Emotional Tales Save Orca Whales?

Credit: AP Photo/ Phelan M. Ebenhack

In a world where the clinical and empirical reigns supreme, is there space for emotion, and the possibility that emotion shapes historical phenomenon?

Armstrong (2013) looks into this and says that there are two reasons as to why science disregards emotion, the first being that emotional realties are ephemeral and hard to document, making it nearly impossible to prove the existence of events where feeling is felt throughout a culture, social group, or population (pg. 169).

The second reason Armstrong (2013) looks at is the underestimation of emotions historical role, and that such attention in this area leads to being viewed as subjectivist, having weak scholarly accuracy, and being considered as ‘sentimentalism,’ viewed as a kind of weakness itself (pg. 169).

Armstrong deploys the story of Opo the dolphin, who graced the New Zealand town of Opononi with her presence, to illustrate the importance of sentimentalism. Armstrong (2013) believes that sentimentality matters because of its everlasting popularity and its importance as a signifier for the sweeping transition of cultural feeling that has, or is about to, take place (pg. 182).

On the Opo event, it is significant because it illustrates the emotional connection between humans and animals, more specifically cetaceans, and what is even more important is that these stories marked a change in popular societal ideology that challenged the notion of modernity’s domination of nature (Armstrong 2013, pg. 180).

Another example of an emotionally charged event signalling a change in the world is the story of orca whale Skana and New Zealand scientist Paul Spong. Skana was sold to the Vancouver Aquarium at the age of 6 when she was captured in 1967, and it was here at the aquarium where she met Paul Spong, a scientist who conducted experiments to gauge Skana’s visual acuity (Zelko 2013).

Skana was passing Spong’s tests with little difficulty until her results plummeted, failing the test 83 times, which Spong discovered Skana was failing on purpose (Zelko 2013).

Spong decided to abandon his clinical approach with Skana and become more involved with her, getting to know her outside of a scientific view which is when he discovered she was experimenting with him, raking her teeth across his feet until he left them in the water so she could clamp down on them, but losing interest when he didn’t react (Zelko 2013).

From this point on Spong came to view Skana more like a person than an animal, describing her as “…inquisitive, inventive, joyous, gentle, joking, patient, and, above all, unafraid and exquisitely self-controlled (Zelko 2013).” Spong decided that to confine an intelligent being like Skana was cruel and so had to be set free and that hunting them was akin to murder, so to set her free he approached Greenpeace, who eventually took up her cause which has led to the virtual elimination of commercial whaling (Zelko 2013). She died however, in 1980 before her release could be realised.

This event was important because it was emotionally charged and demonstrated that emotion could move an individual to action, it also ignited the hearts of advocates who helped to campaign against whaling. It was an event that led to the transition of societies view on whaling.

One other emotionally impacting event was the materialisation of documentary Blackfish. Within the documentary, director Gabriela Cowperthwaite explored the relationship between SeaWorld trainers and orca whales, demonstrating the emotional bonds that grew as the trainers and whales interacted with each other. As the SeaWorld trainers went through different experiences with the orcas held in captivity, their views about keeping them confined began to shift, deepening into emotions of pity and sympathy. Some trainers deliberately continued to work at these marine parks because of these emotions, stating that they felt they needed to stay to take care of the animals the best they could in what can only be described as an unnatural situation.

What arose from the viewing of this documentary was a shift in public opinion about SeaWorld, leading to a dramatic drop in admissions. But what also occurred is what can only be called a victory, part of one at least. An article by ABC News (2016) has reported that SeaWorld has decided to: put an end to its popular orca entertainment shows, stop its breeding programs regarding the orcas, and that the remaining whales would be the parks last.

With developments like these, can we really say emotions do not matter? Or that emotion cannot impact and facilitate a change in society values? Or that emotion doesn’t influence historical events? Who can say? But it must surely have its place.


ABC News 2016, SeaWorld Orca Show Ban Credited to Work of Blackfish Documentary Maker, ABC News, viewed 24 March 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-18/blackfish-documentary-credited-with-seaworld-orca-decision/7256978

Armstrong, P 2013, ‘Cetaceans and Sentiment,’ in L Elizabeth, Y Watt, C Freeman, Considering Animals, Ashgate, pp. 169-182.

