The Interdependence Day project is a research, communications and participation project centred on taking a fresh tone and approach to global issues. Although it relies upon partnerships with the 'think and do tank' new economics foundation (nef) and a range of others, the project's thinking is rooted in research generated by the critical social science practiced within the Open University Geography Department.
Researchers have explored the nature and significance of interdependencies within and between the social and natural worlds, especially in work on biodiversity and climate change research. Two UK research funding councils, the ESRC and NERC have collaborated to fund (among others) the Interdependence seminar series. The seminars and workshops that have made up the programme have worked in innovative ways to create space to consider the extent to which 'interdependence' is or could be a powerful reference point in demanding both policy and public engagement in environmental change issues. Participation has included natural and social scientists, journalists, policy and communications professionals and artists. Discussions have explored the ethical implications of research as much as the work itself: what kinds of response/responsibilities are implied by new knowledge in these fields, not just for the policy community, but also for researchers? Environmental policy and political debates have drawn freely on a stock of environmentalist rhetoric regarding interconnections. The academic community, while more wary and often critical of this rhetoric, may be nursing similar assumptions and commitments, albeit implicitly. The seminar series has worked to reveal these and reflect upon their consequences.
20 October 2007
Royal Geographical Society
This took the form of an open workshop as part of the Interdependence Day public event that had 'carouseling' groups engaging with and reviewing a range of experiments in widening and deepening participation in environmental change.
Seminar 4 Participating in change (PDF document, 114 KB)
22 May 2007
The Royal Society of Arts, London
Some of the strongest strands in the previous seminars have been questions centred on how publics engage with global environmental change issues. Presentations from Earth and biological scientists, and two social scientists probed both practices and theory of public participation. Splitting into two groups we considered in turn the 'careers' of biodiversity loss and climate change, from their emergence as research and policy topics to their wider life in the public realm. These discussions were directed towards the future: how might publics be more 'activated' by these pressing issues. This set up the theme for the final meeting currently planned in the series.
Seminar 3 Programme (PDF document, 64 KB)
1 February 2007
University of Sheffield/Geography, The Open University
Postgraduates from the OU Geography discipline and Studio Six, University of Sheffield architecture programme collaborated to address the theme of interdependence. Geography and architecture postgraduates, with academics at Sheffield and the Open University, discussed:
The first part of the day included presentations on the Interdependence day project and an introduction to the work of the Architecture Masters students. The afternoon was given over to short individual presentations which outlined research and respond to the themes of the seminar listed above. The discussions in the seminars focused on how the different approaches to research might bind and effect new understandings of interdependence and responsibility. The ambitions of research practices and their ability to engage a broader or different audience was explored. The final discussion began to plan for the next Interdependence day in October 2007. It was a great opportunity to exchange and debate with researchers with different research practices.
NERC/ESRC Interdependence Seminar Series
1 July 2006
Royal Geographical Society
The 'Lively Temporalities' workshop facilitated discussion about the contributions that new research regarding time and temporality can make to our understandings of interdependence. The discussion built on recent work about the dynamic temporalities of nature and diverse cultural notions of time, in order to respond to familiar questions about environmental transformation, sustainable development, and globalization with fresh approaches and views. Drawn from the humanities and social and natural sciences, topics arising in discussion included: new scientific understandings of abrupt and gradual change in earth processes; varied natural rhythms and the fabricated time-frames of specific environmental projects; cultural technologies of timing and social discipline; the conjunctive temporalities of the past and present in historical narratives; and more. The workshop made space for postgraduate students who are conducting empirically-grounded research on such topics to debate them in detail with established researchers.
11 March 2006
The Royal Society
What kind of response is demanded by the conclusions of research in the areas of environmental change and globalisation? Is the placing of conclusions of environmental research within global environmental change and sustainable development frames driving academics towards implicit but strongly held normative positions? Are social scientists working on environmental change or globalization issues being delivered into a form of determinism regarding the interconnectedness of economic, social and environmental change? How do the interests of 'distant others' (both human and non-human; distant in both space and time) express themselves in current academic work in these areas? This second seminar created space for leading researchers to reflect on the kinds of ethical/political commitments arising from their work, on the significance of new understandings of environment-society interactions and consider the impact on their practices and public role. This seminar explored the distinctive nature of the response / responsibilities demanded by working on global environmental and social change issues.
29-30 March 2006
British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge
To introduce a diverse group to each other we each brought physical objects to the seminar, ranging from fake scrimshaw to a credit card to a specimen of Arctic seawater. The exercise helped participants placed their own work in relation to the theme of interdependence and to map out common areas of interest. The following day saw small interdisciplinary groups tour the map room, ice core store and experience a multimedia presentation of different ways of representing climate change. These stimuli helped shape ensuing group discussion.
The seminar inspired a short film by Renata Tyszczuk We Don't Know When Its Coming In (PDF document, 1.95 MB). See PDF files for images and a summary of the film.