Microscope and spectacle: on the complexities of using new visual technologies to communicate about wildlife conservation

Audrey Verma, René van der Wal, Anke Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Wildlife conservation-related organisations increasingly employ new visual technologies in their science communication and public engagement efforts. Here, we examine the use of such technologies for wildlife conservation campaigns. We obtained empirical data from four UK-based organisations through semi-structured interviews and participant observation. Visual technologies were used to provide the knowledge and generate the emotional responses perceived by organisations as being necessary for motivating a sense of caring about wildlife. We term these two aspects 'microscope' and 'spectacle', metaphorical concepts denoting the duality through which these technologies speak to both the cognitive and the emotional. As conservation relies on public support, organisations have to be seen to deliver information that is not only sufficiently detailed and scientifically credible but also spectacular enough to capture public interest. Our investigation showed that balancing science and entertainment is a difficult undertaking for wildlife-related organisations as there are perceived risks of contriving experiences of nature and obscuring conservation aims.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)648-660
Number of pages13
Issue numberSupplement 4
Early online date27 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

We thank our interviewees for granting us access to data and permission to use images; dot.rural Digital Economy Hub, the University of Aberdeen, and the James Hutton Institute for funding and support; Gina Maffey, Tony James, Katrina Myrvang Brown, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of the manuscript; and JP Vargheese for technical assistance.


  • Animals
  • Wild Animals
  • Communication
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Great Britain
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Internet
  • Inventions
  • Perception
  • Public engagement
  • Environmental communication
  • Visual technology
  • Wildlife conservation


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