[Coral-List] Did you see that sexy scientist on the news lastnight? Resiliency continued... really
A.J.G.Williams at newcastle.ac.uk
Thu Mar 9 10:37:14 EST 2006
I am sorry, but is this a serious suggestion?
Reality TV will almost certainly be twisted into a marketable product (i.e. will lose it's 'high brow' motives) and in my opinion, only really targets the grade school audiences that you have already mentioned. Personally, just hearing the words Reality TV has me reaching for the remote control. I would be genuinely concerned that instead of creating a 'hero' we would end up making the whole subject a joke, undermining it's importance and not reinforcing it.
Has no one heard of Sir David Attenborough? That would be a model that I would advocate replicating, although good nature programs are usually focused on the macro-fauna like tigers, lions, dolphins and other 'fluffy' good looking animals. I am not sure a 45 minute program on macro algae (ex-coral reefs) would have the same 'eye candy' value. There are an abundance of these type of programs out there already, I am not convinced their lack of success is down to the 'sexiness' of the presenter.
People of the 'hollywood generation' seek to escape reality, with implausible lucky escapes and happy endings, I am not sure pandering to these ideals is constructive. Painting this picture of unsustainable development with a rosey sheen is only going to re-inforce the apathy, the business as usual ethos.
What happened to the world post Dec 28th 2004 Tsunami? The global public showed its ability for understanding and compassion - this is a 'market' (sorry that is a very inappropriate use of the word) that needs to be tapped. I say forget hollywood, tone down the exaggeration and sensationalism, start telling people the truth, like they are intelligent human beings and you may find that they respond as such.
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov on behalf of Sinclair, James
Sent: Thu 09/03/2006 13:12
To: Steven Miller; Coral List
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Did you see that sexy scientist on the news lastnight? Resiliency continued... really
I think Steve has some good points. Let's brainstorm it.
Here's one idea: Reality TV.
We need to take it a step beyond "Bill Nye the Science Guy" and "The
Crocodile Hunter" to target audiences older than grade school. As much
as I detest most reality TV shows, I have to admit that they reach
audiences and result in recognition and even fame.
There are lots of ways this could be done to feature science and
scientists. (I'll let everyone on the List develop their own ideas, to
boost creativity). Such a show could be considered the upper crust of
reality TV, with a basis in something significant (not pointless) and an
atmosphere of respect (not crass). (I don't mind skewing your ideas
towards culture and significance. I'm sure Hollywood will skew the end
product toward frivolous and vulgar).
This will take money and organization but may best be done by
whoever-it-is that sponsors Hollywood reality TV. That way, the
majority of the logistics will be arranged by people who already have
the resources and know-how to produce a TV show.
Care to venture some ideas of how to make this work? Or a totally
James Sinclair, Marine Biologist
Minerals Management Service
Gulf of Mexico Region
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Steven
Sent: Wednesday, March 08, 2006 9:31 PM
To: Coral List
Subject: [Coral-List] Did you see that sexy scientist on the news last
night? Resiliency continued... really
Changing the subject just a little, I believe that one of the reasons
scientists are so easy to ignore these days is that we don't have any
nationally or internationally known personalities who speak for our
discipline. I'm talking about no Einsteins, Carsons, Sagans, or
Cousteaus. We certainly don't have any ocean advocates who are
effective outside the realm of academics or NGOs. Absent are
charismatic, camera-savvy, camera-friendly, willing, and respectable
scientists who are widely known and accepted by the public as
entertaining and truthful. In my opinion, our failure is related to the
fact that today's media environment requires an approach that is outside
the comfort zone of most scientists. It's not about arguing better
because that doesn't work and it's boring. But that's what we're good
at, arguing. We need famous, entertaining, and trusted (heroic would be
good too) scientists to speak for the ocean.
How do we foster development of such spokespersons? We need platforms
to showcase the talents of our best communicators and hope that a few
have that "something special" that allows them to connect broadly with
audiences. Platforms that currently exist to showcase "talent" are
traditional in the sense that TV news and documentaries are routine
activities that touch the lives of many scientists. Platforms we need
but don't have include what is best described as a marriage between
Hollywood and science. What characterizes these hybrid science and
Hollywood platforms is that they are entertaining, including comedy,
emotion, drama, maybe even sex (thus my headline above).
I don't exactly have the answer about how to make such a thing happen,
other than we need to try lots of different things. We know the
conventional stuff does not work. What might be unconventional?
Development programs that send scientists to Hollywood to learn about
script writing, filmmaking, even acting classes! And then let these
scientists loose with their new skills (fund them to do stuff). And
don't hold it against them when tenure decisions come up! Most will
never become famous but I bet they will produce some really good stuff
that will be important in other ways so its a no-lose proposal. Who
knows, maybe one or two will produce something that helps launch a path
to stardom (but not so they have to give up their day jobs).
I have other ideas too, but my agent told me not to let everything out
of the bag... ha ha ha. Not. Seriously, we need help in the area of
communications and I'm not talking about bigger budgets to do more of
the same old stuff. And I'm not talking about how to talk better with
the press. That's an issue, but it's a conventional issue. I'm
suggesting that we need to find and nurture a generation of scientists
who seriously understand the new media landscape of public relations
firms, sound bites, and all the rest (the Hollywood element). And who
get famous! Of course, these scientists have to be excellent and well
respected in their fields because you can bet they will be attacked
(maybe first and most viciously by their peers). This new
communications paradigm requires an investment in infrastructure and
training that I believe is missing, and worse is shunned, in today's
academic world. But that could change... maybe.... eventually....
tomorrow would be good.
I suggest that innovative communication strategies that marry Hollywood
and science also apply to organizations, especially environmental NGOs.
When I say Hollywood I don't mean using Hollywood stars to front (the
talking head syndrome) for scientific or environmental issues. I mean
the techniques of Hollywood that make issues and people interesting and
entertaining, worth watching.
Finally, I understand that people can do important things, make
important discoveries, with a secondary result being that they become
famous. I don't think we are likely to see such discoveries within the
realm of ocean science. But I could be wrong. Expeditionary science
still has an important role to play and it's possible that placing the
right people on ships and in subs, with the right documentary
filmmakers, might eventually create Cousteau-like fame. But we need to
do more. I'm suggesting a pro-active approach that uses a core group of
people who are already good scientists and making them really special
communicators, and then hoping a few of them won't mind becoming famous
too, if the opportunity arises.
Steven Miller, Ph.D.
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