Career Lunch & Learn: Stories in Science


>>Hi, I’m Whitney Espich, the CEO of the
MIT Alumni Association and I hope you enjoy this digital production created
for alumni and friends like you.>>Hello and welcome.
Thank you for joining today’s Career Lunch and Learn
program, Stories in Science: Vessels of Power and
Possibility. Being brought to you by the MIT
Alumni Association and sponsored in part by MIT Federal Credit
Union, and MIT Sloan Executive Education.
My name is Julie Pryor and I will be serving as your
moderator today. I am the communications officer
at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research here at MIT.
My job is to help our neuroscientists translate their
complex research into stories that the general public can
understand. It is a challenging but deeply gratifying role and I look forward to learning from today’s program.
As a reminder, our webinar is being broadcast live.
Throughout the program, you may submit your questions using the
Q&A feature in your Zoom toolbar. For all of our listeners joining
via YouTube, you may add your questions to the comments field.
All questions will be held until the end of the presentation.
And now I am delighted to introduce today’s speaker, scientist
turned journalist Ari Daniel, who earned his PhD in biology
from MIT in 2008. Ari has always been drawn to
science in the natural world.
As a kid, he packed his green wildlife Treasury box full of species cards. As a graduate student, Ari trained grey seal pups for his
master’s degree at the University of Saint Andrews and
helped tag wild Norwegian killer whales for his PhD at MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
These days, as senior digital producer for NOVA and an independent science
reporter for outlets, including Public Radio, Ari works with a species he is better equipped to understand
–Homo sapiens. He has reported on science topics across five continents. He’s a co-recipient of the Triple AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Gold Award for his radio stories on glaciers and climate change in Greenland and Iceland and Ari also coproduces the Boston
branch of the Story Collider, a live storytelling show about
science. Having worked with Ari on a NOVA video about a microscopy technique here at the McGovern Institute, I can say
on a personal note that Ari is simply great at telling stories about science and with that, I will turn things
over. Ari: Great thank you so much and thank you to everyone for
being here today. I’m so excited to be talking to
you. I’m gonna talk for about 40 minutes or so and then
we will open it up for questions at the end.
I will talk, as Julie mentioned, about Stories in Science:
Vessels of Power and Possibility.
But what I want you to know is storytelling is a skill that can
really be applied across the board.
It is not just something that is unique to those of us who do
science or talk about science for a living.
Storytelling is pervasive across all fields So I’m going to be talking about some of the things I think
about when I tell stories, but I know many of the things I’m going to
be saying will will have broad application beyond science. So
my presentation has a heavy ceramic theme.
I going to start by just focusing a little bit. I just wanted to unpack a little bit more about my journey to where I got–
to how I got to where I am today. This is a bowl I used to eat out
of. When I was a kid, my mom gave me
a set of four bowls but only one of them had all gone at the
bottom. I loved it because as I was
eating cereal or soup, the reward when I finished my meal
was that all gone at the bottom. When I was little, in elementary
school, I remember reading a lot about the decimation of the rain
forest. Trees were being cut down,
species of animal and plant’s and fungi and things we knew
about and didn’t know about that were in peril.
The more I read, the more I worked up — I got worked up
about it. I recall being on vacation with
my family and telling my mom how upset I was. I started to cry.
Here is my mom on the left. That is me and my grandmother on
the right. Two important women in my life.
My mom said to me, it is so important you are feeling the
feelings you have. It is also important that you do
something about those feelings. That stayed with me, more That stayed with me, more so
than when I stayed with my mom. She had no recollection of this
story. But it stayed with me. The first thing I did is I spent
a lot of time learning about science and trying to immerse
myself in the natural world, which I have always been long
drawn to. When I was in college, I went to
the rain forest. Looking out on it, on the left, and on the right, swinging
through it. I realized I wanted to spend more time learning about the
world around me. That led me to graduate still —
graduate school at MIT, where I spent my time studying wild
killer whale’s. Here I am in northern Norway.
I was interested in their behavior and vocalizations and
it was a really fantastic chance for me to be out learning about
the real world and learning how hard science is to do. I loved working on that degree
and as I was finishing that degree, I realized I wanted to
share my love of natural world with in biology but beyond
biology in science, with people outside of my lab, outside of my
department and university. I really wanted to communicate
science more broadly. That is when I pivoted from
doing science research to doing science journalism.
