Homing in: Sensing, sense-making and sustainable place-making (an arts and social sciences collaborative network)

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Social Sciences

Abstract

We argue that the major societal problems of our time require interconnected, collaborative efforts to creatively and imaginatively address the risks, instabilities, uncertainties and rapid pace of change in human-ecological relationships. Climate scientists continue to warn of the effects of dangerous climate change. Social scientists and policy makers seek alternative strategies capable of promoting better science-public communications, greater community resilience and social sustainability. Increasingly artists are concerned to relinquish notions of aesthetic autonomy and instead seek to use the imaginative and affective potentiality of artworks to promote the quest for different ecological and environmental futures.

We will set up a collaborative cross disciplinary network combining the arts and humanities with the social sciences that will be conducive to developing creative and imaginative research strategies and methods for studying experiences of environmental risks in the C21 and the transformative changes needed to respond to them. The substantive focus of the network will be on processes of homing: i.e. spatially and temporally dynamic ways of "being at home". We wish to investigate the possible role of homing in promoting the kinds of narratives of care, attachment and security that provide people and communities with a sense of ecological knowing, along with the kinds of action-enabling connections people can make linking place and identity together at different spatial and temporal scales. We believe that this will provide insightful strategies opening out ways of thinking about sustainability practice and sustainable place-making.

For scholars and artists, processes of homing often involve a reconfiguration of the boundaries between the body and the sensory world: considerable importance is thus given to the embodied, imaginative attention people pay in their everyday lives to their surroundings - to the place they are in. A similar focus is found in interpretative traditions of qualitative social science with its long track record of producing understandings of everyday life that emerge out of in vivo investigations of empirical sensory perceptions and the textured ways in which people make meaning in everyday life when it is viewed close up. However, whereas the arts (in particular theatre and performance) place greatest emphasis on the body (sensing), interpretive social science produces recognisable knowledge of the practical ways in which people establish meaningful, affective connections in situated encounters and their embedding within local cultures, communities and wider social relationships (sense-making). We need to know more about how everyday affective processes that matter are capable of crossing over established space-time boundaries.

Our arts-social science network will bring our different disciplinary approaches together in new ways to investigate processes of homing and feature creative research strategies and methods for inquiring into sensing and sense-making. We will focus on the understanding this affords for ecological thinking as it spans across different times and places. We will do this both by working together to critically appreciate one another's work and engage in partnership working with local artists, policy and other stakeholder communities (including the creative arts industry) over the course of one year. During this time we will participate in collaborative activities and events. We will also schedule a series of presentations by environmental thinkers and artists about their work at the Cardiff Philosophy Café (to include show and tell events to demonstrate arts performances). Towards the end of the year we will conduct an inclusive conference in World Café style and produce an accessible report for distribution to our non HE partners. We will disseminate outcomes of our collaborative working through talks, briefings and visits to our partner organisations.

Planned Impact

A key part of our case for support is that the excellence and impact of publically funded, University-based research can be increased by finding more creative, collaborative ways of working to produce and disseminate research outputs for a broader base of research beneficiaries. Our planned collaborative activities and events (local café events, World Café-style Conference) will widen public engagement between academics and groups and organisations outside the HE sector some of whom are formally listed as project partners. Groups/users of research who have already agreed to take part span performing artists and creative arts practitioners; local communities engaged in actions on climate change, low carbon energy and other sustainable community initiatives; NGOs, government policy makers and senior advisors to local authorities in the environment and sustainability sector. We have strategies in place to grow our network in appropriate ways as our work unfolds. We have designed into our work programme ways of ensuring that we include in our events members of the public who are not already actively involved as participants in local community or government sustainability initiatives. Working with our partners we will develop and curate a range of specific, knowledge development and practical implementation strategies suited for non-academic audiences so that users may take steps to promote their wider use beyond the organised events themselves. Digital/world wide web, textual and multimodal records of interactions generated - often by users themselves - in the course of our activities will be a means of capturing ephemera to encourage circulation of our activities among learning communities. These resources will be relayed to/replayed in other settings to create their own traces and legacies, serve as testimonies of involvement, and create new, demonstrable forms of knowledge capital. Our activities will encourage efforts that are already underway and establish new wa for local communities to contribute to meeting the challenges associated with global environmental change. Our particular focus will be on the ways in which such changes are becoming increasingly relevant to local communities and at the micro-level of people's everyday lives and routines. We will devise strategies working with the Welsh Government that will engage, rather than superficially communicate with, members of the public/communities by working to produce a briefing note drawing out the lessons from the World Café event for dissemination through our own and our partners' websites. These insights will be shareable with the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change/DECC and capable of informing important UK polices such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment. Our project will enable a range of research users to benefit themselves and others: this, in itself, amounts to a demonstrable route to impact. We will draw on and develop our existing connections within our University Institutes and across-UK networks while at the same time building further links with other UK-wide organisations by inviting them to our World Cafe event and disseminating project outcomes to them. Existing links with the AHRC's landscape and environment programme provides a highly appropriate pathway for our project to create wide impact through a major humanities research initiative. We will invite members from other networks such as Historic Weather Network and the Site, Performance and Ecology Network to join our activities and share knowledge with a view to developing further research impact and other research collaborations. We have taken steps to ensure that we will be able to promote an international dimension to our work by working with others who have this capacity and who have with a world-wide reputation for excellence. We will prioritise arts and social science (environmental/methodological) channels of influence, communications and knowledge exchange.
 
