Examining Our Potential: Is it like today?
In what feels like simpler times, perhaps even several lifetimes ago, there once was a workshop ….
The Ocean Sciences Meeting, co-sponsored by the American Geophysical Union, the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, and The Oceanography Society, held in San Diego from 16-20 February 2020 set the scene for the third in an on-going series of workshops by the Catching a Wave Collaborative.
This is how we workshop
Catching a Wave (CaW), an initiative that started while the FEC IPO was based at MaREI, ERI at University College Cork, brings together artists and physical and social scientists with communication and engagement specialists to galvanize change by creating discussion spaces around ocean and coastal health with multiple audiences. The workshops act as catalysts for shifting individual and collective mind-sets toward action for more sustainable oceans and coasts and the people who live, work, and interact within these spaces.
The initial concept of using waves as focal points to generate an emotional and behavioural reaction to oceans and coasts was introduced during a pilot workshop at the Society and the Sea Conference in 2018 (here’s the blog link). The outcomes from Society and the Sea informed a second iteration implemented during the Art in the Anthropocene (AiA) Conference in 2019 (here’s the blog link).
Questioning our art-science approach
So finally to our third workshop that took place at the 2020 Ocean Sciences Meeting and as part of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development activities. Art-science collaborations are not new but there are barriers and challenges to this transdisciplinary model of working, not least in finding a common language, gelling methods of practice and maintaining communication. Continual self-reflection has become a common exercise for the CaW team. This workshop gave us a real opportunity to reflect on past discussions and feedback from different events and how an integrated art-science approach may resonate, or not, with a more predominately biophysical scientist audience. In addition, we wanted to think about, and critically discuss, how we were working in collaboration. Engaging our workshop audience around both of these themes created space for a myriad of questions including how early career scientists might engage in art-science practice, how art-science projects can be evaluated, and if there was a possibility of building an international network of interested practitioners.
How to measure what we do?
The evaluation conundrum is one we have been wrestling with since we initiated CaW. Quantitative methods (e.g. visitor numbers at art exhibitions, number of article citations) do not provide the data needed to determine the value and benefit of aesthetic engagement, while conventional qualitative evaluations are insufficient because they do not assess value beyond their disciplinary value structures. We would like to use this as a call for broader engagement of scholars of all shapes and sizes in this debate. As true advocates for transdisciplinary approaches that provide us with (i) the ability to engage diverse publics and (ii) the ability to ‘do’ social, cultural and political work, we must find a way of actively evaluating the impact this work is having as far as catalysing behaviour change and creating knowledge for society. If this is a discussion you would like to contribute to or be involved in please do contact us at email@example.com so we can keep you informed of possibilities to engage.
Connecting us all through The Planetary Wave Project
We handed out a mini wavelet to all of our workshop participants as well as to several other attendees at the OSM meeting. These wavelets did, however, come with responsibilities and were distributed with postcards detailing a virtual installation – The Planetary Wave Project – that we are developing to connect all the wavelets and people who have them.
Over to you
If you were given one at the OSM or at a previous CaW workshop, please send us a picture of either (i) you and your wavelet along with your name & the location of where the photo is taken (city/town/village and country) or (ii) simply a picture of your wavelet in an iconic, picturesque or meaningful to you landscape to firstname.lastname@example.org. All the images we receive will be uploaded into a grid to form a virtual installation demonstrating the scope and breadth of the connection to ocean and coastal spaces we all have.
In a time when social and racial inequalities are being highlighted across the world, and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are determined to celebrate diversity of thought, identity, culture and place. If you have a wavelet, please help us realise this determination.
Extra extra read all about it
Published in Frontiers for Marine Science our first joint paper: Examining the Potential of Art-Science Collaborations in the Anthropocene: A Case Study of Catching a Wave. Read more about it here or download directly from here.
 The Catching A Wave collective is a core partnership between the following universities, organisations and scholars based in the USA, the UK and Ireland; Lisa Beth Robinson (East Carolina University), Kristin Thielking, (University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point), Mrill Ingram (University of Wisconsin–Madison), Shona Paterson (Brunel University London), Martin Le Tissier and Hester Whyte (University College Cork). To see more, and to see our other collaborators, please visit: www.catchingawave.org
Blog post by Shona Paterson