Here I am interviewing a glacier.
This is for a set of videos I was doing for the world and nova
, respectively. That is where I am today.
I spent most of my time as
senior digital producer at NOV a — NOVA, and I also do freelance
work as a science reporter for a variety of places, including
radio, video, and live storytelling. I thought I would work through a
set of things I would keep in mind when putting together
science stories. I told you ceramics would
feature throughout this webinar. The first thing I will talk
about, you see trees and mountains . Out of the talk about scene.
For me, that is something that is very important when crafting
a story. I often find if I could place an
idea or an explanation inside of a location, it becomes way more
memorable. The idea gets a physical home in
the story I communicate. I will play a clip from a public
radio story I did when I was in
Guam a couple of years ago. That is all I will do to set it up. The screen will go dollar —
will go dark. It is not broken. I intentionally am leaving it
dark so you can hear the sound. The first clip is a couple of
minutes.>>It is a couple hours after sunset and everyone is donning a
wet suit — wet suit. In minutes, I am standing among 15-20 dark figures in a
graveyard on the West Coast of qualm. They are not here for the
tombstones. They have come to rescue
something else — the quarrels — the corals.>>It will be tonight.
Spawning time.>>Spawning is what happens when
corals have sex. Colonies of millions of tiny
animals and in a single night, they cast a fog of spur him and
eggs into the water. Some of which fertilize to make
baby larvae and some of those settle back onto the reef,
making it grow. Peterson is the founder and
executive director of an organization, sexual coral
reproduction. His mission is to gather’s birman egg’s, fertilize them in
the lab, and return baby corals to the wild. The team divvies up collection
containers and has to the beach.>>Everyone is getting the
snorkel ready, sharing so they can see what they’re doing, and
waiting out into the water.>>I follow along under the
stars with Richard Ross, a biologist with the California
Academy of sciences. Sprinkled out all around our
little patches of coral colonies.>>Under the water, a constant
Safari. You never know if it will
happen. Ari: just the first couple of
minutes of that story. I wanted to share it with you
because of how I tried to evoke scene.
I tried to set up a little mystery.
A graveyard, people are donning wetsuits.
It is not entirely clear what is going on or why what they are
doing is happening. The story is only four or five
minutes. Not attentive time to set up the
mystery, that it hopefully gets people interested enough to be
like, what exactly is happening here? On location or near the
cemetery, you hear the sound of the zippers being false.
— pulled. They are here not for what is
dead in the ground but for what may be dying in the waters
nearby. That transitions us almost like
a film, we move the camera and it is now facing out in the
water. We’re talking about corals.
It buys me enough time to explain a little bit about coral
reproduction, just enough so the listener has a sufficient
understanding for the rest of the story. We want to get back to the
action. The action recommences as we
walk out into the water and weighed into the shallow water.
The other thing I try to do in my radio reporting, a tip I
picked up from other reporters, is to voice my observations
while I am in the field. I talk about seeing people
waiting into the water. The first reason is I could easily record that narration in
the studio afterwards like I have recorded most of my
narration, but there is something about being there that
puts me in the very scene I’m trying to create.
It is also because there is a difference in tone.
There is a reverence. When I am there and I see the
stars above me, I’m out in the world, there is a different
feeling because I am there conveying what it is like to be
there rather than being in the studio later where all of those
sensory details are eliminated from my perception.
You can hear it in my voice. Even the way the characters get
introduced, the first scientist
when he announces himself, I do not say who he is first, I let
him enter into the scene. It is like staging a play.
The characters are walking on and I’m trying to paint a
backdrop, trying to evoke the sound of reading in that place. All of the ideas I’m
communicating, the difficulties the corals are having, how
reproduction happens, all of it is happening in scene.
Let me fast-forward to the last part of the story.
While we are waiting for the corals to respond, I interview a
couple other people. Finally, the corals begin to
spawn.>>We have got the whole slit
going on.>>The white dots swirling
around. It looks like the Milky Way.>>You came on a good night.>>The only problem is it is the
wrong species. The team does not have the right
equipment. Peterson admits defeat.>>Patients.
Tomorrow is another night.>>The next night, they bring enough equipment but not enough
spawn. The spawning window has closed. It is part of what makes the
work so difficult. In — before leaving Guam, I
paddle underneath a sunset sky. A grad student at the University
of qualm kicks her way down to a nursery below me.
