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Volume, Depth, and the (In)visibilities of Water

8dfgx72x-1412854892Thanks to a retweet from Klaus Dodds, I recently read this blogpost by marine ecologist Jon Copley on seabed mapping. Copley’s central message is that the statistics that we continually see reproduced in the media about 95% of the seabed being ‘unexplored’ and about us knowing more about the surface of Mars than we do about the ocean floor are oversimplifications. Different kinds of maps and ‘explorations’ reflect different knowledges and serve different purposes. Copley brilliantly moves from a technical discussion of mapping techniques (e.g. satellites vs. surface-based sonar vs. submersibles) and attendant issues of resolution and scale to suggest that our acceptance of depictions of the ocean as ‘unknown’ derives from our failure to ask more conceptual questions regarding the representative power of the map and the nature of knowledge.

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AAG Call for Papers: Territory beyond Terra

Together with Kimberley Peters and Elaine Stratford, I’m organising a session at next year’s Association of American Geographers meeting on ‘Territory beyond Terra’. For more information, see the Call-for-Papers.

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Of Franklin, the Northwest Passage, Scotland, and Crimea

Its been a busy week for students of Arctic identity, what with all the noise surrounding Canada’s discovery of the remains of one of Sir John Franklin’s ships that went down in 1845 when seeking the Northwest Passage. Klaus Dodds has posted an insightful commentary on the political implications of the discovery (and the attention being give to it by the media and the Canadian government) on the Royal Holloway Geopolitics & Security blog. See also Adriana Craciun‘s excellent editorial in the Ottawa Citizen.

Joël Plenlouffe and I have added our thoughts on the matter in a 10-minute segment on the Voice of Russia’s UK service, ‘Franklin ship discovery throws a spotlight on Arctic ambitions‘. Joël and I agree that the discovery of the ship — or, for that matter, the record of Franklin’s journey — has no legal significance. The event of the discovery is, however, significant, because news media and the political elites speaking to them have chosen to make it so.

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Politiomorphology of the post-Scotland United Kingdom

IMG_3844 copyIn my capacity as Director of IBRU, I get lots of odd requests. Perhaps the strangest, though, was one that I received earlier this week from BBC Radio Belfast to appear live on BBC Belfast’s Evening Extra news programme. The topic that evening was whether a Scotland-free United Kingdom would have a funny shape. They wanted my expert opinion on just what was a proper shape for a state. Really.

The news story was inspired by the cover of that morning’s Belfast Telegraph. While the story itself went on to ask some  very reasonable questions about what Scottish independence might do for relations between Scotland and Northern Ireland, BBC Belfast decided to simply stop at the cover art and ask whether, indeed, a Scotland-free UK would ‘be an odd shape for a nation’. Continue Reading »

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On research, impact, and public relations in the ‘empty’ north

Seeing one’s own research described in a news release is always an interesting experience. Sometimes it’s exciting, sometimes it’s confusing, sometimes it’s frustrating. In the end, though, by reflecting on the differences between how you understand your research and how others understand it, a lot can be learned about the cultures of research and research administration. That’s what I try to achieve in this blogpost, where I reflect on the draft of a news release that I received by email this weekend from the European Commission.

First, a bit of background: During 2012 and 2013 I held a European Commission Marie Curie Fellowship at Royal Holloway, University of London with the slightly-too-cute acronym of GAIA (Global Alternatives for an Interconnected Arctic). When I accepted my current post at Durham, I terminated the fellowship early (in August 2013), and, with the input of ‘Scientist-in-Charge’ Klaus Dodds, I submitted a required report to the European Commission detailing what I had accomplished during the fellowship. Now, exactly one year (!) after the fellowship has ended, the European Commission has placed the report’s executive summary on its website and a communications officer there has drafted a news release publicising the project’s results.

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Thinking outside the Ice Cube

I’ve just posted a ‘reflections’ piece on the Ice Law Project blog, where I use the aims of the Ice Law Project to look back at testimony that I gave on Tuesday to the House of Lords Arctic Committee.

In addition to interrogating the relationship between ice and politics, I consider some of the problems inherent when one tries to to ‘think outside the box’ (or ‘outside the ice cube’) while engaging the practical solutions orientation of the policy-making community.


Click on the image  for full video of the testimony (the first hour is on international security; the Law of the Sea panel, on which I appear with Robin Churchill and Maurice Mendelson, begins at 11:41).

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Reflections on Professor Elizabeth DeLoughrey’s visit to York


An excellent write-up of Liz DeLoughrey’s visit to York earlier this month.

Originally posted on Resources of Resistance: Production, Consumption, Transformation:

We were delighted to welcome Professor Elizabeth DeLoughrey (UCLA) to York earlier this week for what was a hugely enjoyable day of productive conversations on maritime and oceanic themes.

Professor DeLoughrey led a workshop based on a selection of readings, before giving a talk, entitled ‘The Sea is Rising: Visualizing Climate Change in the Pacific’, for which you can read an abstract here. What follows is an attempt to draw together some common themes from the day, which we hope to build on during the conference later in the month.

With the help of Professor DeLoughrey, we chose readings for the workshop which we thought reflected some of the most interesting scholarship taking place on the sea today. You can read the selections here.

The sea provides an underpinning element for many, if not most, of the resources we will be discussing at Resources of Resistance, given its fundamental role in systems of world…

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