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Space And Mass Media

A panel discussion with half a dozen people, introduced by Rick Tumlinson. Rick pointing out that Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bob Bigelow are a legacy of Apollo, but they were also inspired by Star Trek, and he thinks it takes both.

First speaker and moderator David Beaver (Chairman of MindSpace Media). Says that how the media reports stories is critical to how investors, politicians and public understand industry. Surprising that the media is paying so little attention to a movement that promises to get them into space. Part is due to ups and downs of NASA, but part is due to the changing nature of the media itself, in its transition to new media. Thinks that role of special-effects movies and television is going to be unexpectedly powerful. He's a virtual reality technologist. Creates 3D world on a live stage and immerses people in it interactively. Calls it the magic theatre project to tell unusual stories and new information. Says to check out World Space Center. "Paradigms don't just rigidify thnking, they rigidify perception itself." We in the space movement have different perceptions of space because we are immersed in it. We need to imprint enough information in the minds of the public so that they view space the way that we do. The brain fills in much of the information that we take in through our senses. Few people have been in space, and those who have have difficulty in describing it, and pictures don't do it. have to break down the cognitive barriers that prevent people from fully understanding the experience of space travelers--have to somehow give others an "Overview Effect" a la Frank White. Have to move beyond verbal, written and pictorial descriptions and use new media to convey it.

First speaker is Dan Curry, in charge of special effects for Star Trek shows and movies, and many other films and shows. Star Trek is space fantasy (warp drive unlikely) but distances had to be compressed for story telling. Tried to create a dream of space and future in which we've gotten our act together on our own planet in terms of disease and freedom from want. Showing beginning of Star Trek Voyager, with overture and cool images while credits roll. Talking about "Voyage To The Moon" as the "Star Wars" of its day. Also talking about Chesley Bonestell and his developments in movies and astronomy, and his realistic space paintings, which influenced many movies. Other critical films Forbidden Planet, Conquest of Space, From Earth To Moon, Earth Versus Flying Saucers, etc., until Roddenberry came up with "Wagon Train in space," which became Star Trek. As time went on, the more we learned about the reality of space, the easier it became to make the movies more realistic.

Next is David Livingston, of The Space Show, who has interviewed more than 500 movers and shakers of the space. Hard act to follow Star Trek. Star Trek is in The Space Show, because if it weren't for Star Trek, and Forbidden Planet, and Apollo, there wouldn't be a space show [applause]. Working on a book on popularizing space, and has come to unique point of view of why there's a disconnect between meetings like this and AIAA meetings, and the general public. The general public thinks it's ask not what you can do for space, but ask what space can do for me, and be specific. To say that space is about settlement doesn't connect a single dot, and velcro and medical tools or the Internet or financial transactions have to do with space doesn't matter, because they already have those things. It's not enough to talk to the general public in the way we talk among ourselves. They see space from their perspective, not ours. They can be made to space as a valuable part of their life, but it requires an investment. Have to bring it down to the lowest level so they can identify with it. Key is to listen to what they're telling us, and find out what they want from space. If their priority is curing cancer, then we have to figure out how to sell it on that basis (if there's a case to be made for it). Gives examples of how to hook people into talking about space as it could impact their lives and careers. Being on the radio has taught him how to listen (though his girlfriend doesn't agree). Coolness counts, but the public wants personal, not screensavers. It's easier to connect space to personal than to get people to give up personal. We have a space consciousness. To develop one with the rest of the public, we have to talk to them and listen, and learn from when we fail.

Misuzu Onuki, creator of the first space fashion show (also director of Asian business development for Rocketplane Kistler). Showing a video of the space fashion contest in 2005. Concept seems to have caught on with the general public, more than she expected. Science and technology can become more understandable to many through art. There's been no fashion in space to date: astronauts wear flights suits or shorts in orbit. Have to develop fashions once everyday people are going. For instance, some will want to get married in space. They will want to wear wedding clothes, not flight suits. Weightlessness causes clothes to appear differently (like hair). A wedding dress with frills that lie down flat in one gee can float out in weightlessness. Also describing space themes on cell phones (I think). She sees two types of people who want to go to space: passengers and those who want to do a business in space by finding sponsors and missions. (Note: she had technical problems with her presentation, and plowed through)

Howard Bloom: scientist/engineer and media agent, author of several books on the evolution of earth to present. He was turned on to space by Chesley Bonestell's illustrations, and when Star Trek came out in the sixties, it seemed so bad compared to that that he never watched it, but then when he happened to see the new shows in the directions, he was amazed because it had not only caught up with Bonestell, but moved beyond it (tribute to Dan Curry). Preaches imagination "Dream your ass off." Got to get kids to identify with Burt Rutan's machines, XCOR's machines, and others. Raw imagination, the unexpected that will take us places. Pictures are important. This is his second space conference, and he doesn't know what XCOR is, because he hasn't seen pictures. Used to think that Lucas failed, because he had this great first movie, but then the theme fell apart, but his son went out and rented all six and watched them in the order that Lucas intended, and it seemed to take on a new life. Surprise is key to "grab the public by the gonads." Need to get people interested in private space as well as NASA space. One example is "Stars, Stories and Scores." Have to focus on stars (relates story of how he created Shaka Kahn). Should make a fictional story featuring Burt Rutan. Dow Jones average comes out every day, and creates publicity by doing that every single day. We need to come up with metrics for the space industry that come out regularly (e.g., number of dollars invested into private space efforts, published weekly). Tells the story of a department store that decided to have a parade as a publicity event. Parades weren't new, but the idea was to hook the parade to a yearly holiday as an excuse to repeat it. Holiday was Thanksgiving. Macy's remains a household name today even though department store industry is dying. Get kids involved with concepts and ideas with contests. He also likes idea of space olympics.