She is holding a small cement pyramid in her hand with a
staghorn the size of a crouton growing on its surface.
It is a baby coral.>>Yes. It looks like a baby.
It has a little pink on it.>>The baby is two years old and
came from spawn collected at sea and fertilized onshore.
It has been growing in a nursery ever since.>>once they are big enough, you
plant them out to be in the wild.>>Farther up the coast,
everyone is hoping it will grow up to stand guard against an
uncertain future. Ari: while I was in the field with the scientists, and one of
my favorite things to do is to get to go out in the field and
see what they are doing, it is one of the things I checked that
enjoyed most, when I was there,
there was a narrow window where they thought the coral would
Spohn and then it was the wrong species.
They tried different collector — containers the next night, so
they said we will go up the coast and try and collect them
up there. That did not work and I told my
editor the coma nation this story was the successful
collection of Spohn , where the story was heading.
I set it up in the beginning. I needed a way to end it.
I decided to in scene. I knew that this was not the
first time they had been to Guam. They had always — already
started working on planting little corals on this nursery. I thought, let me go out with
someone who could talk to me. I love the last scene.
I think Nicole might have kayaked out. She swam out.
She was in the water. She is treading water and dives
down with her snorkel. She collects this thing and
brings it back to the surface. She is there treading water and
you can hear her reading is different than if we were
sitting in a studio. I like that quality, of her
telling us her perspective while being in the water at the site
she is a part of. The whole thing just becomes an
enactment of what they’re doing in the field.
It is an exciting way to talk about ideas and science, where
it is kind of unfolding with action before your ears. That is one of the crucial
ingredients I think about. That is putting everything in
scene. The second thing I think about
when telling stories is action. The importance of creating some
kind of movement and energy in a story is really important.
Because it is OK to paint a backdrop. There was not much happening.
The point of the book was not for it to be a thriller. It can often be particularly
engaging with an audience when something is happening, when
there is movement and characters are changing, when something is
at stake. Action is a great driver of
that. I am often looking for action
happening naturally in a story to play that up.
I want to give you two examples. These are from two other types,
kind of written stories I have done. The first is from Instagram
essay I wrote. I went about it in narrative journalism I had a fears ago.
You take a picture and two cup — you accompany it with a block
of narrative text. That text could be, it should
have the kind of flavor of active writing and for there to
be seen in action, but a little mini story unfolds in the Instagram posts.
Here’s something while I was on — I will refer you what was in
the post. Ian says writing a little plane
50-100 feet above the ocean inside a storm is exhilarating. It’s nasty life all of the
numbers and figures he spent the rest of his life pouring on in
his computer screen. The weather gets real and a term
like heat flux becomes an embodied experience.
With a thrust of warm air pushing into the planes suddenly
from below, they were like turbulence sends shudders to the
body of the aircraft, rattling windows and motors.
You can fear — feel the atmosphere talking to each
other. Converting it into cloud and
fog. Talking is for roaches. A hydrometer drama staged and
shouted in the high seas, ways — waves thrusting in the air
blowing wildly back, dizzying rain whipped into a frenzy.
In the midst of all the meteorological mayhem, a small
plane home so long, holding its course and slurping up data.
Those numbers regarded comfortably on the computer
screen in the days and months to come will paint a portrait of
sloppy soggy kiss of water and wind.
It will tell him whether these storms, cold air outbreaks, our
response for cooling down the ocean and making it denser.
That water, transformed, will have no choice.
The thing he and his colleagues are really after is whether the
water goes on to supply a crucial deep artery of the
circulatory system. We need to figure this out so as
the climate and the earth continue to change before out —
our eyes, we can anticipate dramatic changes in weather, no
doubt. When the storm descends upon the
sea, the plane shutters and balances.
A reminder of how turbulent the future might be. I didn’t actually get to board
the plane that required a complicated and advanced
training that I didn’t go through. I had to rely on what Ian and
the group told me about that experience.
This Instagram essay was from talking to a variety of people
and putting their thoughts together into what I hope is an
evocative description of what it is like to be on board the
plane. As you have seen, it takes a
seat on the plane. Really the action, in a very turbulent weather, for those who
take into the skies on an aircraft, probably have some
familiarity with, I am drawing on a sense of shared experience.
