Confluence Lab

at University of Idaho

Teresa Cohn, Erin James, Jenn Ladino

Teresa Cohn, Erin James, and Jennifer Ladino will talk about the current projects and future goals of the University of Idaho Confluence Lab, which they co-founded in January of 2019. The Confluence Lab incubates and implements creative interdisciplinary research projects that bring together scholars in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, and community members, to engage environmental issues in the state of Idaho. Our central premise is that the tools of the humanities—especially those related to storytelling, emotions, and communication—can help develop holistic approaches to these issues. The Lab’s five funded projects grapple with issues of particular concern in our rural state, including understandings of wilderness and skepticism about climate change.

13 replies on “Confluence Lab”

Tell us about a time that you’ve been successful at generating, interpreting, or redefining what counts as ‘data’ in regard to climate knowledge.

I found very interesting your observation that sometimes climate change deniers actually have a heightened fear of climate change and thus deny it. Do you have any examples of this? I’ve also noticed this a few times in rural areas of Oregon and Kansas where farmers or ranchers are keen observers of environmental change but cannot face what those changes mean for their livelihoods or the larger world.

I’d love to hear about your firsthand observations, Hayley! The sociologists I’m working with–Kristin Haltinner and Dilshani Sarathchandra–have published one article on fear and climate change skepticism; that one is mostly a literature review, synthesizing what researchers (Norgaard, Stoknes, and others) have noticed so far and arguing that scholarship should attend more carefully to emotions and skepticism. (I’ll email you the article, if you’d like.) But we do have interview and survey data we’re working through now that will give shape and hopefully some clarity to this question. We’re particularly focused on worry and dread as they manifest (or don’t) in self-declared skeptics. Preliminary results from the surveys suggest that high levels of worry and dread DO correlate with high levels of environmental concern, even among skeptics. Looking forward to chatting more!

Fascinating, Jenn–when possible, we’ll have to bring you to UO to talk about this project. I’d love to know what kinds of affects come up for your interviewees and for yourselves in discussion about climate change across cultural divides, particularly the urban/rural divide which I tend to experience almost as a chasm in our region.

The work with rural climate skeptics/deniers is so interesting — both here and in the U of O oral history project. I’m wondering how questions of power weave into the interview responses (and whether they are built into the questions at all)… I’m thinking of Stephanie’s use of the term “disenfranchised” and wondering if/how worry and dread are connected to perceived or real disempowerment/sense of helplessness. Partly in light of our current moment in this pandemic, I’m thinking about how much anxiety is heightened by uncertainty and lack of control, and I’m wondering if and where the communities you are working with locate power with regard to these questions.

Thanks to you all for sharing your diverse and inspiring work!!! I especially appreciate your serious attention to serving the broader communities in which you are situated, including engaging climate denial and its relation to emotion. Such important work!

The re-photography project is really interesting as a multidisciplinary exploration. I was wondering if you could comment on the way that this collaboration has worked across radically different disciplines. What have been the challenges? the greatest unexpected successes?

Congratulations on the launch of Confluence! I was struck in the examples of current lab projects about the centrality of the arts—especially fiction, photography, and sound art. Your mission foregrounds the bringing together of the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. What has been (or might be) the participation of artists, broadly defined, in your work? How are you reimagining the academic fields you represent as also including art/making/creative practices?

Another question inspired by Jen’s and Teresa’s NPS park ranger experience and by the note about focus on Idaho wilderness along with global warming….have you explored how foregrounding wilderness, parks, and biodiversity in your work in Idaho might contribute to public engagement and collaboration with projects explicitly about climate change?

Thank you for this collaborative piece, and for all the stories and work it brings forward. I enjoyed hearing about it and also reading the queries and thoughts in the thread of comments.

Hi Jenn, Teresa, and Erin–I’m blown away by what you’ve accomplished in a very short time. Like Stephanie, I hope we can bring you all to UO sometime after lockdown is over, because I see several potential opportunities for collaboration and/or cross-pollination. One is your work along the rural/urban divide. I’m also fascinated with the rephotography/music project that reveals the long duree of environmental change through embedded images (I have a friend who has done similar work that was mind-blowing) and bringing that together with music. Idaho has also been one of the key places (the other being Nevada) where scholars have been systematically documenting arborglyphs. Let’s keep this conversation going!

Jenn, Personally I love the Wilderness Suite, but then I’m a fan of modern, atonal, dissonate music, and I can imagine multiple uses for this piece. But I wonder how the broader community of Moscow/Pullman, beyond the intellectual elite, respond to this piece? How do they view its message? But this is a brilliant work, I think.

Such exciting work. Congratulations! I enjoyed the Wilderness Suite and was particularly struck by the visuals of re-photographing of the same place. It such a great tactic to visualize space and time. It strikes me as being related to Jessica’s games input/output — that the reason this is such an effective and compelling tactic for looking at time and space, is that the viewer automatically tries to figure out what has changed.