Kevin Williams, associate professor and chair of the department of communication, has received a National Communicators Award for his eBook titled “The Depths of Perception: A Communicology of Scuba Diving.” According to their website, “The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program recognizing big ideas in marketing and communications.”
“How can scuba diving change the way you experience everyday life? This book explores the professional, pop cultural, and personal experiences of scuba diving and scuba divers.” So reads the description in the iTunes store for Williams’ book. However, there’s more to this eBook than the description reveals. In addition to being in the relatively new world of electronic publishing, this book is also an immersive experience that incorporates music, video, animation, philosophy and storytelling.
Scuba diving is the lens through which Williams discusses communication theory in the book. “I was hoping that because it’s dealing with popular culture, it would help undergraduates understand some of the more esoteric aspects of communication theory while reading about something they can grasp,” Williams says. He explains that although diving plays a role, it’s not a book geared toward divers.
The idea to combine his experiences Scuba diving with communication theory first came to Williams when he was getting his doctorate. He said he was “dealing with human experience in a communicational level and at the same time I was taking Scuba diving lessons” when his professor told him to combine these two experiences. He then wrote a total of six papers and they were all well received at academic conferences. “I had this book 22 years ago before I got the job at Shepherd. I was working on other things, so it just sat there for years,” Williams explains. In fact, it sat there until he went on sabbatical and decided to turn those papers into something substantial. Williams’ first major decision was how to execute the project the way he envisioned it.
A pivotal part of the experience, Williams says, are the scores that he composed, performed and recorded himself. “I’ve been working on the music for years because that’s what I do. When I’m done here today, I’ll go home and play music for an hour to unwind,” Williams says. “It’s a strong part of the whole work. It was stronger than the animation.” Indeed, the music was good enough to win an award. Although Williams initially submitted his work in the interactive multimedia category, it wasn’t until the application process that he realized he could submit his work in two categories. “So I chose music and it got an award. I hadn’t even known there was a music category,” Williams states. The experience of having his work judged by those who are a part of the National Communicators Awards committee was exciting. “You’re up there with NPR people,” Williams says. “And I’m being judged by people in the field, which I like.”
“Depths of Perception” is free, although it is available only through the iTunes store for iPads and Mac computers. This decision was not an easy one. Williams describes sitting down with others in the Communication Department to discuss iBooks, the platform through which his book was published. Although he was never perfectly happy with it, it served its purpose. Williams admits he wishes for a bigger audience, something every author can attest to, but iBooks and Apple in general are notorious for being incompatible with other software. “I like [Apple] a lot, but I don’t like their proprietary background,” Williams says. Regardless, it was too late to turn back, and when asked about future possibilities of having his book published in different formats, Williams said it was a lot of work just to get it published through iBooks exactly how he wanted it. “It’s been a great experience, but I can see why there’s not a lot of multimedia publishing. I feel like I could use a staff of people. I’ve got me, and my wife proofreads. She’s a good proofreader, though,” he adds with a laugh.
“Depths of Perception: A Communicology of Scuba Diving” can be downloaded free via iTunes for use on products with an iBook app.