Ecosystem as a stage – representing forests in nature documentaries

Aktiviteetti: EsitelmäKonferenssiesitelmä


In his book Animals on Television: The Cultural Making of the Non-Human, Brett Mills describes the process of an animal converting to a resource in wildlife documentary (2017, 95-98). Responding to the need of entertainment and education only a fraction of the behavior and characteristics of an animal is valuable enough for this cultural product. The representation replaces its subject and the animal is condensed into a narrow, but credible and trustworthy object.

Although nature documentaries mainly focus on animal activity, a similar phenomenon can also be perceived at the ecosystem level. Looking at forest ecosystems in nature documentaries, it is possible to distinguish what parts and characteristics of an ecosystem are interesting, usable and therefore valuable for this human-built representation.

In the nature documentaries of my analysis, the forest ecosystems are described as scenes for the visually curious and value-laden animals and their behaviour. An ecosystem converted to a stage does not change or develop, nor does it consist of processes or streams of nutrients, water or carbon. Typically for nature documentaries, this scenery is constructed to be distant and remote, far from human beings.

Unspoken concepts of nature become concrete and evolve via representations, and this makes nature documentaries a demonstrative material for research. If the idea of an ecosystem is compressed to a disconnected and permanent stage, it is possible to imagine a socially constructed nature without human beings, facilitating also the idea of exploitation of natural resources without consequences for ourselves.

Reference: Mills, Brett 2017. Animals on Television: The Cultural Making of the Non-Human. Palgrave Macmillan, London, UK
Aikajakso23 marrask. 2018
Tapahtuman otsikkoFinnish Society for Environmental Social Sciences, Colloquium 2018: Naturecultures
Tapahtuman tyyppiKonferenssi
SijaintiRovaniemi, SuomiNäytä kartalla