One of the highlights of 2020 has been collaborating with Lisa Roberts and a diverse range of artists, scientists and technologists on the Living Data / MEASO project focusing on arts/science and cultural synergies with the Southern Ocean.

Earlier this year we co-authored a paper which hopefully will come out early next year. As part of this work, a map including stories from many parts of the world was developed by Cat Kutay in consultation with Lisa and the team. The map will continue to grow and evolve over time. The website hosting the map summarises the project:

MEASO Living Data

Cultural perspectives of the Southern Ocean give voice on virtual country to link stories from cultural knowledge and scientific data

MEASO is the Marine Ecosystem Assessment for the Southern Ocean.
Living Data brings together stories from scientific data and Indigenous cultural knowledge, expressed through the diverse languages of art.

Scientific data and Indigenous cultural knowledges indicate that all lands and waterways are connected. In line with the strong movement towards recognising place-based knowledge and connection to country, and the central role of the Southern Ocean in regulating global health, we are collecting stories along the path of the ocean currents from Antarctica to all other areas to express the significance of the linkages around the world, of the effect of climate change.

Lisa Roberts and freshwater scientist Ellery Johnson will present a video and paper at the forthcoming Australian Freshwater Sciences Society conference in early December 2020.

Here is the video, followed by the list of authors, affiliations and an abstract.

Living Data: Using cultural arts practices to support evidence-based policy

Authors: Lisa L Roberts 1 2, Ellery Johnson 1, Paul Fletcher 3, Cat Kutay 4, Tracey Benson 5 6, Jessica Melbourne-Thomas 7 8, Katherina Petrou 1, Melissa Silk 9, Stephen Taberner 2 10, Victor Vargas Filgueira 11, Andrew Constable 7, Danae Fiore 12

  1. Science, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  2. Living Data, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  3. Victorian College of the Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts & Music, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  4. Engineering, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT, Australia
  5. More than Human Lab Wellington , Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
  6. Institute of Applied Ecology & Centre for Creative and Cultural Research, University of Canberra, Canberra, ACT, Australia
  7. Centre for Marine Socioecology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  8. Oceans & Atmosphere, CSIRO , Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  9. Design , University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  10. Spookmeister, The Spooky Men’s Chorale, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  11. First Chancellor, Comunidad Indigena Yagan Paiakoala de Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
  12. Anthropology, Conicet & Asociacion de Investigaciones Antropologicas & UBA, Buenos Aires, Argentina

This paper aims to show how the arts can expand understanding of scientific data, thereby increasing their value as fundamental to accurate, long-lived communications and robust decisions. Ancient and new technologies are explored to understand and communicate connectivity in natural systems, through stories informed by Indigenous knowledge and the scientific method.

A team of artists and scientists come together to co-author an animated interactive map, using contemporary cultural arts practices, to invite readers to experience stories told on virtual country, and to share their own relationship to country. A freshwater ecologist draws in sand the primal forms that express the ancient relationships that sustain life, and the recent disruptions to these complex systems.

Animations are co-created and geo-located to enable people to physically and viscerally connect with regions other than those they inhabit, and increase awareness of global values and issues, from different sources of knowledge.

Traditional and contemporary cultural arts can show connectivity in nature, in ways that bring to life data from the scientific method, and reveal how Indigenous knowledge and Western science can be complimentary, and show the difference between historical, natural, environmental phenomena and current unnatural phenomena.

  1. Fiore, D. (2020). The Art of Making Images: Technological Affordance, Design Variability and Labour Organization in the Production of Engraved Artefacts and Body Paintings in Tierra del Fuego (Southern South America). Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 27, 481-510.
  2. Gorddard, R., Colloff, M.J., Wise, R.M., Ware, D., and Dunlop, M. (2016). Values, rules and knowledge: Adaptation as change in the decision context. Environmental Science and Policy 57:60–69.
  3. Mcelwee, P., Fernández‐Llamazares, Á., Aumeeruddy‐Thomas, Y., Babai, D., Bates, P., Galvin, K., Guèze, M., Liu, J., Molnár, Z., and Ngo, H.T. (2020). Working with Indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) in large‐scale ecological assessments: Reviewing the experience of the IPBES Global Assessment. Journal of Applied Ecology 57, 1666-1676.
  4. Nunn, P. (2018). The edge of memory: ancient stories, oral tradition and the post-glacial world. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp 63-107.
  5. Nunn, P.D. (2020). In Anticipation of Extirpation: How Ancient Peoples Rationalized and Responded to Postglacial Sea Level Rise. Environmental Humanities 12, 113-131.
  6. Ogar, E., Pecl, G., and Mustonen, T. (2020). Science Must Embrace Traditional and Indigenous Knowledge to Solve Our Biodiversity Crisis. One Earth 3, 162-165.
  7. Yunkaporta, T. (2019). Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World. Text Publishing Company. Pp 165-181.

I am very much looking forward to working with this amazing group into the future. Thank you so much Lisa for inviting me to participate in this exciting research ❤

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