Zelko, F 2013, The Whale that Inspired Greenpeace, OUPblog, viewed 24 March 2016, http://blog.oup.com/2013/09/greenpeace-origin-killer-whale-skana/

Test Survey

This week’s blog post is about a phone interview I conducted with a BCM210 student. I had them answer a series of questions from a survey my group and I are creating for the BCM210 subject. Our group has come up with 10 different questions regarding the issue of piracy. The focus question that we have decided to study for this assessment is “What are people’s perceptions of downloading?”

The questions that I asked the BCM210 student were:

Question 1: Are you aware some people illegally download content?

  • Yes
  • No

Question 2: Do you think the chances of someone being caught illegally downloading content are:

  • Very Likely
  • Likely
  • Neither Likely or Unlikely
  • Unlikely
  • Very Unlikely

Question 3: Are you aware that there are consequences for illegally downloading content?

  • Yes
  • No

Question 4: To what extent do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements regarding why people illegally download content: (This will be a ranked answer with the options being: strongly agree, agree, neither agree or disagree, disagree, strongly disagree)

  • Illegally downloading content is convenient because it is easy
  • Illegally downloading content is convenient because content can be accessed anywhere
  • Illegally downloading content is convenient because downloaded content can be re-used endlessly
  • Illegally downloading content is attractive because there is no cost
  • Illegally downloading content gives people access to content not available/readily available in Australia

Question 5: Do you believe there are other reasons why people download? Explain why:

Question 6: Do you think anti-downloading advertisements reduce illegal downloading?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I don’t know

Question 7: Are you:

  • Male
  • Female
  • Other

Question 8: How old are you? Please write your age on the line provided:

Question 9: Do you think a person’s age group affects their downloading habits? Please explain your answer:

Question 10: For the purpose of this survey please provide your postcode for an area analysis:

The respondent was able to answer every question without difficulty, and after they had finished the survey, I had the opportunity to ask them for some feedback on the questions asked. The respondent thought that the first question was good for an introductory question but felt that the second question could have had a follow up question, something along the lines of “Do you think they could be prosecuted for illegally downloading content?” The respondent did ask what question 10 was designed to measure which I told them we were using it to see if there were different perceptions between people who lived in rural areas versus those in suburban city areas about illegally downloading content. They thought this was a clever question that explored something worth measuring.

Overall, the respondent thought our group’s survey was well thought out. Going forward, I don’t think there is much we would change as this glowing evaluation, I believe, demonstrated that we are moving in the right direction.

Image Link: http://www.apexhr.com.au/funded-courses/survey/

Technology of Choice

Technology of Choice

The technology I have chosen to research for BCM112 is the very popular web browser, Google Chrome.

The company, Google Incorporated, was co-founded in 1998 by Lawrence Page and Sergey Brin with their revolutionary search engine called Google. The beta software for the Google Chrome web browser was first released on the 2nd of September 2008 and has been healthily releasing updates for the software ever since. (Google Incorporated, 2008) This search engine was and still is one of the most popular search engines used today, it is ranked first above all others and is maintaining its position at the top according to statistics collected by StatCounter. (StatCounter, 2014)

At this point I don’t have any issues or concerns that I think need to be discussed. I view Google Chrome as a foundation to be built upon by Google Incorporated, its simplicity and minimalist finish allows it to be used by any user and I believe that this is why it is popular aside from the fact that it’s fast and free. Google itself has branched out into many different areas of human interest and are developing new technologies that add on to this web browser to make it a versatile tool for the common people of the world.

I don’t want to give too much information away about the technology I am researching or I won’t have much to talk about in future posts! I guess you’ll have to wait till the next one if you’re reading this.

Goodbye for now!

StatCounter, 2014. Top 5 Desktop, Tablet & Console Browsers from Feb 2013 to Feb 2014. [Online] Available at: http://gs.statcounter.com/#browser-ww-monthly-201302-201402-bar [Accessed 15 March 2014].

Google Incorporated, 2008. Beta release: [Online]
Available at: http://googlechromereleases.blogspot.com.au/2008/09/beta-release-0214929.html [Accessed 15 March 2014].