Narratives of Environmental Risk: Fate, Luck and Fortune

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: School of Humanities

Abstract

The proposed network brings together scholars from across different disciplines (arts, humanities, social and physical sciences; see Academic Beneficiaries), creative writers, business strategists and policy makers to investigate the presence and role of concepts of fate, luck and fortune (hereafter FLF) in discussions of environmental risks, to develop a nuanced understanding of the variety of ways in which, in different historical and geographical contexts, concepts of FLF have played a role or roles in perceptions and expressions of risk, and responses to it, and continue to do so.

In modern post-enlightenment western culture, risk tends to be described in terms of quantification. Setting FLF side-by-side with risk may seem incongruous: it has been argued that the idea of risk is what differentiates the modern era; risk management has become an arena of expertise, and specialised education and training. However, it is now widely accepted that people respond less to objective information about risks and take more notice of their own perceptions of danger, shaped by the implicit assumptions of their particular culture, including the role of FLF; nevertheless, these conceptions and the role that they play in shaping decision-making are rarely if ever made explicit and addressed.

This network aims to provide a systematic overview of the ways in which concepts of FLF have been, and continue to be expressed in historical, contemporary and futuristic narratives concerned with environmental risk, for example, from ancient Greek dedications to the goddess tuche ('Chance'), to contemporary climate change fiction. Such an exploration will not only bring insights from other cultures, but also provide new perspectives on contemporary narratives of environmental risk-with the potential to reconsider current approaches to responses to environmental risk.

There are three planned workshops addressing the following themes:
- Historicising the role of FLF, providing scholars who study environmental risks with clarification of the development of these ideas and their use in this context;
- Developing new policy approaches, exploring how a more thorough understanding of the role of FLF in narratives of environmental risk may be used to develop new responses in current policy;
- The popularisation of FLF, exploring the ways in which conceptions of FLF (or personifications of abstract powers) remain powerful in historical and current discourses (visual, written and oral) concerned with environmental risks, and how they shape perceptions of agency.

The project aims to provide insights that that will develop beyond the usual assumptions about environmental risks, gaining new perspectives, developing new questions and approaches to data, working with new evidence and methodologies. This will be achieved by bringing together the heuristic tools of different disciplines across the arts and humanities, sciences and social sciences. The network will also include participants from a broad range of publics and key stakeholders, including those working at the science - policy interface, in business, but also in the creative arts. As well as helping to develop a shared arena of research, the network aims to contribute to relevant public and policy conversations concerning the nature and role of fate luck and fortune in contemporary society, and in attitudes to environmental risks.

Planned Impact

Research into the nature of environmental risk--and responses to it--is becoming increasingly urgent. Scientific communities tend to focus on quantifiable aspects of risks, which inform public policy narratives. But the role played by underlying beliefs concerned with fate, luck and fortune (FLF)--informed by historical developments and cultural norms--is rarely examined; and although the role of public and/or popular narratives is increasingly being recognised as offering insights that can aid risk management and the crafting of public policy, how to integrate them remains a key question.

This project seeks to bring together the findings from across the arts, humanities, social science and science arenas to examine how popular beliefs of FLF have shaped and continue to influence perceptions of agency in contexts of environmental risk. It will draw on the expertise of those creating popular narratives concerned with environmental risks, as well as those working with such narratives in business and government.

1. Public impact: Results will be disseminated across academic disciplines, but also to a wider audience, with the aim of raising awareness of the role of FLF in public and popular narratives concerned with environmental risk. Working with the Nottingham Writers' Studio and professional writers, and using social media, and a public lecture, we hope not only to invite the public to explore, but also to develop, new narratives of environmental risk. We aim to identify ways in which such narratives might be better integrated into the development of appropriate environmental risk communication strategies, and so to shape public and popular debate about responses to environmental risk.

We therefore envisage impacts across four additional key sectors:
2. Creative arts: Alongside its analytical focus, the project's explicit discussion of FLF as a crucial but often implicit aspect of narrative will offer a rich vein of material for artists to integrate into their creative work. Through collaboration with the Nottingham Writers' Studio and invited writers and artists, the project will inspire both immediate creative and artistic outputs and longer-term collaborations; these will also encourage reflection on the role of FLF in shaping responses to environmental risks.

