Spectacular Nature: Corporate Culture and the Sea World Experience

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.

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Hexapus photograph

March 4, 2008

Yesterday in the news: the first six legged octopus. From the BBC article:

“Octopuses need subdued lighting and flash photography can be fatal. But a quick-thinking staff member snapped the best picture he could before Henry found a different resting place with his legs tucked beneath him.”

Henry the Hexapus

This is the picture circulated with the news story: a privileged view of the hexapus’s underside.

What is the effect of our media practices (especially the lighting that we need to render images) on these animals?

Before Henry the most famous six-legged octopus appeared in the B-movie It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955) (noted on CNN.)


Sea World San Diego

March 3, 2008

Established in 1964, Sea World San Diego is a marine theme park. Sea World both uses media in its shows (for example, the high-tech screen displays behind the Shamu show), but itself is a form which mediates ocean space. While most of the views afforded are those of animals jumping above water, there are also several underwater experience. Perhaps the key underwater view is a tunnel that takes visitors underneath the shark tank.

Shark encounter Sea World San Diego

For a thorough study on Sea World, see Spectacular Nature: Corporate Culture and the Sea World Experience, by Susan G. Davis.

“Susan Davis analyzes the Sea World experience and the forces that produce it: the theme park industry; Southern California tourism; the privatization of urban space; and the increasing integration of advertising, entertainment, and education.”