Description The major societal problems of our time require interconnected, collaborative efforts to creatively and imaginatively address the risks, instabilities, uncertainties and rapid pace of change in human-ecological relationships. Climate scientists warn of the effects of dangerous climate change. Social scientists and policy makers seek alternative strategies capable of promoting better science-public communications, community resilience and social sustainability. Arts practitioners and scholars have a long history of engagement with ecological themes. Our collaborative, cross disciplinary network combining the arts and humanities with the social sciences developed creative and imaginative research strategies and methods for studying experiences of, and sense-making about, environmental risks, emotions related to future uncertainty, and the transformative changes that are needed to respond to environmental risk and future uncertainty in the C21. Our inquiries concerned 'homing' that is, spatially and temporally dynamic ways of 'being at home' in light of its possible role in promoting the kinds of narratives of care, attachment and security that provide people with action-enabling connections that are capable of linking place and identity together at different temporal and spatial scales. Collaborative, participatory network events and activities featured presentations and performances by artists, contributions from environmental thinkers, and inclusive world café style discussions.
Exploitation Route Our findings were brought together in a highly usable way by developing an original format where arts performances were staged, prompting public discussion of intellectual problems and environmental controversies in a convivial space. This has made our work more amenable to use by other stakeholders seeking to work across boundaries between the environmental arts and social sciences, most especially those who are interested in the potentials of arts-social science collaborations for promoting community engagement and creatively engaging the public in science. The new public engagement format we have developed, demonstrated and publicised has further potential in that it may be taken up by policy makers seeking to be more responsive to the ways in which diverse publics perceive and make sense of complex risk issues involving uncertainty about the future and how policy decisions are made about them.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://sites.cardiff.ac.uk/environmentalfuturesdialogue/
 
Description In developing innovative methodological forms of arts-social science approaches to research and public engagement. The social sciences aspects of the community engagement activities have contributed to study designs for the Flexis and Coastweb projects. The role of the arts is likely to be revitalised as both research projects (Flexis and Coastweb) are part of wider partnerships and consortia that are undertaking collaborative work with arts practitioners and scholars as part of their efforts to create understanding and impact.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Coastweb 
Organisation Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Specialist qualitative social sciences work package exploring the values and meanings of saltmarsh and the coast and its contribution to well being.
Collaborator Contribution Plymouth Marine Laboratory provide the overall network support and are holders of the NERC Coastweb award.
Impact A number of multidisciplinary papers are under preparation/submission/peer review.
Start Year 2016
 
Description FLEXIS collaboration 
Organisation Government of Wales
Department Welsh European Funding Office
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution FLEXIS (Flexible Integrated Energy Systems) collaboration.
Collaborator Contribution Shared 5 year research programme from January 2016 with engineering colleagues in Cardiff University, Swansea University and University of South Wales. Total project budget £24 million.
Impact Multidisciplinary. Civil and mechanical engineering, electronics, environmental chemistry and sciences, social sciences.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Hosted site visit from Plymouth Marine Laboratory (Coral Communities team) 14th March 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This was a support activity requested by the Coral Communities project (NERC funded, P-I Dr Caroline Hattam). I developed a bespoke, full one day programme of activities for them, including a formal presentation, and with times for formal panel style discussion. The scheduled sessions started with a general orientation to research and engagement working across the arts social science interface. This involved an audio-visual presentation of the work of the AHRC Homing in- Sensing, sense-making and sustainable place making network building award. This was followed by a talk through its now archived but still available website. The main focus and discussion of the later sessions were of the methodological experimentation this collaborative work involved for community research on environmental risk, energy and decarbonisation. As the coral communities team will be working in the islands of the Western Indian Ocean (and as discussed with our visitors on the day), we hope that there will be opportunities to establish international impact for our work with them in developmental contexts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description PI presentation at storymaking symposium. November 2016. Liverpool John Moores University Screen School 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact PI presentation at storymaking symposium. November 2016. Liverpool John Moores University Screen School
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Two day end of award public engagement event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Performances and world cafe style discussions of risk and sustainability issues incorporating the aesthetics of obliquity

Two members of the research team (Henwood and Groves) had a meeting with members of the policy making community who had previously read an extended version of the report on our year long network activities. The meeting took place in August 2014 at the Welsh Goverment Offices in Cardiff. We discussed the policy implications of the research and possible future developments of the arts-colaborative network that had been established with the AHRC follow on award.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/environmentalfuturesdialogue/