with public environmental literacy (and potentially, activism). And the media itself is what makes the site a place for the “excitement of ocean discovery.” Users, or students, are encouraged to explore, dive into these explorations, each of which has a variety of media to sift through. The interface of the website itself, with a variety of different links (and evocative images) encourages this exploration as well.
June 9, 2008
Spectacular Nature: Corporate Culture and the Sea World Experience, a book by Susan G. Davis, looks at the social construction of nature in Sea World of San Diego. She examines how ocean life in the park has been shaped by its corporate sponsors, its local context in San Diego, its ties to environmental education, and though not directly, media forms such as television and film. She writes:
“Television was central to the construction of the attraction and the city. For Sea World, it directly helped create exoticism and visibility. The park’s developers learned well from watching Disneyland: they connected the park to the dominant national medium by making its landscape resemble that of popular network programs like Adventures in Paradise. And from the beginning, they filmed TV shows in the park.”
Sea World is not only constructed in a way that draws from (and engages with) popular television (a spectacular but family friendly show, centered on ocean celebrities), but also serves as a set for future television and film. This was integral to getting the national audience necessary to keep Sea World afloat.
Even today, new media technologies, such as immersive worlds and large screen video, have continued to influence and become integrated with the park, assisting in the creation of ocean space as another (exotic) world.