Most of it is a kind of action piece and the science is still
tucked inside of it. It is kind of motivating the
whole scene, but it is playing a supportive role in this
narrative text as it is unfolding all stop the science
does not always have to be front and center.
The point for I’m trying to do is to get people to remember the
science and to think about the science.
I do that by trying to create as evocative a picture as I can.
That is one example of a scene, of an action taking place.
Another example, just a bit different.
It is for publication at MIT, MIT spectrum, that I wrote for.
An article around the policy of
artificial intelligence. Policy is one of the things I
feel least comfortable with. I was trying to find a way into the story and decided to lean
into action. The interviews I did for this
story were either on Skype or by phone. I tried to create some action
out of it. Here is the opening. It robot the size of a house cat
and flips the — foot and on its belly.
The dinosaur port — purse to life.
He has touched centers on his head and his back. A next generation robotic
companion pet manufactured by a company in Hong Kong for them are scattered around her
apartment. She holds up Mr. spaghetti by
its tail. Mr. spaghetti starts to contort.
He is not happy. And darling is not happy either.
It is what struck her a decade ago. I found myself getting to
stressed when admin the distress.
I wanted to know why a was responding like this even so I
knew it was all fake. That is, why is she having these
feelings for Yochai but not for a smoke alarm crying out for its
batteries to be replaced? And what were the moral implications
of developing an emotional tether to a dynamic, social
robot? So that is the piece. Then I get into the ethical
implications when we talk about artificial intelligence.
This was the way I used action. In this case a robot dinosaur in
distress, to lead us into the topic at hand. The next thing I want to talk
about is the idea of a hook. When I think about a hook, I
think about the way in which I am trying to engage in audience
member, a listener, or a viewer,
with the story I’m telling. I think about hooks from a
variety of perspectives. The first hook I want to share, OK.
The first hook I want to share comes from a project I worked on
at NOVA a couple of years ago. NOVA has a platform called NOVA
labs, our online gaming platform, where we take a topic
in science and we game affiant — gamify it. We have done six labs to date.
The most recent one is called the evolution Lab.
I will pay — play you the trailer for that in a moment.
We are working at the polar lab at the moment. ♪>>Everywhere you go on this
planet, on land, on the ground, in the air, on the water, there
is more and more life to be found. All of it, even
you, is shaped by the most incredible of
forces. Evolution. You will be climbing around the
tree of life, when the basics from our videos, then work your
way through six missions using physical traits and DNA to build
up portions of the tree. Use the evidence for evolution,
like fossils and where species live on earth today, to figure
out how organisms are related. Use the tree of life to battle disease, save someone’s life,
and probe the origins of humanity.
Then conduct your own research with a massive interactive tree
containing over 70 thousands issues, each a story of life on her.
Build the tree of life, your family tree, and discover how
connected you are to everything live and everything that is a
relived. Ari: the point of this trailer is to encourage people to play
the lab. To get them excited about why
this matters to them. Part of that is to describe how
evolution as a concept is connected to each and every one
of us and to our family trees. We are also trying to set the
sub is the game and to engage in audience that would be
interested in playing a game. We show screenshots from the
game itself. We are trying to entice people
by showing them what the evolution Lab has to offer.
That was a very intentional thought that went into figuring
out, what is the best way to lay out what the lab is about.
In terms of content and also the experience.
We got to work on a special project at NOVA starting in 2017
for a couple of years. We got a grant for the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting to do an experiment
essentially, where we would, in addition to the 20 or so hours
of new television, that NOVA produces every year, a lot of
digital content related to that, we wanted to explore creating
digital content, videos, and written news letters, that
highlighted the science connection to what is going on
the news. We know that the way the news
cycle works, is that often, you kind of get a big story that
flashes onto the main news pages
that comes above the full in the newspaper, lingers for a day or
two, maybe three, and then it kind of falls out of the news as
a news story comes into a placement on these sites. As the wave was surging and
cresting, we were trying to insert news into that wave and
be part of the conversation around the news.
Leaving aside for the moment whether this was the right way
new stories and news should be handled in public discourse, we
wanted to insert science into that discussion.
We would take advantage of and
try to leverage breaking news stories that would happen and
try to turn copy around quickly. We would anticipate stories that
would happen around holidays or other events and try and find
ways of looking for a science angle. I will play the first two
minutes from a video we did in anticipation of the winter
Olympics. All of our videos were geared
for social media, primarily Facebook.
