Our Ocean is in dire need of Care. During the past decades the way human culture interacted with the ocean brought the sea to a critical situation which threatens the survival of human and nonhuman communities. This project critically reflects on the relationship between human culture and the ocean. Specifically, it explores how ocean data can facilitate a relationship of care towards the sea. While doing this, this thesis explores how those critical ideas can be introduced when working in industry and natural science. In this project I propose and demonstrate a method of Relational Participatory Design as a possible way to not only create design outcomes with others but also establish relationships between different actors, human or nonhuman involved in the process.
Method - Relational Participatory Design
With relational participatory design I am trying to establish the idea that participatory
processes can be an opportunity to not only design with others, but also be a place where
participants and designers can critically reflect on their relationship to nonhuman nature and to each other. In this project, I have tried to bring this notion into different activities such as workshops, talks and interviews. I continuously made space for the people I was working with to go outside and reflect on their relationship with nature.
To better illustrate that the process itself is as significant as the final outcome, I am using the metaphor of a music piece. The main project represents the leading melody of the piece. The activities that evolved around it were informed by this melody and also strongly influenced its development. Additionally, each of the activities form their own little melodies. Every workshop or interview is an opportunity for reflection, learning and connection. I believe that the design process, as well as the scientific process, can no longer be restricted to knowledge acquisition but instead must open up to include relationship building and a shared rethinking of our worldbuilding practices. For me this approach was a way to work during this project with scientists and nonscientists alike.
Becoming an Ocean Carer” is a Situated Experience which offers the opportunity for people to reflect on, and rethink, their relationship to the ocean and its inhabitants. This experience invites the public to learn about the ocean and to contribute to ocean research. In this experience participants are assigned an ocean actor, which they are invited to learn more about. Later in the experience, participants are teamed up in small ecosystems to work together allowing them to think beyond the single-actor perspective. The participants learn how their actors are connected and reflect on interdependencies and relations between actors and human influences. With the perspective of their actors and ecosystem in mind, participants decide where they want to take samples and reflect on how human structures might interact with their nonhuman actors. A key aspect of this experience is that during the sampling trip participants are meeting with the ocean and get to experience it with all their senses. As a final activity, the participants are invited to come up with ideas for how they can actually change the way they affect their ocean community.