Accepted paper:

Appropriating aquarium atmospheres: immersive design strategies in translation


Susanne Schmitt

Paper short abstract:

Public aquariums draw on design strategies that create specific and globally dispersed atmospheres of immersion. The paper explores the continuation and disruption of these pre-existing frameworks through the media practices of aquarium visitors.

Paper long abstract:

Aquariums are central sites of education about aquatic habitats and global biodiversity and a rapidly growing multi-billion dollar business. Their success is in large part a result of sensory and affective politics and of design techniques that need to cater to animal needs and leave visitors feeling immersed in multi-sensory representations of local habitats and ecological zones. Through the evocation of an immediate and intimate presence of various (sub) aquatic locales, visitors are attuned to local ecosystems through a sensory meshwork of water in all speeds and qualities, fresh and salty, plants, soundscapes, materials, changing temperatures, carefully designed lighting, moisture, music, children's excited voices and multiply layered narrations of the sensational behind the glass. In this paper, I turn to aquarium vistiors' appropriation of these atmospheres as they are articualted in their media practices: amateur filming and photography that is available online. By doing so, I explore how visitors appropriate, support and resist the atmospheric narratives of these places. Special attention will be paid to the use of sound and music as a way of rescripting and re-representing the experience of a visit to an accustically staged touristic encounter..

panel P03
Exploring 'atmospheres': an anthropological approach?