The Theoretical Framework

My main theoretical framework for the critique in my documentary is the spectacle, so this is a good place to start and I’ll narrow in scope going forward. “The Society of the Spectacle” is a 1967 work by critical theorist Guy Debord where he presents his idea of the spectacle and how it applies to message consumption. As per the spectacle the receiver absorbs the message through the channel, in our case screens. The message is presented as more pleasurable than the real and is successful when the mediated image is a more pleasurable reality than actual reality. Messages are then commodified to be bought and sold perpetuating the image and reality reflected in the spectacle. In my case the screen is the channel, scientific misinformation is the mediated reality fed through the channel, and the idea that environmentally the planet is in good shape because it requires no action is when the mediated image becomes more attractive than reality.

While the documentary is going to highlight environmental concerns, the main overarching theme of the project is a critique on the literacy the public has on the topic. At its inception, I originally intended to take on multiple areas were public literacy dwelled at the shallow end of the pool. When planning out my strategy I realized that to do the main topic justice I couldn’t touch on all those areas, it would have been all over the place. Environmental science was the most applicable to both the Anthropocene and the spectacle.

The screen perpetuates this belief that we use social media to make ourselves the center of own universe, this human behavior can lend itself environmental issues such as deforestation. The gentle deer don’t need their forest home as much as we need the space to house our social media databases. Knock it down. I can continue to be lazy with my plastic consumption, it doesn’t matter if it ends up in the ocean. That turtle doesn’t need to breathe and there’s no way the river of trash at the bottom contributes to rising ocean temperatures. It sounds absurd but there is a significant demographic that refuse to believe scientific data put right in front of them. They cry fake news and show you a website that probably couldn’t explain what a peer review is let alone have one.

This message that environmentally we’re okay is irresponsible and dangerous, but because misinformation has its place traveling through the channel human behavior doesn’t change and we continue to destroy the planet. It is the lack of public literacy that I am addressing, and the spectacle lends itself well to public misconception as a direct result of the mediated reality.

At this point I would say that I am satisfied with the amount of found footage I have collated for my project. I probably will go mining further at the end of this hurricane season, but I have decided to curb that for a bit and reach out to start setting up interviews with members of the science communities and media theorists. I figure a good way to go would be to schedule three to four at a time that way I can be as available as possible for these people because their time is valuable. Once each interview is set up I will come up with my list of questions for each subject. I’ll have a master list but have specific questions ready as pertaining to that subject’s expertise. Given the scope of my project I feel that I would need somewhere between 9-12 interviewees to bring everything together. I’m also thinking about b roll, visual aesthetics, and what of that I can film myself.

That pretty much leads me up to today. I know the form and function of it will start to come together once I start getting interviews together and can pull film and use the found footage to piece it all together in a cohesive narrative. In the end I hope that it encourages people to think about their environmental impact, how they view the information they are given, and hopefully alter behavior after viewing.

Form, Function, and Aesthetics

I chose the documentary film style for my project because I feel it’s the best way to tell the story and a documentary would give the project greater reach.

I’m in the process of reaching out to people in the science community in different areas pertaining to the topic for interviews. Interviews will be layered with found footage and b roll as it applies to the sound byte I opt to use from the interview at that point in the film. My found footage will include videos of pollution in the ocean, weather reports, doppler radar footage, as well as news where scientifically inaccurate data is shared whether online, in print, or on the television for the literacy aspect.

Ideally, I’d like to operate on the circle theory in story telling in the film. It’s difficult to articulately describe the direction I think it’s going to take because that’s not how my creative process works. I often use the analogy of a fashion designer: some designers sketch and sketch and sketch and go into the fabric store knowing what they want and what they are making, and then there are those that just let the materials speak to them and tell the designer what they want to be made into. I am very much the latter. Based on the found footage I have already archived I have a general direction but depending on what nuggets my interview subjects give me the aesthetic can be altered to make the quotes work within the narrative.

I want to pay close attention to sound design and make sure that the sound track is just as effective as the visual strategy. I would like to have a musician compose an original score for the project, however that will come down to budgeting. I also want to pay attention to colors used in my b roll and try to make sure that they are consistent to give it some visual form and function.

It is important that the project is educational as well as a critique on how we use social media to spread false information when we could use this tool for good and I want the overall feel to reflect that in tone and aesthetics.

Preliminary Research Goals

In order to execute my still nameless documentary it will require a broad set of skills and scope of research. The technical skills I need to possess are those with cameras, audio equipment, lighting, editing proficiency, and interviewing skills.

My vision for the project is to use a mix of interviews conducted with meteorologists, climate scientists, oceanographic scientists, and communication scholars and found footage. The found footage would include but is not limited to weather reports in disaster situations, reports on climate change, snippets from social media displaying public perception, plastics in the oceans, and scientific data.

The scholarly research I will have to conduct will include media theories pertaining to the spectacle and the Anthropocene, how weather is reported, climate change, plastic in the ocean, sharing of information, social channels, and persuasion tactics.

This is my starting bibliography as my jumping off point.

 

References

Beaudillard, J. (1994). Simulacra and simulation University of Michigan Press.

Bierly, E. (1988). The world climate program: Collaboration and communication on a global scale. Annals of the American Academy of Politcal and Social Science, 495, 106.

Debord, G. (2000). The society of the spectacle Black and Red.

Lo, A. Y., & Jim, C. Y. (2015). Come rain or shine? public expectation of locacl weather change and differential effects on climate change attitude. Public Understanding of Science, 24(8), 928.

McLuhan, M. (2001). The medium is the massage Gingko Press Inc.

Moore, C. (2009). Seas of plastic. Retrieved 09/14, 2018, from https://www.ted.com/talks/capt_charles_moore_on_the_seas_of_plastic?language=en

Nisbet, M. C., & Scheufele, D. A. (2009). What’s next for science communication? promising directions and lingering distractions. American Journal of Botany, 96(10), 1767.

Rothfusz, L. P., Karstens, C., & Hilderband, D. (2014). Next-generation severe weather forecasting and communication. Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union, 95(36), 325.

Scheffers, B., & et al. (2016). The broad footprint of climate change from genes to biomes to people. Science, 354(6313), 7671.

MA Final Project Goals

I grew up in a magical time known as the mid 90s where children had multiple forms of media that encouraged us do our part to help the planet, and that being environmentally conscious was cool. I would pledge hours to Nickelodeon’s the Big Help and always made sure I was in front of the television for Captain Planet. As I’ve gotten older I realized how many people in my generation let Captain Planet down through wasteful behavior.

The notion that humans view themselves as the center of the universe perpetuates this behavior because it provides a temporary convenience. These temporary conveniences when added up adversely affect other species and climate.

Public understanding, or lack thereof, when it comes to climate science and environmental concerns plays its part in perpetuating these behaviors. The spread of misinformation through social channels not only encourages public ignorance, but at time can spread wrong and potentially dangerous information.

My final project in its finished form will be a documentary that uses found footage as well as interviews with climate scientists, meteorologists, environmental scientists, and communication and social media scholars.

I have four main parts for the film in my head:

  1. The Anthropocene: how we affect the planet
  2. What we’re actually doing to the planet: how our behavior affects the planet directly
  3. Public’s general understanding of the topic or lack thereof: how social media channels directly spread misinformation
  4. What can we do: how we can promote the spread of accurate information over social channels

I want to create a compelling work where the science and art worlds intersect that could speak to the science community as well as an audience with limited understanding on the subjects. The importance and timeliness is there, I just have to make sure I do an meticulous job with the execution.