Most people do not actually listened to most videos on
Facebook. We anticipated people would not
listen so most of the taxes appearing on screen printed
rather than narrated. I will play for you the sound.
This video performed quite well with over one million views on
Facebook. [no sound] The screen is intentionally black
now as I transition to the next slide. So the screen’s black. That’s ok. I wanted to bring this up because we thought about a hook
in this case as the hook of the news. People have different
relationships with the news. Some people do not consume it
and many people do. This was an instance in which we
knew folks would talk about the winter Olympics.
So we decided to find a science angle into the Olympics.
One thing we observed with the project is the number of views is not the only way to measure
impact of the video. We did a couple of different
videos around the clips across North America in 2017. One of those videos was
essentially how not to fry your eyeballs while looking at the
solar eclipse. That one did very well in terms
of few pound — view count on Facebook with 5 million views.
We also did a video and I went to Idaho and I interview people
about what it was like. This was a more heartfelt and
tender video with people’s
impressions about how they were moved. It got way fewer views.
I think it was like tens of thousands perhaps.
Compared to the eyeball frying video.
What was interesting was to see how people engaged in the
comments, people saying how they experienced the eclipse, how
they felt moved as well and they watch this video and relive the
event. It was important for us to think
about it — engagement.
People liking content and sharing it, also commenting in
the way that we were happy to contribute to the conversation.
The 30 I want to play for you. I will not set it up much except
this is a video I made for an organization along with a
colleague of mine. Amanda. you — for an organization called
bird note. ♪>>There are essential tools for
birding. Your binoculars. and if you are
black. you will need probably two or three forms of ID. Never wear a hoodie. Ever. The word for an African-American
in camouflage is incog-negro. Blacks go to’s, ravens, and
black birds are larger. Any bird that is black is my
bird. The edge of day, light is fading, those hours are the time where many birds come to life. You better be careful.
You might be perceived as being up to no good. It is like encountering a
woodpecker. An endangered species, these are the rules for the blackbird or
— black birder. ♪
We have to do something to make birding and nature in general
more interesting people of color.>>Out of every hundred
birdwatchers. how many are black question mark>>Five.>>Yes.>>That statement, making nature
science to all people. In a couple of different ways, the first telling stories to
think about who is telling those stories. A variety of perspectives.
The narrator featured in this short video wrote an article entitled
Rules for the Black Birdwatcher. in which he laid out a lot of
content I shared with you at the video — in the video. It was to capture the sentiment
in video form. Drew thinks a lot about this
issue of how to engage people of diverse backgrounds in the nature study.
He does a lot of posting on his own social media about this. True has a very important
perspective he was able to share in this article and I hope
you’re able to convey. He is able to share in a way I
would never be able to. It is important when I think
about telling stories, to engage people from a variety of
perspectives and help empower them to tell these stories in
different ways. Also for people who are out
there, who are thinking about how the — how they see
themselves in the future, the types of jobs they can do in the
roles in society. I think having people talk about that wide
perspective, the lighter set of perspectives we are able to
share, the more important and power — and empowering it is
for the audience as well. I want to talk. as I come to a
close here. I want to share a couple final examples. The next idea want to talk about
here is character and how important character is when
thinking about a story. I did a story related to
seagrass that grows in the Mediterranean Sea, a few years
ago for a radio outlet. The back story went a little
something like this. Before I tell you what the arc
was, I did a story and I was repurchasing the story for a
different outlet in my second editor challenged me and said I
feel like I’ve heard this story before.
He had not heard that exact story but he had heard the kind
of story. The general structure was, here
is a species not doing well. It lives in a place you may
never go to and it is not doing well because of you and here’s
what a small group is trying to do to help out this ecosystem or
environment. Who knows a civil work and time
will tell. My editor says, do you have
anything else to make the story about something different?
Something interesting had happened over the story for me.
One of the central characters I interviewed had died. He died actually free diving in
the location where he studied the seagrass.
In the first version of the radio story, I did not mention
Alex at all become my editor thought it might take away from
the story. That is not a wrong perspective.
There are countless ways to tell a single story.
My second editor said, what if you make the entire thing about
him. So here’s how I set up the second version of that story.>>This story begins with a man
who devoted himself to an ecosystem and an organism and it
ends with his death, a loss that came all too early when he was
only 37 years old. His name was Alex the rent a and
we met in 2011 in a picture postcard Spanish town up the
coast from Barcelona. We were on board a small boat
with a couple of his colleagues and a Marine conservation group.
