Digital Story Critique #15: The Surprising Science of How We “Taste” Food

*I am currently working my way through my fourth semester of the Information and Learning Technologies master’s program at University of Colorado, Denver.  This is the fifteenth post within a series of critiques on digital stories that I’ve been assigned to write for a course titled Digital Storytelling.

This week’s critique is on a short video produced by Kathryn Carlson titled, The Surprising Science of How We Taste FoodI found the video inside an article by April Fulton titled, The Taste of Food Goes Far Beyond the Tongue.  Kathryn Carlson is a freelance documentary videographer and April Fulton is the senior blogger and wrangler for The Plate, the official food blog for National Geographic (we all know how much I love Nat Geo from posts like this one, this one, and this one).  April’s article tells the story behind the video – that was created for another article (which is sadly only available to paid subscribers) – about how we experience taste.


To critique this piece, I used the following traits from Jason Ohler’s “Assessing digital stories, new media narrative“: 1.) research, 2.) writing, and 3.) media application.

  • Research – I don’t think that Ms. Carlson needed to do any research on the actual subject itself because the bulk of the video is footage of Oxford Psychologist, Charles Spence, narrating and discussing the topic to the camera. But even if she didn’t need to research the science behind how we taste, it’s obvious that she researched what to shoot and film for the video.  Her footage and choice of clips clearly demonstrate a knowledge of what is appealing to an audience and what makes a good visual story.Charles Spence
  • Writing – I don’t know if the narration was scripted or just pieced together after asking Dr. Spence several questions, but the narration of the film is done really well and flows nicely. The film opens with quantitative information such as percentages, facts, and figures, which let us know that Dr. Spence is a credible resource.  He then goes on to explain that what we think of taste in our mouths is not what is really happening.  He discusses how flavor is the most multi-sensory of all experiences; the sound of crunching and crackling, the smell in your nose, the taste in your mouth, and then the visual appearance of what you’re going to eat or drink.  He says that all of these cues come together and bring about the experience that we think is in our mouths but really generates from our brains.  I found the most interesting content to be how colors are attached to certain flavors and because our tastes are so visual, it’s actually a sort of trickery in our brains. Nine Screens
  • Media application – As stated in the research bullet above, Ms. Carlson obviously has an incredible knowledge of what is appealing to an audience and what makes a good visual story. With this particular video, she did an excellent job of using different types of visuals.  For example, she shows people eating, but not in an awkward “I can hear them chewing” kind of way.  She includes clips of Dr. Spence scattered throughout, breaking up various elements.  At one point, she shows multiple screens at once, fitting nine clips of footage on screen at one time.  Carlson even has a short clip that utilizes stop-motion animation to move “bad” foods off the screen and move “good” foods in. Stop-Motion

For a video that’s only one minute and thirty-three seconds, Ms. Carlson fit in so many wonderful visual elements that combined with Dr. Spence’s narration, truly created a wonderful and informative short digital story!  I highly recommend taking two minutes to watch the video and learn something new today.  Just be careful not to get lost for an hour looking at the rest of the digital stories on National Geographic’s website!cake

*All images taken from short video.