3. Policy: Understanding the implications of beliefs in FLF is essential for the creation of effective policy. Individuals working in or with policy-making within international and national government or in fields or with constituencies affected by environmental risks have agreed to participate in the project. Historical case studies presented at the meetings will not only provide a long-term perspective on the significance of FLF beliefs, but also offer 'neutral territory' for examining contemporary concerns. The aim is to develop understanding of underlying beliefs (among both the public and the policymakers) that continue to influence environmental risk perception.

4. Business: The use of 'scenarios' for strategic planning means that narrative can play a crucial role in business strategy. Through participation in the project of members of corporate strategic teams and strategic consultants, the project will engage with those who shape current business strategies; this will aid exploration of the role of FLF in the formation and audiences of business strategy.

5. Education: education can play an important role in creating an environmental risk-literate society. We aim to reach the educational sector by working directly with schools, as well as through social media. In addition, the Co-I's links with the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers will enable further dissemination of the outcomes of this research; finally, through the participation of representatives of government, the project aims to impact educational policy.

Publications

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Eidinow, E (2019) ???a at the Oracle of Zeus, Dodona in Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik (ZPE)

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
AH/N006062/1 02/07/2016 31/08/2017 £27,784
AH/N006062/2 Transfer AH/N006062/1 01/09/2017 31/07/2018 £14,031
 
Title Animation 
Description This is an animation of the outputs created by students as part of the workshop on Old Myths/New Myths of the Environment--a workshop developed as part of the teaching materials for the Royal Geographical Society as part of the impact of this project. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact Too early to tell 
URL https://www.rgs.org/schools/teaching-resources/fate,-luck-and-fortune-environmental-risk/
 
Title Visiting the Oracle 
Description Five immersive films (360 degree film), co-produced with Bristol students, which recreate the experience of consulting the oracle of Dodona. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact Responses from teachers who are teaching about Dodona for the A Level OCR Classical Civilisation curriculum. 
URL https://oraclevisit.blogs.bristol.ac.uk
 
Description Please see the previous report on this award: AH/N006062/2
Exploitation Route Please see the previous report on this award: AH/N006062/2
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Energy,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description The findings of the project have been used by members of the team (the PI, Eidinow and Adam Burgess) to create material for teaching for the Royal Geographical Society. This is being put up over time on the Society's website (https://www.rgs.org/schools/teaching-resources/fate,-luck-and-fortune-environmental-risk/). The PI has published, with Claire Craig, Director of Science Policy at the Royal Society, a piece in The Conversation. Claire Craig reports that the project has been influential on the approaches of the Royal Society to the role of narrative in public discourse of and about the role of science. The PI has co-created with students from Bristol, a series of five short immersive films that recreate consultation of the oracle at Dodona (https://oraclevisit.blogs.bristol.ac.uk). Please see the report on the project Narratives of Environmental Risk: Fate, Luck and Fortune/1
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Electronics,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Bloomsbury Book Series 
Organisation Justus Liebig University Giessen
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I am leading the editorial team for a new book series to be published by Bloomsbury: Ancient Environments.
Collaborator Contribution Anna Collar (Southampton) and Katharina Lorenz (Giessen) are co-editors on this series.
Impact Series proposal accepted by Bloomsbury Publishing. The collaboration is multi-disciplinary (Classics, Ancient History, Archaeology as the key disciplines of the scholars involved, but also including Eco-Criticism, Ecology, Environmental Studies).
Start Year 2018
 
Description Royal Society 
Organisation The Royal Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Claire Craig, Director of Science Policy at the Royal Society, has noted the influence of the project on her research activities at the Royal Society, including: Influence of the inclusion of experts for the Royal Society's AI Narrative work (which refers back to Homer). This is available on the Royal Society's website.
Collaborator Contribution Claire Craig was a participant in the project, and collaborated on a piece for The Conversation, written with the PI, Esther Eidinow
Impact Research piece for the Conversation
Start Year 2018
 
