Sunk Shore

Carolyn Hall and Clarinda Mac Low

Carolyn Hall and Clarinda Mac Low will conduct a participatory workshop around data embodiment based on Sunk Shore, their experiential, speculative fiction tour of climate-changed shorelines. They will lead participants through visioning exercises and personal connections to bodies of water to illustrate the importance of local knowledge in communicating stories about difficult to conceptualize issues, such as climate change and global pandemics. They will explore similarities between the climate and pandemic crises, and will speculate on how acknowledging and documenting individual experiences can inform our navigation through constantly shifting ecological data and future impacts on our and our planet’s health.

9 replies on “Sunk Shore”

Thanks for joining us – we’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on including local knowledge, local expertise into the greater body of acknowledged and valued data. How has your or someone else’s local experience shed light on an environmental or socio-cultural issue that even in a small way influenced study, awareness, and/or policy?

At the end of your talk, you begin talking about a London-based covid-app that asked users to upload their stories. I sense that you really appreciate that project, and I wonder how its egalitarian impulse infuses your goals for Sunk Shore. You provide tools for others to create their own walks, on their own sunk shores. Can you imagine aggregating them or connecting them up in some way?

Thanks for putting these two thoughts together for us! Yes, the self-reporting symptom app in London actually revealed temporary anosmia, or loss of sense of smell, to be widely experienced and shortly thereafter was more officially recognized as a COVID-19 symptom.

As we work to expand Sunk Shore to more locations, it would be great to find ways to aggregate and compare place-based history and present experience data and future scenario expectations or imaginings and see where such localized information overlaps. Wouldn’t it be enlightening to find places that seem diametrically opposed have similar fears, dreams, experiences? And would that provide opportunities for connections not possible before …

This is great example of why engaging the arts is so important to climate communication. You are creating “memories of the future” so to speak that are so necessary for prompting new ways of thinking and being. Brava!

Thanks so much, Dominic!
Your work to document the emotional responses and affective orientation to climate trauma is reflected in and key to how people choose to envision the future and whether they would want to experience the utopian, realistic, or dystopian version based on site-specific climate modeling data. I wonder if people within your three categories – diluvial individualism, hydraulic citizenship, and amphibious acceptance – would choose similar or different future scenarios to visit in our time traveling journey. Would the lived experience line up with future hopes or fears?

This is such wonderful work. I’m wondering how you find participants for your workshops — have you ever had folks involved who really aren’t game for the imaginative parts of the exercise? Do you collect feedback after?

Thanks, Meg. In short, yes – however we can usually inspire engagement on at least a low level. We worry about participation every time because we open the workshops to the public and, although they self-select to join a “participatory, time-traveling tour” requiring imagination and physical involvement, many are not fully aware of what that actually means.

We often sense resistance from some during the first 10-15 min of the hour long tour, but we also always have enthusiastic participants as well. That balances the group and often encourages those that are more hesitant. We do gently “insist” upon a couple of “safety” precautions and prop use which bond the participants early and seem to make them feel part of an inclusive and supportive group. Also much as we did in the convening workshop, we do some sensory visioning exercises with eyes closed which allow people an easy way into using their imagination without the awareness of being watched. That being said, we encourage as much as we can within the scenario, but we also don’t push too hard. We would rather they stay part of the conversation and take the whole journey, than decide it isn’t for them and leave.

When we “return to the present” we do ask for feedback and responses – what’s resonating, what transported them, what do they want to know more about, what did we miss that they know? Almost always we hear that the imaginative and participatory aspects of the tour are the most impactful – even for those who felt resistance at the beginning or minimally participated in them. In particular I am remembering an undergraduate class that signed up for a tour on a cloudy, cold day that threatened rain the whole time. The professor had not prepared them and we had to really work hard to bring them along with us in the beginning. But about 20 minutes in, the students were contributing to the future scenario ideas, answers, visions with more imagination and deep, hard observations than many groups had. It was one of the most exhausting and exhilarating tours we gave. The professor wrote us to say that a week later they had talked about their initial resistance and realized how important the embodied experience and imaginings were to feeling the impact of and understanding the data. Hard won, but so worth it.

Thank you for sharing the Sunk Shore work and drawing connections to COVID-19 data science and experiential stories. I was thinking about the Climate Central Surging Seas: Risk Zone interactive map platform listening to your conversation, and wanted to ask how you think about the role of data in your local, speculative storytelling project as compared to a big data visualization like this one (which for the US maps draws on NOAA lidar sensor data).

Allison – thank you for bringing the Climate Central Surging Seas interactive map platform to my attention – wow! I am looking forward to spending much time exploring it.

As to the role of data in our speculative tour – that’s a great question. We heavily rely on it to create very site-specific potential scenarios and factor in the most recent predictions for sea level rise, warming, flooding, species change, disease transmission, etc., much as the big data visualization sites do. However, we find that for many people, the big data visualization is still overwhelming and requires some level of familiarity to read. What we try to do differently is to represent the data in a smaller visual, visceral, or tangible aspect of the tour – give specific information based on modeling data about how a water’s edge building will be impacted (ruined or inventively altered) by regular storms that bring 3 feet of flooding within the structure, or how transportation options will change with the loss of subways in NYC, or what assemblage of fish will exist in the once famously biodiverse New York Harbor and which ones are supplying fisheries for food (similarities to Nimble Foods for Climate Change). Similar to the Zurkow’s gorgeous “Mesocosm” you featured, we dive deep into one location and explore the various layers of impact through leaps in time. But unlike her representation of slow evolution and potential boredom – a durational aspect I am a fan of – we skip through time rather quickly to invite brief visits to changes from past to present to accumulating futures. It would be fascinating to contrast and compare a slow treatment and fast treatment and how data is absorbed through each.