ANALYSIS OF IMAGES THAT SELL NANOPRODUCTS
Wikipedia defines Nanotechnology as
Nanotechnology is the study of the controlling of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally nanotechnology deals with structures sized between 1 to 100 nanometer in at least one dimension, and involves developing materials or devices within that size. Nanotechnology is very diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly, from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to investigating whether we can directly control matter on the atomic scale.
In this blog post and the next, we discuss and analyze some images related to Nanotechnology drawing from Roland Barthes’s “Rhetoric of the Image” (32-51) and Bruno Latour’s article: What is Iconoclash? Or is there a world beyond the image wars? in the book Iconoclash (16-40).
HOW TO SELL SOCKS OF THE FUTURE:
The first glance of the image above can make us think in different directions. We can imagine this to be an image for boots that can take the shape of our foot. Can these be socks? But then socks are not so sturdy. Can this sock be worn directly as we wear a shoe? This creates curiosity and we want to know more about the image. From the first glance one can understand that there is a person who is trying to put their foot in the sock-lookalike object.
Different interpretations can be drawn by the viewers of the image based on their cultural background and lifestyles. These different interpretations of the “signified”, (in this case the strange looking sock) is termed as Slippage.
The sock and the feet are objects in the image that we are familiar with. Also we know that socks do not have the property of being sturdy. All that is needed to understand this is the knowledge bound up with our perception. According to Barthes, this is a non-coded symbolic message (36)
DON’T LET IT SLIP
The above image was the winning entry for the Nano Supermarket Contest held this year (Next Nature). This image communicates its central idea more clearly. The text supporting it enables it to do so. The text attached to the message serves 2 purposes -
- It tells us what the product is about – NANO SOCK
- What is particularly special about the product – Socks that are self dressing
The large font size of the caption NANO SOCK stands out when we see the image. This provides us the anchorage (to avoid slippage) to our interpretation of the image. We begin to understand that the Nano Sock is robust (as it can take shape and stand straight). Since it is robust, we do not need to bend over and wear it. That is a huge advantage for old or disabled population.
The Nano-Sock is designed in such a way that it eliminates the need for the user to bend over and put on his socks. Different types of nanotechnologies enable the sock to sense the human foot and pull itself up. The sock dresses itself (Next Nature).
The depiction of the sock resembles a shoe in this image. This is very useful in driving home the concept of self dressing. There is still some stability that we can attach to the person standing even though he/she is on one foot.
Awareness about Nanotechnology is growing (Maynard) and is is also facing some challenges (Devitt). As it happens with every emerging technology, people take time to become comfortable with it. Nanotechnology, in the example above, is shown as something that’s simple and calm. The image gives a feeling that such a technology can solve simple everyday problems. This impression would go a long way in helping people get over the initial skepticism and embrace nanotechnology.
WHAT WOULD LATOUR SAY?
Latour would argue that this image would not necessarily fall in the category of a “scientific image” since it is not a part of a series of images trying to explain a scientific observation. Also, as a standalone image, it pretty much conveys everything that it can, but no scientific observations.
Barthes, Roland “Rhetoric of the Image.” Image, Music, Text. Ed. and trans. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977. 32-51
Latour, Bruno “What Is Iconoclash? Or Is There a World Beyond the Image Wars?”. ICONOCLASH: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art.
Nelson, Nicolas “Nano Sock” http://www.nextnature.net/2010/07/nano-supermarket-%E2%80%93jury-report/”
Next Nature, “Nano Supermarket – Jury Report” http://www.nextnature.net/2010/07/nano-supermarket-%E2%80%93jury-report/
Devitt, Terry “Study: Religion colors Americans’ views of nanotechnology”, University of Wisconsin-Madison Newshttp://www.news.wisc.edu/14773
Maynard, Andrew “What do people think about synthetic biology?” Nanotechnology News Portalhttp://www.nanovip.com/what-do-people-think-about-synthetic-biology.html