Two articles from my ‘Wet Ontologies’ project, both co-authored with Kimberley Peters, are due for publication in the next month or two: ‘Wet Ontologies, Fluid Dynamics: Giving Depth to Volume through Oceanic Thinking’, which will be published in Environment and Planning D: Society & Space, and a companion paper, ‘Volume and Vision: Toward a Wet Ontology’, which will be published in Harvard Design Magazine. To roll out the papers, I’ll be giving a number of talks on the topic over the next months.
I’m at the 2nd annual Arctic Circle conference in Reykjavik, a combination trade show, diplomatic showcasing event, networking extravaganza, and academic conference that follows up on the 2013 meeting, which I reported on last year.
If I learned one thing at yesterday’s plenary sessions it’s that the Arctic has nasty weather. I’m not just referring to the stormy winds encountered by attendees as they walked across the plaza to the entrance of Reykjavik’s Harpa convention centre. The region’s rough weather also was a dominant theme in several of the first day’s presentations.
Why the weather?
Thanks 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.
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 Plouffe 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.
In 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 »
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.