2ºDIFFERENT: an ARTiculation of ocean warming

This project is in its 3rd year now, and student work has been exhibited at the NZ Marine Studies Centre, and at the Dunedin International Science Festival; it is hosted on a work-in-progress web-platform CanvasTheOcean with links to a vimeo site too.

For the last century, society has suffered from a cultural divide between Science and the Humanities. Now, the quality and merits of “progress” equated with specialisation are increasingly being questioned. However, although a multidisciplinary approach in teaching, learning and research has become the buzzword of the early 21st century, meaningful cross-cultural interaction is still rare. Enter climate change. This largest of all environmental threats may also be the common cause that binds our fractured society. Art-Science approaches are forging strong momentum in this subject area, and are bolstered by new knowledge from studies of neurophysiology, cognition and pedagogy. Here we employ art-science and creative empathetic communication to engage students (and wider public) with understanding and communicating the effect of ocean warming.


 Rationale: Engagement requires an emotive component and we are ‘far too mammalian’ to really understand the effect of a 2˚    increase in environmental temperature. We don’t innately ‘get it’, and thus are incapable of empathy with the vast majority of organisms on this planet that are ectotherms (not warm-blooded). Clear delivery of facts will never be memorable enough to inspire action; emotional engagement is the answer but in many instances necessitates complex sensory immersion in another organism’s world. How effective might be sensory representation through a creative sci-art approach be? Can visual narratives be captured from the organisms themselves?

 Goal: To emotively communicate the far-reaching effects of global warming by representation of non-mammalian (ectotherm’s) responses to increased temperature. ‘Evidence’ in this case is generated by documenting the organism’s response to warming, but it is not then represented in the traditional approach of data points on graphs. Rather, creative devices are actively explored that capture response as engaging sensory representations -from visual to auditory. In other words, the goal is to capture the organism’s own biological manifestation -animal “artefacts of warming”, and creatively represent this response. What is the effect of increased temperature on the every day life of the ectotherms surrounding us? How can we best represent how profound an influence 2º warming can have? Hopefully this approach will help people more emotively conceptualise how enormous an effect global warming imposes on the vast living world of non-mammals!

Student projects

Some students stick straight to the remit like in this short film : a  story about sea snails on a slippery slope…

or use a visual narrative taking us into the private lives of local marine animals: read/see Patrick Robert’s work here and Alex Duckles’ here

or employ dance to connect us to the lives of organisms in a warming sea 

or create a digital “game” to explore the change of effects that come with warming…

Others spin their stories WIDE…. like Veronica Stevenson’s cartoon GeneralDanilo_SeaUrchinInvasion

or Andrew McNaughton’s science fiction piece AMcNaughton +2 Deg Scom 419

or tackle the issue from truly novel angles – like this piece using fractals to explore the effects of warming on seaweed!

or these  on social aspects of climate change and oil  or local economy .

Here is a wee montage  of several video projects from the 2011 class 


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  1. Pingback: 2º different: ARTiculation of change | Jenny Rock

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