We headed towards one of the islands in the Mediterranean.
Our boats stopped offshore.>>We can see the bottom.
We now take a look at the water.>>One of his colleagues,
Sanchez, put on his mask and dunked his head underwater.>>I found this>>I found this story more
compelling. Put — more compelling.
By making it about him and injured his and the fact he dies
of the very beginning, introduces the question and why
is it related to the story and
because Alex cares so much about the seagrass and the ecosystem,
and around the ecosystem, I am hoping the audience because they
care about Alex, that they can vicariously care about the
seagrass as well. I used some of these same as — the same exact sentences.
The focus of it and how much I leaned into Alex or not at all, was completely different. I have one last example but I think they’ll will hold that in the interest of questions and answers. I will wrap up by saying a couple of other things and bring it
home. The notion of thinking about
storytelling has taken on a very special new meaning with the
father of two kids — as the father of two kids.
I have a son who just turned one year old.
His daughter a little more than three years old.
My wife and I love being outdoors and we love taking ourselves and now them camping.
We were on a camping trip earlier this year. My wife was with him in the tent
and I took them for a walk down to the beach.
When we got to the beach, Leila took a look and she sat down on
the sand and she took off her shoes and felt the sand beneath
her toes, and she walked right down to the water’s edge.
When I think about what I’m trying to do as a storyteller in
its most idealized form. it is about trying to connect people
with the world around us and the world I found so enchanting
since I was a little kid. That is what I’m trying to do
for people. In a couple of special cases for
too little people in particular. I try and give them a front row
seat. Thank you for your attention.
I will pause there for questions.>>That was really wonderful.
Thank you. A lot of questions have come in.
I went — I want to mention briefly. that curling video was
amazing. My family with — could have
been responsible for some of those hits.
We have a lot of questions here. leaned into Alex or not at all.
was completely different. Let me see how many we can get to.
The first one I thought I would I have one last example but I
think they’ll will hold that in the interest of questions and
answers. ask from a few folks is about
audience. How this storytelling. how is it
different for you when you speak to a scientific audience versus
a nonscientific audience? And in tandem. are there any
resources for people who are working to hone their craft. to tell their stories to these
audiences? Ari: a great set of questions. I am always keeping in mind that
mine is not a technical audience.
The stories I am reporting on the radio or online. these are
intended for a general audience. The audience can have a science
background and may or may not have formal science training.
I am really thinking about how I can make this understandable.
and engaging for a wide audience.
I’m hoping scientists will also find it interesting but that is
not my first goal. In terms of other resources a
site that is terrific transom .org.
A curated workspace for public
radio and public media creators. There are tons of resources and
it is primarily aimed at audio storytelling.
There is stuff on what microphones to buy and what
software to edit audio. There are resources related to how to tell a good story.
Some of the advice is more focused on audio but a lot of
the advice is very general and I think would be a great place for
people to start.>>Great. Thank you. Obviously. radio is a medium in
which we are listening and the sounds are important.
We have a couple of questions about your process. Music. background sounds. what
is your process for doing that? Is it part of the story itself?
Do you have any suggestions for how to manage that and also.
what is your process in general? Do you already have a vision
when you go out and record and go back to the editing suite and
sort of figure it out there? What is that process for — like
for you?>>I kind of think about the
different types of elements you might put into the story.
Even just written stuff. but in radio. I am thinking about.
there are the words someone tells me in an interview. the
words that I might write and narrate. the sounds I am
collecting in the field. sound effects. music.
These are all elements that can be brought together.
A lot of it comes down to style. And outlet.
A news piece. I rarely put music in it. That coral story. you probably
heard a little music at the end. NPR added that to transition out
of the story to the next one. They use music as palate
cleansers between music stories — news stories.
Usually. news stories don’t have music in them nor sound effects.
unless you are intentionally saying. it might sound something
like this. and then you play the sound effects will stop usually
news reporting. the ingredients tend to be natural sound
recorded on location. That is evocative of a place.
People have a variety of views. You might say. can you put that
beaker back on the platform? Some might say. I don’t even ask
them to redo it. They wanted to be so real that
they will only record the sounds as they are in full in is no
take two. A lot of it is personal
preference and the style of the outlet.