Richard Godwin, president of Apogee Books. How do we make weather so interesting, and space so mundane? Reality of Shuttle launch not captures in any way by watching on television. Took his son, who he'd been trying to get interested in space, to a launch. "Dad, that was awesome." Have to engage the women. Explain to them that women make better astronauts than guys. (e.g., they have the same brain power for less body mass, and use less consumables). "If you really want to populate space, send the women and let the guys follow them." We preach to the choir too much. Test: If I can change my mother-in-law's mind about space, I can convince anyone (she thinks that the Shuttle changes the weather in Chicago). People are interested in survival and money, and we have to make those connections. Have to reinforce the connection between science fiction and science fact. Make people see that it's not just fantasy, but that it's important. Show them that there are things to do in space and advance our species is important, but difficult. Have one line that's outrageous to bring in the interest. Ultimately have to get the kids involved, and get the message to them in a way that piques their interest.

Wrapup by moderator: Just building the ships will not put butts in seats. We will really have to keep selling if we want to have emigration to space. Asks question: why doesn't this story have legs? Howard Bloom thinks that it's because in order to do good publicity, you have to be three times as good as the best journalist you know. Take it for granted that they will screw up a lot of things, but if you have a good publicist who's developing the story day after day you can develop habits in the press to come to you for the story. Question: is it premature to publicize this stuff? Howard thinks that if you love the audience and give it to them on a regular basis, you'll serve it well. You have to get to the psyche of the audience. Repeats, Stars, Scores, Stories.

Need a world space fair every couple years, to show the public how space is important in their daily life, because they don't have a clue, other than that it is difficult. David: outreach is fine, but you have to listen too, because lecturing doesn't work.


See also Clark's briefer, but perhaps more useful notes.

That's pretty much the end of the day's sessions. Probably more in the morning, including S3x In Space! (how's that for a teaser...?)

Posted by Rand Simberg at July 22, 2006 03:52 PM
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Tracked: July 22, 2006 05:55 PM

Hopefully Tumlinson's webmaster was paying attention. SFF's website is a cluttered mess. It's got stuff splashed all over the place and makes them look unprofessional. They should clean it up and make it look professional, not autistic. Not a good way to communicate with the public.

Posted by Mike Scully at July 22, 2006 08:09 PM

"Paradigms don't just rigidify thnking, they rigidify perception itself."

And i've now just lost all respect for this person.

The only cognitive barriers that people in the aerospace industry have to break down are the ones which suggest to institutional investors that the business is a giant capital sinkhole. Good luck with that.

Posted by Chris Mann at July 22, 2006 09:13 PM

The message here is clear and correct: The public has no interest in space. Certainly, the communication media can do much to influence this perception.

Unfortunately, it's not going to get better. The media are, after all, vehicles to carry advertising. They shape their coverage to maximize the number of readers and viewers. The readers and viewers want Brad and J-Lo; the papers, to continue existence, give them Brad and J-Lo.

Perhaps if we sent B and J-L to space, we'd get some press coverage.

Posted by Bernard W Joseph at July 23, 2006 06:56 AM

Until there is money in space, there's not going to be money in advertising space.

Perhaps what we need to do is to find a way to make it cheap enough for Brad and J-Lo (aka the upper middle class) to be able to afford to go to space. We might get some media attention then.

Posted by Chris Mann at July 23, 2006 08:09 PM

Disagree. Lance Bass did nothing for the cause. Some media but when check out SFF site -- pursued him and other "names" they fizzled out and back-fired. Booking people who have "worked on" name shows (Star Trek) is also tired. (Unless they're doing a workshop on how to build miniature models).

People who can really connect with others sincerely are real artists and get the press talking. It's not just topics like sex or stars. The Sex in Space session would've been a bore if not for some very fresh and exciting content and questions presented. That and the persons made the news. The test is: what and WHO do people want to talk about. Not fake star-seeking for sure. I would bet that the people who were trying hardest to make it in the media at this conference probably didn't. One on the Sex Space panel those who obviously came from a life of artistic passion (case in point, Vanna Bonta is accomplished but not an A-lister but what she says has mileage) and another from Life sciences spectrum (Jim Logan) did get obviously connect and were sought by media. That's the real deal. The media and public are wise to contrived manipulation.

Personal note: Angelina Jolie's passion is real and a few people saw it and treated her like gold before she became huge. Now everybody seeks her. Good luck.

Trying to find contact info on the SFF site, do they have any press releases available? Agree with comment, site could be more user-friendly.

Posted by PT at July 26, 2006 12:17 AM

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