Documenting Life at Sea 2: the Power of Words
The previous installment of this blog post series about documenting life at sea was mostly about capturing pictures, but there is more to it than just the visual medium. Another aspect of documenting this experience is by using words and sounds. Whether it is to directly communicate with the continent or to record the works of the scientific party and crewmembers, words and voices are the perfect vessels to show the world what we do on board.
Lego iCRAGorama recording session with hosts Niamh & Ben interviewing Erica, Matt and Haleh
Podcasts, specifically, are a pretty trendy medium at the moment. Inexpensive to produce, convenient to listen to and free from format hassles, there are podcasts about every imaginable topic nowadays. The idea of creating a geoscience podcast with iCRAG (the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences), my research institute, really came to me as a given, when I first started my PhD! Not only is it a great way to do public outreach for the institute, but also is it a fun way to get to know everyone there. Thus, iCRAGorama so was born two years ago. Niamh joined me on the hosting panel for our third season, and we’ve really enjoyed recording informative interviews together, although we had not had the opportunity to record them in person.
Joining the PORO-CLIM expedition was our opportunity to finally meet, ditch the Zoom meetings, and record on location in the same room as our guests. She and I sat down after our latest recording session and had a chat about it.
Ben: We’re recording a podcast on location for the first time to document what we’re doing here during the expedition. What is that experience like for you?
Niamh: I’ve really enjoyed recording the podcast for PORO-CLIM, also because it’s the first time we’ve been able to do it in person, and I think it’s so much more natural doing it face to face, you don’t have to wait for the other person to stop talking or mute yourself or worry about dodgy internet connections… It’s also been nice chatting with the crew, all of them have had their fair share of experience. How have you found it?
Ben: Yeah, I love it because you can read people’s body language and there’s a much more natural flow to the conversation. It was nice to get to know everyone a bit better that way… When you sort of put your colleagues in a situation where they have to answer specific questions, they open up in a way they wouldn’t necessarily do in a more day-to-day conversation.
"Recording the podcast at sea
was a good way to shake things up!"
Niamh: Certainly, one of the challenges of recording a podcast at sea, though, is all of the ambient noises: there’s a lot of squeaking and creaking! It’s a busy ship, and there’s always someone walking down the corridor or using the bathroom next door, so we constantly had to stop and rerecord sections, but I think it also makes it less sterile. And having to deal with these background noises is also a learning experience. So Ben, why did you want to do the podcast at sea?
Ben: First of all, I think it was a good way to shake things up a bit and make it an exciting event for the listeners. Also, when I was first offered to join the cruise I had many questions about how the scientific cruises work and what we would be doing and such… So I thought it would be really helpful to document this experience for people who are wondering the same thing. Because it’s fascinating, I mean, people go to these remote, frontier places, and one could wonder why or what it entails, and I really wanted to share our adventure with the listeners.
Niamh: Yeah, it’s definitely a good “behind the scenes”. I also didn’t know what it was going to involve, we didn’t really know much beforehand. My family kept asking what we were going to be doing and I wasn’t entirely sure, to be honest. But also, just to record it, because it’s something we’re going to remember for the rest of our lives, particularly because we’re doing it at the time of a pandemic as well. For us, the cruise has been the closest thing to normality, and we’re in the middle of a ship rolling around, so... it is a very special trip.
iCRAGorama at Sea will be released as a 2-part special episode in the late Summer 2021. In the meantime, you can learn about a variety of other exciting geoscience research topics by listening to the latest episodes of iCRAGorama, featuring the scientists of iCRAG. New episodes are released fortnightly on Thursdays.
Whilst podcasts are made out of long conversations, another shorter form of communication was also widely used during the PORO-CLIM expedition: social media enabled us, thanks to a limited but working internet connection, to stay in touch with the rest of the world and to share our daily achievements. I am not personally an expert in social media, so I had a chat with Erica so she could enlighten me as to what the best ways to reach out to people on social media are and how the medium can be used to connect readily with an audience.
Ben: Hey Erica! You’ve been running the PORO-CLIM Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts together with Niamh, what do you think is key to a successful communication on social media?
Erica: One of the most important things is to know what your target audience is. Some posts are maybe a little more scientific, and definitely geared towards researchers and students. Whereas on the other hand we may use the Lego figures that we have, and that reaches the younger ages. We’ve received a lot of good feedback from children and teenagers on the Lego photos (and from adults too, editor's note). So knowing who your target audience is when posting is very important.
Ben: How can we use social media for outreach?
Erica: We wanted to show what it is like to live aboard a research vessel, and we have plenty of opportunity to do that on this trip. We also want to show the scientific aspect as well. For that, social media can be very helpful, especially through the use of hashtags. We can connect to other posts all throughout the internet if you will, and we can see what other people are doing around the same subject or area that we are studying too.
"We have social media here in the
middle of the Atlantic, which shows
how many people it can reach!"
Ben: What are the differences between the different platforms, and what advantage does each offer?
Erica: With Twitter, we’ll talk more about the science and we are more picky maybe about the pictures we would post, and because of the word count, we have to be very concise and get our word across as efficiently as possible. With Instagram we have this extra freedom almost, we can post these extra pictures and as many hashtags as we like. Shortening the content for Twitter can be challenging sometimes, but short and sweet can also turn out to be better, because it’s to the point.
Ben: There seems to be a whole science behind it, doesn’t it? What makes social media different from other types of media in your opinion?
Erica: I think social media is very current. We have it here even though we’re in the middle of the Atlantic, which shows how many people it can reach! We can instantly connect with people all over the world, whereas other types of media are not as readily available.
Ben: What’s your main takeaway from this experience?
Erica: I found the experience fun! My personal Instagram has a very specific aesthetic, and running the PORO-CLIM page, I felt more free, in a way. It made me let go a little bit. Also, before this, I didn’t like Twitter. I didn’t understand it. But now, because I had to learn so fast, I’m really getting to enjoy it! It is a really great outlet for science and research specifically. We had so much feedback and comments from people all over the world and I think that’s really cool.
Well, that’s it from me for today. Final words? Let’s see…
What are words worth? Words! It’s a rap race, with a fast pace. Concrete words, abstract words, good words and bad words. Mots pressés, mots sensés, mots qui disent la vérité! Words won’t find no right solution, to the planet Earth’s pollution, but PoRo-CLIM might find a reason, for why climate shifts in such a fast fashion.