Telling stories through the soundscapes of nanotechnology media

Telling stories through the soundscapes of nanotechnology media

Author: Padraig Murphy – Dublin City University, Ireland

Norah Campbell – Trinity College Dublin
Cormac Deane – Dàºn Laoghaire Institute for Art, Design and Technology

When watching a video about a new technology how closely do you listen to the sounds or voiceover? There is little research on how audio is represented in nano-products or research.

Research institutions that explore nano-enhanced innovations and companies that develop and market them are part of a lucrative global nano-industry. A report by IndustryARC predicts that the global revenue of the nano-industry will grow to 13 billion USD by 2021.

‘Nanotechnology media’ is defined here as either a low-production promotional video from a nanotechnology research facility; or a high-end advert for a product with nano-enhancement; or simple lab techniques, with accompanying graphics for learning purposes; or infotainment, either directly using, or adopting techniques from, Hollywood and the gaming industries.

We draw from a Nature Nanotechnology paper by the authors where 100+ nanotech media samples from advertising, outreach promotion, education and entertainment were reviewed(Campbell, et al, 2017). We subsequently extended our analysis to focus on sound effects in nano-related computer games.

We categorised sound first on the basis of the spatial, music soundtrack, voiceover and the concept of synchresis (the extent of whether or not sound FX matched onscreen action). Within this schema we looked at room tone, gender voice, electro-sounds, the choice of electronica or orchestral. What results is a continuum from the familiar to the strange and alien. Analysis is informed by theories of embodied cognition, film studies and sonic branding to look at the paradoxes of fear and awe produced by sound.

Concerns persist about nanotechnology based on safety, security, ethics and societal impact. Science communication practitioners will find our typology of sound useful when considering promotional soundtracks. Researchers will see further evidence of a new technological landscape and discourse capable of playing with our emotions, making the familiar strange and vice versa.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice