Orkney: Beside the Ocean of Time

Downing, Niamh, Krus, Anthony, Fearnley, Carina, Irvine, Richard and Lopez-Merino, Lourdes (2016) Orkney: Beside the Ocean of Time. [Project]

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Official URL: http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk/projects?ref=AH%2FN007182%2F...

Abstract / Summary

How do individuals and communities understand Deep Time? A relatively short-term perspective is dominant in contemporary societies as they face the complicated ongoing consequences of landscape change on every aspect of the human life, from agriculture and provision of food and energy to the protection of natural or cultural landscapes. A more holistic and deeper knowledge is required. This 18-month project - 'Orkney: Beside the Ocean of Time' - aims to generate new understandings of the interrelationship between human community, Deep Time and landscape change using an interdisciplinary approach, in which five Early Career Researchers with backgrounds in Social Anthropology, Literature, Archaeology, Palaeoecology and Geology, will work together to find innovative ways to investigate and represent time-depth in landscape, using Orkney as a model. The project will develop and pilot an interdisciplinary methodology that will enable new insights into Orkney's rich literary, geological, palaeoenvironmental and archaeological heritage, which is coupled with contemporary concerns over coastal erosion and the political and economic importance of energy generation. The project will address three main research questions:

- How do communities respond and adapt to landscape change?
- What is the time-depth of people's engagement with place?
- How do we make Deep Time visible?

Responding to the challenge of understanding human engagements with the time-depth of landscape change requires the combined insights of Arts, Humanities and Sciences. Researchers will combine their expertise to undertake interdisciplinary fieldwork on Orkney to include: analysis of 19th and 20th century Orcadian literature; investigation of the impact of flooding, the Storegga slide, volcanic ash, and other geological activity; a reanalysis of the Orcadian palaeoenvironmental data; an online database compiling and evaluating legacy Orkney radiocarbon measurements; ethnographic fieldwork (see below). Working together with our project partner, the Pier Arts Centre (Stromness), and in collaboration with a local artist, we will explore creative ways of communicating and representing the results of the fieldwork, and making Deep Time visible. The project will culminate in a public Festival of Deep Time, which will include an exhibition of the artist's collaboration, and a series of public workshops, talks and field-trips, that will enable us to undertake further ethnographic fieldwork, by involving the community in a dialogue about perceptions of time-depth and landscape change. The research findings of the project will also be made available via a project website containing geotagged images, video and other research data, and through the development of a toolkit for researchers wishing to undertake interdisciplinary Science, Arts, and Humanities research in relation to time and/or environmental change.

'Orkney: Beside the Ocean of Time' contributes to the Science in Culture Programme by providing opportunities for public engagement with the effects of time on landscape change. It will enable community dialogue about the ways in which the lived environment of Orkney has been, and will continue to be shaped by human and natural activities, in the deep and near past, the present moment, and perhaps most significantly, the as yet, undetermined future.
Planned Impact
Direct beneficiaries include:
- Local community
- Pier Arts Centre
- Collaborating artist
- Wider public attending the Festival of Deep Time

Indirect beneficiaries who may be able to use the research include:
- Artistic community
- Tourism and Heritage sites and organisations
- Public Sector Groups & Nonprofit Organisations
- Policy Makers

Impact 1: the research will benefit participants in the local community by developing a deeper understanding of the relationship between 'Deep Time' and landscape change. This will be assessed by evaluation of the Festival of Deep Time and the varying activities involved in this. Evaluation methods include semi-structured interviews, scenario-planning workshops, and feedback responses to field trips and talks that will seek to capture changes in attitudes and perceptions of participants. The Festival, artistic output and website will also raise public awareness of the way in which the lived environment of Orkney has been, and continues to be shaped by human and natural activities at various temporal scales.

Impact 2: the Piers Art Centre will benefit from developing new academic partnerships that enable 'knowledge exchange', which will support the Centre in fulfilling its aim to encourage 'research that explores the visual arts', 'its collection, and Orkney through continued dialogue that provides a public facing forum for discussion'. The co-production of the Festival will also support the Centre's key role in contributing 'to the social, economic and cultural wealth of Orkney, Scotland and the UK'.

Impact 3: the project offers a development opportunity for the commissioned artist, and we would anticipate, a springboard for their future work. We envisage that the artistic collaboration will also provide indirect benefit as a case-study for the artistic community on Orkney and beyond to reflect on the ways in which creative practice can contribute to different understandings of time perception and environmental change.

Impact 4: although aimed principally at academic audiences, it is also anticipated that the interdisciplinary toolkit, database of legacy radiocarbon measurements, talks and co-authored articles produced by the research team, will provide impact alongside the resources made available on the website, for several indirect beneficiaries during and beyond the duration of the project. Given that the project will work at internationally significant tourism and heritage sites, which are vulnerable to the impact of both natural and human forces, the resulting fieldwork will be of potential interest to Tourism/Heritage organisations, as well as Public Sector Groups & Nonprofit Organisations on Orkney (Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Orkney Islands Council). The outputs are also of relevance for national and international policy makers and organisations concerned with the ongoing risks of Global Change, such as DEFRA, Dept. Energy & Climate Change, UN, Greenpeace. The first UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) governmental report (2012) set out the main priorities for adaptation in the UK under five themes (Agriculture & Forestry; Business; Health & Wellbeing; Natural Environment, Buildings & Infrastructure). The findings are mainly based on the 2009 UK Climate Projections, and palaeoenvironmental and archaeological perspectives are missing. The second CCRA report is due in January 2017. Although a range scientific experts and fields are included, Humanities & Arts are not. We envisage a significant benefit therefore of providing novel, interdisciplinary approaches and research data on this complex issue. We will disseminate our findings to relevant government organisations to provide new approaches to developing more holistic policies.

Item Type: Project
Subjects: Geography & Environment > Climate Change
Geography & Environment
Writing & Journalism > Literature
Social Sciences
Geography & Environment > UK
Writing & Journalism
Courses by Department: The School of Writing & Journalism > English & Writing
Depositing User: Niamh Downing
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2017 14:53
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2017 16:07
URI: https://repository.falmouth.ac.uk/id/eprint/1895


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