Description Royal Society 2 
Organisation The Royal Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Influenced the development of a Royal Society event on Narrative and Science (2 May 2019): the PI (Eidinow) has been invited.
Collaborator Contribution Invitation to attend a workshop on Narrative and Science
Impact Collaboration: the PI and Craig wrote a piece for The Conversation.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Article in The Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Written by Esther Eidinow (PI) in collaboration with network participant Claire Craig (chief science policy officer of the Royal Society, here acting in a personal capacity). This piece explored parallels between use of oracles and modelling.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://theconversation.com/oracles-and-models-ancient-and-modern-ways-of-telling-the-future-90124
 
Description Fate, Luck and Fortune project Workshop 1: Historical narratives of environmental risk 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop examined the development of concepts of Fate and Luck in narratives from different historical periods, exploring how the characteristics of these concepts (if not these concepts themselves) have emerged in different temporal and spatial contexts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/events/2017/march/historical-narratives-environmental-risk.html
 
Description Fate, Luck and Fortune project Workshop 2: Political narratives of environmental risk 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The second workshop of the network investigated how conceptions of fate, luck and fortune, and related notions of risk and agency, play out in political and organisational discourses.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/events/2017/july/political-narratives-environmental-risk.html
 
Description Fate, Luck and Fortune, workshop 3 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The Fate, Luck and Fortune project's final workshop investigated whether and how conceptualisations of fate, luck and fortune remain powerful in current, as well as historical, popular discourses concerned with environmental risks.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/events/2017/september/popular-narratives-environmental-risk.html
 
Description Interview of Esther Eidinow for BBC Radio 4, Archive on 4 'Good Luck Professor Spiegelhalter' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview of Esther Eidinow for BBC R4 for Archive on 4: 'Good Luck Professor Spiegelhalter': Interview on the history of ideas of chance, luck, fate, fortune, in the context of risk by Prof. David Spiegelhalter, the Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University who looked at at notions of luck in gambling, traces the origins of how we think about fate and fortune, the religious and psychological view of luck and how the emergence of theory of probability changed our view of it. Broadcast January 6th.Chosen as a podcast by Rhianna Dillon (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05tkykr) for 'Seriously'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2017
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09kpmys
 
Description Podcasts on Ancient Greek Religion 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A series of podcasts about Greek religious rituals, assembled by a team drawn from the participants of the CAARE project (Hugh Bowden, Felix Budelmann, Esther Eidinow, Robert Parker, Yulia Ustinova). The podcasts were accompanied by a scheme of work created by the PI of the project, Esther Eidinow. This was produced in collaboration with the Historical Association.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2017,2018
URL https://www.history.org.uk/secondary/module/8658/podcast-series-associated-scheme-of-work-an-int
 
Description Presentation at Performing the Future, workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The presentation was by Esther Eidinow. This was a workshop organised by Rachel Jacobs, who is a digital artist working on ideas and approaches to the future, and was part of her larger project 'Performing the Future', a collaborative project that involves a series of experimental artist-led labs, public labs, research based workshops and a national tour of the extended version of artwork The Prediction Machine, taking place between June 2017 and June 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.performingthefuture.net/about/
 
Description Public Lecture by Jackson Lears 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public Lecture by Professor Jackson Lears, Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of History at Rutgers University and Editor in Chief of Raritan: a Quarterly Review, Rutgers University, on "The Return of Animal Spirits", 7 September 2017, 6.00 PM - 7.30 PM. This was held in the University of Liverpool in London, 33 Finsbury Square, London, EC2A 1AG. It was advertised widely--in print (the London Review of Books) and online (through Twitter).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007,2017
URL http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/events/2017/september/jackson-lears-animal-spirits.html
 
Description Radio Interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview on the history of luck: BBC Radio 4: Archive on 4: Good Luck Professor Spiegelhalter
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05tkykr
 
Description School Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The PI developed a workshop as part of the educational materials for the Royal Geographical Society; the workshop material was trialled at Bristol Grammar School. The results were used for an animation. (See Impact Narrative.)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.rgs.org/schools/teaching-resources/fate,-luck-and-fortune-environmental-risk/