Visualising the Reef (Online, 17 Nov 2022)

10 Nov Visualising the Reef (Online, 17 Nov 2022)

In the first Blue Humanities seminar series event, Professor Gay Hawkins will explore how television mediated the coral reef spawning.

“Visualising the Reef: Creating a sense of planet through natural history television on the ABC”
Professor Gay Hawkins

In December 2020 the ABC ran a themed season of programs titled ‘Your Planet’. The highlight of this series was Reef Live, a two night media event built on the promise of showing actuality footage of coral spawning on primetime TV: television and nature coming together to reveal the renewal of life. This paper explores how this television event mediated the reef and provoked a sense of planet in audiences. Rather than critique the representational strategies of the program, the focus is on how a planetary perspective was crafted via two very different strategies: immersive underwater images offering an experience of co-present intimacy with coral, and vast aerial views of the ocean streaked with a white slick. Big optics and visual immersion offer very different senses of planet. However, their effect is the same: to disrupt place bound anthropocentric points of view with a sense of planetary inhabitation and connectedness to earth.

Professor Gay Hawkins FAHA, Institute of Culture and Society, Western Sydney University
Gay Hawkins is a research professor in social and cultural theory at the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University. She researches in the areas of environmental humanities, science and technology studies, mediated publics and materialities. She has published books on the history of SBS, the ethics of waste, the rise of bottled water markets and urban habits. This paper is based on a major research project investigating the evolution of natural history television on the ABC. In 2023 she will publish with co-author Ben Dibley Making Animals Public: natural history television on the ABC.

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