I had the opportunity to work on a show recently and that was a
lot of fun and adjacent. The intention was to make this
an immersion — immersive show. I collaborated with the sound
designer and composer. who is very talented.
Most of which had a little narration and not a lot of natural sound. Music composition.
People were blindfolded. A very different kind of
experience. The intention was to have folks
fall into the story in a way you might not if you are driving
home this and to a news story that you don’t want to put a
blindfold on. That is to answer the first part
of the question. In principle — in terms of the
process. I will often think about. one of my editors early
on encouragement to think about. it is good to have a sense of
what the structure of the story is for you set foot on ground.
All the time. the story changes. It is helpful to know. the place
I’m trying to get to is a place of half.
That is a lot harder to do later trying to help the audience and
imagine. It is a mix.>>We have a lot of specific
questions. Storytelling requires movement
in the plot. Can we talk more about using
mystery of the storytelling art versus using a plot twist.
— twist as the ark itself? Sure. — Ari: sure. I talked about a kind of
earthquake in central Connecticut. Not really a terrible earthquake
but a geological rumbling in central Connecticut. Before they brought the
geologists in. no one knew what it was.
It goes back to Native American times. talking about what these
sounds meant to more recently how people understood them.
I had the luxury. that’s it was much longer.
Of lingering in the mystery of what these things were for a
longer time. There is no one right way to
tell a story. Often it is important with
mystery and plot twist. you are trying to Tia and T is what is
to come to get people to keep listening.
Mystery is an intentional device. To solve the mystery.
When it comes to plot twists. I worked on another story the
question I said at the beginning was when do we see it?
When we exit the womb or before that? Then I go on a long. meandering
road to get to the answer faint
light in utero. because light can pass through.
There are a whole series of things that have to happen and
there are twists and turns along the way.
It is important for the audience that I sign early on where we
are headed. Otherwise. it is like. why are
we on this road again? It should all be building to a
central moment. Whether using plot twists or
mystery. sign posting indicating early on. forecasting where is
going is very important.>>That is great.
You mentioned you had the luxury of a 12 minute he is.
A question about the length of your stories.
What should we aim for? Is there a length?
I will let you answer the question. Ari: it is often kind of format
dependent. NPR has a very tight kind of
window. A 3-4 minute window. Doing a lot of shorter stories
in the three range. I often feel like most stories can be told in
that amount of time. We are creating an hour long
stood — show out of four stories.
Each of those had to be much longer than five minutes. A lot of it has to depend on the
venue. the forum for sharing the story. but it is often helpful
to play the story for someone and see when they kind of start
to gloss over. Notice that or notice for yourself when you’re are
starting to tune out as well. To bring it down and pare it
down. There are tons of stories to
tell. It is important to experiment
with the format and duration. There is no single way to tell
any story. There are a lot of ways.
I skipped over an example. I will not lay that but I wanted
to mention another thing I’m involved with.
It is a live show to tell true personal stories.
We have regular shows in 14 places around the world. Atlanta. Wellington. New
Zealand. went in. Vancouver.
check out story collider to check out is shown here you but
also we have a podcast. It would be great for you to
have a listen. These are narrative driven
stories. If you are interested in
following up later. I am happy to chat with folks.
This isn’t meant to be a wrapup. You can email me. Happy to continue the
conversation afterwards. Go ahead. Julie: I will ask one last question.
As a NOVA video producer. what was your most challenging
science story to produce and why? How do you overcome the
challenge? Ari: I don’t know if this was the most but it is certainly one
of the most. On bit coin and block chain.
To convey what the concepts are. distinctly. clearly. just to write the script was
challenging. We wrote a script and sent it to
people. We went back and forth on it.
They send us feedback. We rewrote the script.
Finally, then we had to think about how we would visualize
this. These are abstract concepts. It was basically like frame by
frame thinking about how we would talk about it using a
concrete example helped. You can find those on her
website and Facebook page. That was one of the more
challenging stories I had to work on.>>At think we have
unfortunately run out of time. Thank you for the presentation
today. We thank you for taking the time
to be with us. Thank you to alumni viewers for
tuning in. Today’s presentation will be on
the Alumni Association YouTube channel. If you have any questions, please email us at [email protected] Thanks again for tuning in. Ari: Thank you, Julie and thank you, everyone.>>Thanks for joining us and for more
information on how to connect with the MIT Alumni Association please
visit our website.